Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Roky Erickson

  • Don't Slander Me [Pink Dust, 1986] B+
  • Gremlins Have Pictures [Pink Dust, 1986] C+
  • You're Gonna Miss Me: The Best of Roky Erickson [Restless, 1991] A-
  • I Have Always Been Here Before: The Roky Erickson Anthology [Shout! Factory, 2005]

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Consumer Guide Reviews:

Don't Slander Me [Pink Dust, 1986]
A garage rant about blues theology that built from blues readymades and accelerated on the kind of mad thrust you don't hear much from revivalists or anybody else, the now rerecorded title single was all natural timing and spirit possession, a paradise regained of rock and roll cliché. The album exploits this miracle--sounds like a bunch of would-be old farts (with genuine article Jack Casady lending a touch of authenticity) latching onto the old wildman for the kind of magic carpet ride other music lovers only collect. It's too precise, too forceful, too showy. And if you can bear the protracted tributes to Erickson's private gods, it'll rock you out anyway. Try "You Drive Me Crazy." Or "Crazy Crazy Mama." Or "Bermuda," about the triangle. B+

Gremlins Have Pictures [Pink Dust, 1986]
Live-and-studio outtakes for curiosity-seekers who believe maniacs are best appreciated in their natural surroundings. I say it proves maniacs need engineers, backup bands, and other accoutrements of civilization even more than the rest of us. C+

You're Gonna Miss Me: The Best of Roky Erickson [Restless, 1991]
Discophilia or no discophilia--the title track confuses live with authentic, leaving the equally apt "You Drive Me Crazy" to true collectors--this compilation establishes a '60s casualty and various aliens as the greatest '60s band of the '80s, which didn't lack for retro pretenders. The feel is early Stones, with the very Satan the Stones pimped so pretentiously filling in for Charlie Watts--who else could have guaranteed Roky a victory over Mother Nature, not to mention Father Time? Devils, ghosts, zombies, vampires, two-headed dogs, I got no use for any of them--except when they ride riffs, grooves, and tunes this demented and user-friendly. A-

I Have Always Been Here Before: The Roky Erickson Anthology [Shout! Factory, 2005]
This 43-song retrospective on the legendary Austin head case proves once and for all that he didn't write 43 songs for the memory book, and that almost every good one he did write was about something spooky--attack alligators, the Bermuda triangle, Lucifer in all his lurid guises. Garage-rock wellspring, check; psychedelic wellspring, double-check; 13th Floor Elevators top Quicksilver Messenger Service, check and double-check. Lost genius, not exactly. [Recyclables]

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