Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Tom Robinson Band

  • Power in the Darkness [Harvest, 1978] A-
  • TRB 2 [Harvest, 1979] A-

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Consumer Guide Reviews:

Power in the Darkness [Harvest, 1978]
Musically this is fairly foursquare, not clever enough for good pop nor unrelenting enough for great rock, and the lyrics are pretty foursquare too, rarely suggesting that politics involves internal contradiction as well as oppression. But at the very least the package exemplifies Robinson's penchant for good works--in addition to a ten-song LP it includes a seven-song bonus record. More important, almost every one of these songs kicks in eventually, and four take no time at all: the instant hit "2-4-6-8 Motorway," the proud, sardonic singalong "Glad to Be Gay," a music-hall number about the rewards and ambiguities of male-to-male friendship called "Martin," and "Winter of '79," in which the epochal repression of that future season is recalled form some further future as a hard but (compare Davie Bowie, Black Sabbath) by no means apocalyptic piece of history. A-

TRB 2 [Harvest, 1979]
A measure of how good Robinson is at writing his rock and roll protest songs is that you often don't remember them by title--almost every one jogs the memory with an additional catchphrase. Another is that though I know a white man is making it with a black man and I know it's more than all right, I still can't suss out the details of "Sweet Black Angel." A third is that I started singing "Sweet Black Angel" to myself the first time I played the record. And the capper is that since I saw him live every other song here has been ringing in my head as well. A-