Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Living Things

  • Turn In Your Friends and Neighbors [3AM, 2003] Dud
  • Black Skies in Broad Daylight [Act/Resist, 2004] A-
  • Resight Your Rights [DreamWorks EP, 2004] Choice Cuts
  • Ahead of the Lions [Jive/Zomba, 2005] A-
  • Habeas Corpus [Jive, 2009] A-

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Turn In Your Friends and Neighbors [3AM, 2003] Dud

Black Skies in Broad Daylight [Act/Resist, 2004]
Lillian Berlin is Johnny Rotten with politics. His art would be nothing without his rage; he's so possessed by the need to get his point across that he grabs his brothers' music by the throat and makes it bellow his tune. But his rage wouldn't be much without his analysis, which however simplistic--and it is, though at this perilous moment no more so than apolitical cynicism or liberal equivocation--gives shape, purpose, and a referent outside his tortured psyche to feelings that emanate from who knows where. A more balanced person would have gotten this cleansing full-length released in the U.S. last fall, when we needed it so much, but a more balanced person wouldn't have recorded it. The Berlins have bought it back from UniMoth, and maybe some patient U.S. bizzer will put it out eventually. Meanwhile, my advance is identical to the U.K. version, while the Japanese boasts two bonus cuts that'll cost you 12 bucks apiece. Like it says inside their EP: "Just one enemy--The Exploiters." A-

Resight Your Rights [DreamWorks EP, 2004]
"A.D.D." Choice Cuts

Ahead of the Lions [Jive/Zomba, 2005]
Sooner than I figured, given their anger management problems, a U.S. rejigger of the politically explosive Black Skies in Broad Daylight, which DreamWorks sat on nervously in explosive 2004. The new "Bom Bom Bom" is the pick of the seven songs involved in the substitution game played to sell mad fans the same record twice. But the deleted "Standard Oil Trust" is more than a good title. Sane fans will just have to do without. A-

Habeas Corpus [Jive, 2009]
Five years after this St. Louis brother band dropped their bomb, they drop their follow-up, and somehow--though kneejerk revolutionary Lillian Berlin has since had two kids with the director of his first video--they're still true believers in the cleansing if not excoriating power of rock and roll. Leading their theoretical followers into the streets in "Brass Knuckles" only to pine for "the good life" in "Mercedes Marxist," they aim for a higher consistency: a collective grandeur that evokes AOR and punk simultaneously. Their retro is familiar in outline even though you can't name a single band who sound like them. Well, maybe the MC5 a little. But Rob Tyner was a blues-stud wannabe. Lillian murmurs his provocations from within a chorale. A-

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