Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Bongwater

  • Double Bummer [Shimmy Disc, 1988] B
  • The Peel Sessions [Strange Fruit, 1993] **

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Double Bummer [Shimmy Disc, 1988]
The whole two-record set teeters on the edge of in-joke, avant-bullshit, and not-for-profit self-indulgence. But where the found tape documentaries w/ neoexpressionist noodling are exactly as interesting as their sources (surreal pre-Watergate Nixon, the standard radio evangelist), Ann Magnuson's rock dreams and Chinese "Dazed and Confused" and Monkees cover and straight satirical Tuli Kupferberg chantey have the unjudgmental plasticity of the best camp. Can't quite claim she's worth the price of admission--a talent to watch, say. B

The Peel Sessions [Strange Fruit, 1993]
two concept singles about sex b/w ("Kisses Sweeter Than Wine," "Pussy Power") **

Further Notes:

Subjects for Further Research [1990s]: This collaboration between performance artist Ann Magnuson and guitarist-entrepreneur Kramer had its moments--the acid "Kisses Sweeter Than Wine" was pretty mean. But Magnuson was never as funny as she was supposed to be, and the rock settings Kramer tossed off were trapped in the genericism they postmodernized, which is what he gets for thinking rock and roll is easy. The pair released four albums on Kramer's Shimmy-Disc label before learning to hate each other. In 1998 Shimmy-Disc vouchsafed us the four-CD A Box of Bongwater. Very conceptual.