Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Rachel Sweet

  • Fool Around [Stiff/Columbia, 1979] B+
  • Protect the Innocent [Stiff/Columbia, 1980] C+

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Fool Around [Stiff/Columbia, 1979]
Two compositions by (ousted?) svengali Liam Sternberg have been replaced on the U.S. release by prime, straightforward rockers. This makes sense. Like Tanya Tucker, Sweet thrives on simple material, and while I like Sternberg's catchy, thoughtful songs, their fussy, uncolloquial moments don't suit Sweet's hot-teen persona: Deborah Harry might sound charmingly klutzy on the rhythmically overwrought "Cuckoo Clock" or "Suspended Animation" ("I could wait for any duration"), but Sweet just sounds like she's following instructions. Unfortunately, both these songs were left on the LP, while natural Sweet stuff like "Just My Style" and "Truckstop Queen" (on Stiff's Akron anthology) were omitted. This doesn't make sense. B+

Protect the Innocent [Stiff/Columbia, 1980]
Breasts barely budding beneath her rugby shirt on the back cover of Fool Around, she was a young sweet sixteen, but two years later she's no innocent--black leather jacket half unzipped, gauntleted hands over the face of her younger charge, she's seen one too many photos of Siouxsie Sioux. Only Siouxsie Sioux has a lousy voice--and Siouxsie Sioux knows what to do with it. A longtime pro if the truth be known, Sweet never quite connected as a new-wave ingenue, but there were nice tensions in the gaps. As a new-wave Linda Ronstadt--she covers Graham Parker, she covers Lou Reed, she covers the goddamn Damned--her only interesting song is one she wrote herself: "Tonight Ricky," about how they're finally going all the way. It seems like an old memory. C+