Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Mike Nesmith & the First National Band

  • Magnetic South [RCA Victor, 1970] B
  • Loose Salute [RCA Victor, 1970] B+
  • Nevada Fighter [RCA Victor, 1971] C+

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Consumer Guide Reviews:

Magnetic South [RCA Victor, 1970]
"I love it here on the range," the Smart Monkee yodels, but then he adds that he'd "love it more if it changed," which sums up his country-rock synthesis quite nicely. I don't know if he's serious about this "free from euphemisms and alive with their own emotions" stuff he writes about in the notes, but one reason I like his songs is that they never seem to mean exactly what they say--even "Joanne," which could be covered by Paul Butterfield or Linda Ronstadt or somebody, partakes of the bemused natural distance that saves his more aimless experiments from getting lost. B

Loose Salute [RCA Victor, 1970]
In which Nesmith continues his transmutation into Gram Parsons for television fans, or the Jimmy Rodgers of Sunset Strip. I'm beginning to suspect that he takes his meandering thoughts and marble columns in the sky more seriously than they deserve. But his songwriting gifts are at a peak on this amalgam of gimmicks and mannerisms, long-vowel articles and near-yodels and electronic excursions and alien rhythms. At its best, sublime schlock; at its worst, downhome kitsch. B+

Nevada Fighter [RCA Victor, 1971]
This begins perfectly, with Nes fleeing the "Grand Ennui" (which I heard as "Opry" first time). And continues honorably with "Propinquity (I've Just Begun to Care)" (the Stone Poneys tribute). And then falls flat on its face with three vacant originals and a side of moderately well-chosen but extremely unnecessary covers. Nesmith just isn't a strong enough singer for such stuff--makes you think he got his gig through connections. C+