Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Janis Ian

  • Between the Lines [Columbia, 1975] B-
  • Aftertones [Columbia, 1976] B-
  • Breaking Silence [Morgan Creek, 1993] Dud

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Between the Lines [Columbia, 1975]
In this time of dearth, it's probably improvident to laugh at someone so talented--good melodies abound here, and I can't think of a rock singer who has made more unaffected and pleasurable use of her or his voice lessons. But this woman's humorlessness demands snickers. It was one thing for society's teenager to pity herself because she didn't have the integrity to stick with her black boyfriend. It's another thing for a grown-up to pity her teenaged self because she was always picked last in basketball. I mean, face it, Ms. Ian--you're short. B-

Aftertones [Columbia, 1976]
Ian here establishes herself as the most technically accomplished popular vocalist of her (post-rock? post-folkie? pre-Vegas?) generation. She's even managing to curb the melodrama, as well as permitting herself unaccustomed glints of humor. But if you want to glimpse the crippling intellectual limitations of this sort of accomplishment, just get a load of her library, thoughtfully depicted on a cover that also features an open aerogram and an enigmatic mirror-as-window through which peers the artiste. There they stand, all her sources: a Modern Library Camus, The Second Sex, The Greenwich Village Bluebook, How to Survive in the Woods, and that encyclopedia of secondhand angst, Colin Wilson's The Outsider. How existential. One thing, though--mirrors are good windows only when surviving in the woods isn't something you ever have to think about. B-

Breaking Silence [Morgan Creek, 1993] Dud