Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Dave Edmunds

  • Rockpile [MAM, 1972] B+
  • Subtle as a Flying Mallet [RCA Victor, 1975] B
  • Get It [Swan Song, 1977] B+
  • Tracks on Wax 4 [Swan Song, 1978] A-
  • Repeat When Necessary [Swan Song, 1979] A-
  • Twangin [Swan Song, 1981] B
  • The Best of Dave Edmunds [Swan Song, 1981] A-
  • D.E. 7th [Columbia, 1982] B+
  • Information [Columbia, 1983] B-

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Rockpile [MAM, 1972]
A glance at the titles suggests yet another ho-hum revival--Berry 'n' blues to go with a novelty-hit remake of Smiley Lewis's (not Pat Boone's, right?) "I Hear You Knocking." But a glance at the credits establishes that Edmunds played just about everything but bass himself, even on "The Promised Land," apparently recorded in 1966. And a perusal of the titles adds Dylan twelve-bar, "It Ain't Easy," and--what's this?--Neil Young's "Dance Dance Dance" to The Tradition. Sounds pretty weird, too. B+

Subtle as a Flying Mallet [RCA Victor, 1975]
Only an Englishman would spend a whole album proving he had great taste in rock and roll. And he does, he does--from cock-strut to girl-group I love every one-man-Spector production. I just don't know why he took the trouble. B

Get It [Swan Song, 1977]
In which Edmunds convenes the Monmouth Rockabilly Seminar, featuring source material both standard (Hank Williams, Otis Blackwell, Arthur Crudup) and arcane (Rodgers & Hart), recent research by Bob Seger and Graham Parker, and new monographs from Nicholas Lowe and Edmunds himself. Great stuff, although studious detachment don't necessarily do it proud. B+

Tracks on Wax 4 [Swan Song, 1978]
Edmunds has evolved from a one-man session to the spirit of Rockpile, the hardest-driving traditional rock band in the world: Edmunds and Billy Bremner on guitar, coleader Nick Lowe on bass, and the indefatigable Terry Williams on drums. Live, everyone but Williams trades vocals, but this is Edmunds showcase, and he sings up to the main force of a band that proves all those clichés about getting that feeling together on the road. Here to stay. A-

Repeat When Necessary [Swan Song, 1979]
This sounds like a Rockpile album while Nick Lowe's doesn't because Lowe loves rock and roll for everything it implies as culture while Edmunds loves it for everything it is as music. There is a richness of reference here that leaves Edmunds's rockabilly phase far behind--five of the songs are imaginative genre pieces from two pubberies that appear to specialize in pub-rock revivalism, new ones by Parker and Costello add that contemporary touch, and the zesty remake of "Home in My Hand" cuts Brinsley Schwarz's. But what defines the music is Edmunds's willingness to defer to the overdrive of the two other guys in the band, unsung guitarist Billy Bremner and pitiless drummer Terry Williams. In unity there is power. A-

Twangin [Swan Song, 1981]
With Nick Lowe butting out, Edmunds wheels into his leather-boy fantasy with all the delicacy of a Harley 1000 on diesel fuel. He digs a thirteen-year-old version of "Baby Let's Play House" out of the basement, ignores Guy Mitchell's whistled hook on "Singing the Blues," and acts as if George Jones left something out of "The Race Is On." Topper: Lowe-Carter-Edmunds's "Living Again If It Kills Me," which happens to be a slow one. B

The Best of Dave Edmunds [Swan Song, 1981]
Ignoring his slower and more eccentric moments for the nonstop energy punks misprise from rockabilly, with bullheaded recent covers of "The Race Is On" and "Singing the Blues" decelerating into upper midtempo for respite, this compilation defines Edmunds as a trouble boy. Actually, if you'll listen to "Trouble Boys" for two minutes you'll learn that Edmunds is scared shitless of trouble boys--as were, I'll bet, Gene Vincent, Eddie Cochran, the Everly Brothers, and Elvis himself. But if you'd rather leave his quirks to critics and his mama, you can just, well, rock on. A-

D.E. 7th [Columbia, 1982]
It's a measure of my respect for Edmunds that at this point his meticulous collections of oldies and newies impress me much the way good new Chicago blues albums do, and I vouch for number seven, especially the newies on side one. When was the last time you were more than mildly excited by a good new Chicago blues album? B+

Information [Columbia, 1983]
Not since the onset of a career always marked by consistent taste and uncertain utility has Edmunds strayed so far from the trad, and though his perfidy/courage is characteristically marginal, it's still a mistake. The two Jeff Lynne-produced tracks have given him the hit he needs, but where 1971's echoey "I Hear You Knockin'" was a departure, 1983's teched-up "Slipping Away" is an accommodation to marketing trends the Edmunds of Rockpile bucked. And as a symptom of his faltering commitment, the songs he's selected for side two are quite humdrum, which isn't characteristic at all. B-