Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Roots Rock Guitar Party: Zimbabwe Frontline Vol. 3 [Sterns/Earthworks, 1999]
Chimurenga and its vaguely soukous-inflected descendants are liberation music no longer. Mugabe's the new boss, and though he isn't the same as the old boss--they never are, and at least he's not white--he is certainly a tyrant, dividing-and-plundering along tribal and sexual lines. But where Afropop surrendered lilt and intraband debate for escapist desperation and automatic virtuosity as nationhood bore down on the material lives of the people, these 12 tracks, all but one recent, maintain an illusion of communal jollity and balanced progress. Past kisses future as guitars articulate thumb-piano scales into a language all their own, an endeavor spiritually engrossing enough to keep everybody involved occupied. When you read the translated lyrical snippets, you can infer how much the all-male Shona choruses aren't saying. When you listen to the music, you give everybody involved credit for tending their bit of human space. A-