Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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African Head Charge

  • Off the Beaten Track [On-U Sound, 1986] A-
  • Shrunken Head [On-U Sound, 2003] **

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Off the Beaten Track [On-U Sound, 1986]
Hoping against hope that it's some fucking place, I occasionally find myself suspecting that cut-up and dub are where the semipop action is. Enthusiasm, iconoclasm, and willingness to live in the present make it the avant alternative to neoclassicism--aware of the weight of history and the unavoidability of received materials, but also aware that past glories have been and gone. Then I listen to Curlew or Fats Comet or Mute Beat or Version X and go back to my four-four. Thing is, the semipop action ought to be more than metaphorical; rock bricolage is too cerebral and reggae subtract-a-track too spacy to work that body. Although in my casual experience Adrian Sherwood's vast output combines both problems, this fourth album by one of his array of studio-only projects adds minimelodies galore and a shifting but reliable bass-and-drum pulse--Jamaica steeped in field recordings and heavy machinery--to the usual panorama of depth charges, funny noises, exotic rips, and spoken words. Kind of like Augustus Pablo if Pablo weren't so pastoral, and so pop. A-

Shrunken Head [On-U Sound, 2003]
Two decades of mind expansion compressed onto one dub-up ("Run Come See," "No, Don't Follow Fashion") **