Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Trotsky Icepick

  • Poison Summer [Old Scratch, 1986] B+
  • Baby [SST, 1988] B+
  • El Kabong [SST, 1989] B-
  • The Ultraviolet Catastrophe [SST, 1991] Choice Cuts

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Poison Summer [Old Scratch, 1986]
Not a hardcore band (name's too educated) or an art band either (too politically charged). A pop band if anything, firming up a lyricism that wouldn't have sounded out of place at the Fillmore in 1967 with compact structures, foreshortened solos, and a drummer from the (metaphorical) East Bay. A pop band that regards acts of sectarian vengeance as emblematic, an inescapable environment if not topic. B+

Baby [SST, 1988]
Thanks be to Kjehl Johansen's riffbook and Vitus Matare's cool-to-be-kind sarcasm, they're catchier than "Don't Buy It"'s "Don't buy anything rancid/Don't buy gifts for Christmas/Don't buy what plays on the radio" or "Bury Manilow"'s "I love all the latest popsongs/These hooks really mess my mind" suggest they want to be. Evoke their real-life needs and anxieties quite cunningly, in fact. And are at their most interesting (and catchiest) dissing consumerism and Barry Manilow. B+

El Kabong [SST, 1989]
In which a noisy rather than grungy garage band works to resolve its attraction-repulsion to pop--in the direction of something like ugly pop, maybe they think. They probably also think it's better, and technically they're right. But as their intentions and ideas become clearer, one realizes that it was unresolved attraction-repulsion as much as their surprising pop gifts that rescued them from the garage. B-

The Ultraviolet Catastrophe [SST, 1991]
"Venus de Milo" Choice Cuts