Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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The Housemartins

  • London 0, Hull 4 [Elektra, 1986] A-
  • The People Who Grinned Themselves to Death [Elektra, 1987] A-

Consumer Guide Reviews:

London 0, Hull 4 [Elektra, 1986]
Fashion leaders in their cardigans and baggy pants, these unpretentious soul-boys-in-a-pop-band are so perky you think they're about to break into a cereal commercial, but in fact they have a different product in mind: socialist revolution. I'd leave it at something vaguer (Marxist Christianity, say) if their disdain for fence-sitters and other sheep wasn't so fervent, so bitter, and--rarest of all--so just. And if their catchiest hook didn't go (hum along, now) "Don't shoot someone tomorrow/ That you can shoot today." Very nice. A-

The People Who Grinned Themselves to Death [Elektra, 1987]
Pop this venomous constitutes a formal leap way beyond the reach of spewing "postmodernists" who can't distinguish between their own ugliness and the world's. Telling the farmer that Jesus hates him or begging Johannesburg not to make any fuss on their account, they're Christians after my own heart: they nurture a righteous rage, and aim it at the right targets. Couching their invective in choirboy cute or lacing their quiet melodies with sulphuric acid, they're subversives after my own heart as well: oppression hasn't sapped their lyricism. They're telling us they're indomitable. Wouldn't it be amazing if they turned out to be right? A-