Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Nils Lofgren

  • Nils Lofgren [A&M, 1975] B+
  • Cry Tough [A&M, 1976] B-
  • I Came to Dance [A&M, 1977] C
  • Nils [A&M, 1979] C+
  • Flip [Columbia, 1985] C+
  • Silver Lining [Rykodisc, 1991] Dud

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Consumer Guide Reviews:

Nils Lofgren [A&M, 1975]
Lofgren has apparently regained his prodigious gift for the hook, and most of these songs catch and hold. But his visionary flash has dimmed. Somehow I expect more of this always-the-best-man never-the-popstar than a concept which demands devotion from his various women on one side while declaring devotion to his career on the other. B+

Cry Tough [A&M, 1976]
This one makes me feel shitty. Epic could never break his best stuff and has now topped off the disservice by discontinuing his albums. Meanwhile, over at A&M, Nils begins to sound like a professional next-big-thing, the surprise of his lyrics reduced to a turn or two and his gift for pop melody subsumed by his gift for the one-man rave-up. Crying tough is playing tough, not being tough, and there was always more than toughness to Nils anyway. B-

I Came to Dance [A&M, 1977]
In which the aging prodigy flirts with hackdom and almost scores. He still makes killer licks sound easy, although the melodies are drying up fast, and despite an ominous piece of Inspirational Verse--"I'll play guitar all night and day, just don't ask me to think"--and a road song that sounds like the first of a series, there's more ambitious lyric-writing here than on either of the two previous A&M LPs. Thing is, except for "Happy Ending Kids" and a sly ditty about eating pussy, the lyrics don't work; whether "Jealous Gun" is straight anti-hunting propaganda or an allegory about who knows what, its language is stillborn and its pretensions annoying. C

Nils [A&M, 1979]
If Lofgren's early mini-Western, "Rusty Gun," was the modestly laconic offering of an up-and-comer who remembered, then "No Mercy," the boxing melodrama now getting airplay, is the rodomontade of a shoulda-been-a-contender. I bet cocomposer Lou Reed wrote the best line, but Nils sings it with indubitable bitterness: "I thought you were being ironic when you ripped your jeans." C+

Flip [Columbia, 1985]
The wuntime wunderkind is "talkin' 'bout survival," which he at least points out beats "self denial," and I guess it's a small miracle that he's no longer the blustering never-was of the late '70s. But 1983's Wonderland testified more gracefully to his eternal youth, and even there it was hard to tell what he's learned since 1971. To seek eternal youth in the absence of temporal wisdom is one of the great American vices, and most Americans aren't even wise enough to know it. C+

Silver Lining [Rykodisc, 1991] Dud