Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Soul Asylum

  • Made to Be Broken [Twin/Tone, 1986] B
  • While You Were Out [Twin/Tone, 1987] B+
  • Hang Time [A&M, 1988] B-
  • And the Horse They Rode In On [A&M, 1990] Dud
  • Grave Dancers Union [Columbia, 1992] *
  • Let Your Dim Light Shine [Columbia, 1995] B+
  • Candy from a Stranger [Columbia, 1998] Dud
  • The Silver Lining [Columbia/Legacy, 2006] Choice Cuts

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Made to Be Broken [Twin/Tone, 1986]
Unless the meaning of life is passing me by, Bob Mould's proteges are the latest concept band, admired more for their correct aesthetics than for how they actually sound (or what they actually say). Fast turmoil rools, with hints of metal anthem and country warmth sunk deep enough in the mix that nobody'll cry corny. As a concept, pretty admirable. B

While You Were Out [Twin/Tone, 1987]
Dave Pirner's songs and Chris Osgood's sound do focus their barrage-band intensity, but once again the most striking track is a slow country-folk rip, this one cribbed more or less direct from "On Top of Old Smokey." Which isn't to put down Pirner's better-than-average tunes, but to suggest that barrage meanings may not be his calling. B+

Hang Time [A&M, 1988]
Somewhere in here they warn of "a mountain made of sand," which gets at their problems neatly--their shared sense of sisyphean impotence and their big music no one can get a grip on. B-

And the Horse They Rode In On [A&M, 1990] Dud

Grave Dancers Union [Columbia, 1992]
great tunes, corny songs ("Without a Trace," "Somebody To Shove") *

Let Your Dim Light Shine [Columbia, 1995]
Welcome evidence that Dave Pirner may not be the Bob Seger of his generation--because where in the late '70s temptation came in the form of classic rock, in the mid-'90s it lies along pop's primrose path, a development that should offend only grunge nostalgiacs. The tunes of these neatly crafted songs are up top, their "roots" submerged the way roots usually are. And the often funny, sometimes fantastic lyrics are so smart you'd almost think Pirner knows how cheap he got away last time. After lingering over idioms like "don't get my hopes up" and "left to my own devices," he moves on to vignettes in which his pervasive depression connects to something less collegiate than existential angst--the hard, sad lives of other people, several of them women seen not as objects of sex or romance, just struggling humans like him and me. B+

Candy from a Stranger [Columbia, 1998] Dud

The Silver Lining [Columbia/Legacy, 2006]
"Fearless Leader" Choice Cuts