Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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The Move

  • Shazam [A&M, 1970] B-
  • Looking On [Capitol, 1971] C+
  • Message from the Country [Capitol, 1971] A-
  • Split Ends [United Artists, 1973] A-
  • The Best of the Move [A&M, 1974] B
  • Message From the Country [Capitol, 2005]

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Shazam [A&M, 1970]
Its enthusiasts to the contrary, this is hardly the greatest rock and roll record ever to thump down the pike. It's just an artier version of the overly self-conscious mode I call stupid-rock, simultaneously gargantuan and prissy, like dinosaurs galumphing through the tulips. It would be a lot worse if it weren't so funny, but it would also be a lot less funny if it were a little better. Recommended to Stooges fans who just found a five-dollar bill. B-

Looking On [Capitol, 1971]
Anyone who doesn't believe heavy metal is a Yurrupean plot will kindly inform me which B the countermelodies on this one were stolen from. Not Berry or the Beatles, believe me. C+

Message from the Country [Capitol, 1971]
I have reservations about any record that falls into the dubious category of hard rock for critics, but am willing to grant that to climax a side of music from Brobdingnag with a Johnny Cash imitation is to show truly transcendent chutzpah. In fact, after brief acclimatization I like every cut. What seemed forced on Looking On now seems comic--there are parodies here of everything from weedy Yes-style vocals and wimpy Baby-style acoustics to rockabilly and music hall. And melodic moves that sounded glued on now seem integral. Recommended to those who like the idea of Grand Funk Railroad better than the reality. A-

Split Ends [United Artists, 1973]
"Do Ya"--rated single of the year in the rock press, apparently the only place it was distributed--signals a phase in the Move's career that comprises four songs, three uncharacteristically rock-and-rolly and all prime. Most of what remains here was first released on the more exotic Message From the Country (already a cut-out), which I also admire. Consistently good stuff, although the styles do grate. A-

The Best of the Move [A&M, 1974]
I could trot out the complaint that this double-LP would make a good single, but why bother? Comprising the band's 1967 U.K. debut LP and a lot of uncollected forty-fives, with two sets of notes and detailed discographical data, this is a labor of love that lists at only a buck over the one-record price. Anyway, they wouldn't pick the same cuts I would: my fave is "Wave Your Flag and Stop the Train," which they regard as a Monkees imitation--not a very exact one, I'd say, but close enough to the pop at which they supposedly excelled. I love rock and roll--I just want it to be better. Bands like the Move feel hemmed in by rock and roll--they want it to be different, or more. When they succeed, as the Move finally did, it's often better too. But usually it's less. B

Message From the Country [Capitol, 2005]
The entire Electric Light Orchestra catalog is now in reissue, with Randy Newman doing the notes. But you know better. You know Jeff Lynne's greatest band was the Move because it included Roy Wood, who soon proved incompatible with ELO's grander ambitions. What you probably don't know is that this (admittedly, as it is said, "remastered") version of the Move's 1971 peak adds naught but four alternate-version "bonus cuts" to 1994's Great Move!: The Best of the Move. Both include the whomping "Message From the Country," the all shook up "Don't Mess Me Up," the Man-in-Black-on-ludes "Ben Crawley Steel Company," and that ultimate bonus cut, the radio-unready greatest-single-of-all-time nominee "Do Ya." Post-psychedelia, the Move were a loud bastion against singer-songwriter miasma. No other band better evokes a giant mechanical lizard. [Recyclables]

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