Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Henry Cow/Slapp Happy

  • In Praise of Learning [Red, 1979] B

Consumer Guide Reviews:

In Praise of Learning [Red, 1979]
This 1975 U.K. release was Cow's second collaboration with guitarist-composer Peter Blegvad, pianist-composer Anthony Moore, and vocalist Dagmar, and if it's less successful than the earlier Desperate Straights (still an import here), that's not the new guys' fault. Dagmar's abrasively arty, Weill-derived style, as bluesless and European as any "rock" singing ever recorded, does manage to find a context for words that seem literary if not pompous in print; in fact, between Dagmar and the Weillish Moore-Blegvad and Tim Hodgkinson music on side one, the lyrics seem almost as astute politically as the title. But except for some atonal Fred Frith piano, the music on side two is dominated by less than winning musique concrete experiments that make such injunctions as "Arise Work Men and seize/the Future" seem completely academic. B