Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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The Donner Party

  • The Donner Party [Cryptovision, 1987] B+
  • Donner Party [Pitch-a-Tent, 1988] A-

Consumer Guide Reviews:

The Donner Party [Cryptovision, 1987]
R.E.M. as punks. Feelies as folkies. Horseflies without horseshit. "John Wilkes Booth." "When You Die Your Eyes Pop Out." "Jeez Louise." B+

Donner Party [Pitch-a-Tent, 1988]
Like Camper Van Beethoven, who started the label in their DIY days, they're sardonic ethnic/folk-rock postpunks, just as Kaleidoscope and the Cleanliness and Godliness Skiffle Band were sardonic e./f.-r. hippies two decades ago. I don't know why northern California does this to its bohemians, but rootlessness must contribute; rootlessness fertilizes popular culture, forces it to reach out. As in their fabulous folk-punk name, these postteenagers are fascinated by mortality--their most striking songs are about infancy, ingestion, illness, fucking yourself up, and various commonplace-to-horrible vicissitudes. They're postteenage psychologically as well as chronologically because they don't romanticize death--just joke about it a lot. A-