Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Dan Bern

  • Dog Boy Van [Work, 1997] Dud
  • Dan Bern [Work, 1997] A-
  • Fifty Eggs [Work, 1998] *
  • Smartie Mine [DBHQ, 1999] Choice Cuts
  • New American Language [Messenger, 2001] *
  • The Swastika E.P. [Messenger EP, 2002] A-
  • My Country II [Messenger EP, 2004] Choice Cuts
  • Breathe [Messenger, 2006] Dud

See Also:

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Dog Boy Van [Work, 1997] Dud

Dan Bern [Work, 1997]
Messiah one song and king of the world the next, this absurdist upstart isn't above flat-out imitating the young Dylan, although he'll settle for a more general resemblance. Whether he's strumming to beat the band, flattening guitar-bass-drums into deep background, joking around with throat singing, or stealing the spoken melody of "Brownsville Girl," his metier is folk music of the culturally retrograde antihoot variety. If he didn't make me laugh where his fellow wannabees make me wince (while trying to make me laugh), I might even figure him for one of those losers who claims Beck got his best shit from Paleface. So right, he's not an innovator--just drunk on words, like the young Dylan. And the young Beck. Deny yourself this pleasure if you think that makes you an aesthete. I enjoy it because I think it makes me an egg cream. A-

Fifty Eggs [Work, 1998]
when you joke around, perfect aim is all ("Chick Singers," "Monica") *

Smartie Mine [DBHQ, 1999]
"Talkin' Woody, Bob, Bruce & Dan Blues"; "True Revolutionaries"; "Cocaine/Blue Jay Way" Choice Cuts

New American Language [Messenger, 2001]
weird dreams for justice ("God Said No," "Thanksgiving Day Parade") *

The Swastika E.P. [Messenger EP, 2002]
In 2001 Bern wrote an endlessly corny nine-minute 9/11 elegy that I liked that way. Then he mourned securities traders and lusted for revenge. Now the meanness of "Talkin' Al Kida Blues" is just as apt--in two lines the WTC is down, an atrocity that quickly pales against slavery and the Indians, and we're off to a John Ashcroft theme park as per Dylan-does-Woody. Elsewhere Bern writes a NORML ad in jail, waxes warm about wayward friends and Jewish forebears, and reclaims a symbol from Nazis, punks, everybody. Protest music--we need it bad. A-

My Country II [Messenger EP, 2004]
"Bush Must Be Defeated" Choice Cuts

Breathe [Messenger, 2006] Dud