Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Stan Ridgway

  • The Big Heat [I.R.S., 1986] B
  • Mosquitos [Geffen, 1989] B

Consumer Guide Reviews:

The Big Heat [I.R.S., 1986]
Greil Marcus argues that the former Wall of Voodoo frontman is "playing with" the American voice Raymond Chandler once described: "flat, toneless and tiresome." Pretty clever, only I don't hear much play. That voice is no creation--it's Ridgway, who shares with Chandler the literary sins of cynicism and literariness. Like a city reporter with a drinking problem or a novelist turned night clerk, Ridgway is a wise guy who isn't as wise as he thinks he is, and while a fair number of these songs have the sleaze-infatuated atmosphere L.A. artists from West to Waits have gone for, only a couple--"Walkin' Home Alone," a song of lost love any asshole would be proud of, and "Pick It Up (And Put It in Your Pocket)," the dirt on Reagonomics--belong in the same paragraph as Raymond Chandler. B

Mosquitos [Geffen, 1989]
The voice of the American antihero deepens--Ridgway invests his tall tales of the end of the line with lazy, crazy conviction. He thanks Samuel Beckett for "Dogs," rings James M. Cain for "Peg and Pete and Me," and isn't altogether stupid about "Newspapers." But it's a lead-pipe cinch that if he says he can't find "The Last Honest Man," he's a liar. B