Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Thomas Anderson

  • "Alright It Was Frank--And He's Risen From the Dead and Gone Off With His Truck" [Out There, 1990] A-
  • Blues for the Flying Dutchman [Dutch East India, 1993] A-
  • Moon Going Down [Marilyn, 1996] Choice Cuts
  • Bolide [Red River, 1998] ***
  • Norman, Oklahoma [Red River, 2003] Choice Cuts
  • The Moon in Transit (Four-Track Demos, 1996-2009) [Out There, 2012] A-
  • On Becoming Human [Out Here, 2013] **
  • Heaven [Out There, 2016] ***

Consumer Guide Reviews:

"Alright It Was Frank--And He's Risen From the Dead and Gone Off With His Truck" [Out There, 1990]
Just this frail-voiced songwriter in an Oklahoma college town, where Botticelli rubs souls with Belle Starr and Chaucer specialists give up tenure for love. His drummer can play, his bassist likes "Sweet Jane," the tunes his songs share are good ones, and though he's slightly word-drunk, he's too smart and funny and unassuming to waste many. You'd enjoy getting to know him. And feel proud you're American when the visit ended. A-

Blues for the Flying Dutchman [Dutch East India, 1993]
Like most iambic story-songs, Anderson's yarns, plaints, and fables improve when they rock out a little. The putdowns of classy ex-girlfriends get annoying, but his old lit prof Larissa would seem to deserve every word, and from petroleum to Nash the Slash his historical conundrums make sense or no sense as the case may be. Most important, he rocks out like somebody who expected more than he got from Nash the Slash--and remembered it when he founded Angry Young Grad Student Music and opted for singer-songwriting. A-

Moon Going Down [Marilyn, 1996]
"Jerry's Kids" Choice Cuts

Bolide [Red River, 1998]
Weird tales from many badlands ("Come Back to America," "Theremin Cider"). ***

Norman, Oklahoma [Red River, 2003]
"Gypsy Magdalena" Choice Cuts

The Moon in Transit (Four-Track Demos, 1996-2009) [Out There, 2012]
By electing to expend his Dutch East India advance on a fancy tape recorder instead of the Velvet Underground reunion, this Austin singer-songwriter acquired the means to preserve his songs in analog form, and here's the fruit. There were two good albums and then three marginal ones over two decades, so who'd expect a grab bag to be his best? Yet it is. With all four tracks laid down DIY, it's even squarer rhythmically than his norm, and his calm drawl verges on the spectral. But it also verges on the hypnotic, and the guy can write stories and work up tunes. After a brief fanfare, there's an opener about the Donner Party so gruesome and precise I sometimes skip to the merely spooky "Heckling Houdini." Also featured are a 33-year-old groupie-turned-granny, a cross-dressing uncle, Ubangi-stomping Warren Smith, a painfully slow lunch with Nefertiti a few years or millennia too late, driving till you're dizzy in a dumbshit town, and the one about lost love and "Antihistamines": "Chlorpheniramine, Diphenhydramine,/Doxylamine, Phenindamine,/Tripolidine and Pheniramine,/I can't cure my pain with antihistamines." A-

On Becoming Human [Out Here, 2013]
Subtitled "Four-Track Love Songs," and I wish I could tell you it's the love songs that connect--wish I could tell her, too ("Song for Walter Mondale," "Get Home, Sally") **

Heaven [Out There, 2016]
Thirteen songs about dead people and the strophic muse ("Arguing With the Dead," "Dolceola Glory," "Sheb Wooley Dies in Oklahoma") ***