Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Chic

  • Chic [Atlantic, 1977] B-
  • C'est Chic [Atlantic, 1978] B
  • Risque [Atlantic, 1979] A-
  • Les Plus Grands Succes de Chic/Chic's Greatest Hits [Atlantic, 1979] A-
  • Real People [Atlantic, 1980] A
  • Take It Off [Atlantic, 1981] A-
  • Tongue in Chic [Atlantic, 1982] A-
  • Believer [Atlantic, 1983] B+
  • The Best of Chic: Dance, Dance, Dance [Atlantic, 1991] ***
  • Chic-ism [Warner Bros., 1992] **
  • The Best of Chic Volume 2 [Rhino, 1992] A
  • Live at the Budokan [Sumthing Else, 1999] **

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Chic [Atlantic, 1977]
I wonder about the They Shoot Horses reference--that is where "yowsah yowsah yowsah" was popularized, after all. Is this chic as anti-Depression concept? Dance as desperation? Dance as survival? Or just useful noise? B-

C'est Chic [Atlantic, 1978]
The hooky cuts are more jingles than songs, the interludes more vamps than breaks, and I won't dance, so don't ask me. Well, maybe if you're really nice. B

Risque [Atlantic, 1979]
Bernard Edwards and Nile Rodgers proved on Sister Sledge's "Lost in Music" that hedonism and its discontents, the inevitable focus of disco's meaningfulness moves, is a subject worth opening up. Here, "Good Times" and "My Feet Keep Dancing" surround the sweetly romantic "Warm Summer Night" in a rueful celebration of escape that's all the more suggestive for its unquenchable good cheer. Side two's exploration of romance and its agonies also has a fatalistic tint, but in the end the asides and rhythmic shifts (as well as the lyrics themselves) give rue the edge over celebration. Subtle, intricate, kinetic, light but not mindless--in short, good to dance to. A-

Les Plus Grands Succes de Chic/Chic's Greatest Hits [Atlantic, 1979]
Not as elegant conceptually as Risque, but a better party record for sure--in a music of six-minute cuts (actually, only three run over 4:42) a group this good has no trouble putting together a quality best-of after two years and three albums. Greil Marcus describes The Motown Story as "the history of James Jamerson's bass playing, on fifty-eight hits." This is the future of Bernard Edwards's on seven. And guess where Edwards learned his shit. A-

Real People [Atlantic, 1980]
As on Sister Sledge's follow-up, Rodgers & Edwards have run out of sure shots--no "Good Times" here. But Risque was more than "Good Times," and this beats Risque. Jumpy, scintillating rhythms fuse with elegantly abrasive textures for a funk that's not light but sharp. Plus postchic words that go with the attention-grabbing heat and invention of Nile Rodgers's postrock guitar. A

Take It Off [Atlantic, 1981]
Despite their best efforts, this projected dancefloor comeback is a lot less songful than Real People. Almost as artful, though. The telegraphic precision of the lyrics, the wary solicitousness of the singing, and the spare, nervous overload of the rhythms all bespeak a black-bourgeois modernism that is of a city most blacks don't even dream about--that alien power center where even the best times seem to go sour. A-

Tongue in Chic [Atlantic, 1982]
This is their groove album. Maybe their throwaway album as well, yet I enjoy it fine, because I get from Chic what devotees of Memphis soul used to get from Booker T. & the M.G.'s. Which group you prefer is partly a matter of which rhythms feel like life to you, of course, so I'll add that like New York these are pretty swift. I'll also add that their in-concert theme song makes me wonder what the live album might be like. A-

Believer [Atlantic, 1983]
Although you'd figure the collaboration would suffer after both Nile and Nard started coming up with good albums of their own, the damage is amazingly slight. The title track, a true song of faith ("Stand back-to-back, believer/Meet head-to-head/Fight toe-to-toe, believer/Dance cheek-to-cheek"), achieves the rough-minded positivity the rest of the album aims for. The true song of praise that comes next is every bit as believable. And the rest is blessing enough in this negative time. B+

The Best of Chic: Dance, Dance, Dance [Atlantic, 1991]
too much disco, not enough discord ("My Feet Keep Dancing") ***

Chic-ism [Warner Bros., 1992]
once upon a time there was a drummer named Tony Thompson . . . ("Chic Mystique") **

The Best of Chic Volume 2 [Rhino, 1992]
Not the hits, as Ken Barnes notes defiantly. And about time, as I might say. They never would have written "Good Times" without disco hanging around their necks, and then where would we be? But only after they tired of that round did the sparest and smartest of the great funk bands make their move. Believe me, kids, three of their four '80s albums--the grooveful Tongue in Chic, the light-hearted Take It Off, and the serious Real People--are worth scouring the vinyl bins for. But bless Barnes for skimming the cream; I could niggle, but in fact left-field picks like the fancy-schmancy Risqué ballad "Will You Cry" and the acoustic Soup for One fantasia "Tavern on the Green" only deepen your astonishment at their intelligence, intensity, sophistication, spirituality, and verve. Oh yes, all that--there's no music like this, including the hits. It just keeps dancing. A

Live at the Budokan [Sumthing Else, 1999]
Featuring Sister Sledge, Slash&WinwoodDoJimi, and the great Bernard Edwards on the night he died ("Good Times/Rapper's Delight," "We Are Family"). **