Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Mott the Hoople

  • Mott the Hoople [Atlantic, 1970] C+
  • Brain Capers [Atlantic, 1972] B
  • All the Young Dudes [Columbia, 1972] A-
  • Mott [Columbia, 1973] A-
  • The Hoople [Columbia, 1974] B
  • Rock and Roll Queen [Atlantic, 1974] B+
  • Greatest Hits [Columbia, 1976] A-
  • The Ballad of Mott: A Retrospective [Columbia/Legacy, 1993] A

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Mott the Hoople [Atlantic, 1970]
Despite the hype, these guys strike me as an ordinary hard rock combo. Their sameyness is not disguised by the melange of influences on side one--early Kinks, Bob Dylan, Sir Douglas, Bob Dylan, Sonny Bono, Bob Dylan, and Bob Dylan--and on side two this melange is quickly boiled down to its medium: sloppy hard rock with heavy leanings, big on post-Kingsmen instrumentals. C+

Brain Capers [Atlantic, 1972]
After a debut album that pitted imaginative borrowing against imitative self-expression, Mad Shadows and Wild Life descended thrashing and caterwauling into the depths of rock and roll psychodrama--what could one expect of "improvisations" based on such faceless "originals"? So this is a heartening reverse--not only do they unearth Dion's suppressed farewell to junkiedom, "Your Own Back Yard," and a good old Youngbloods number, but they provide originals that can stand behind them. Unfortunately, the two exceptions take up more than twelve minutes. B

All the Young Dudes [Columbia, 1972]
Those enamored of the dirty sound Guy Stevens got out of (or imposed on) this band complain that David Bowie's production is thin and antiseptic, but I always found their Atlantic albums fuzzy, and anyway, the material is powerful enough to overwhelm such quibbles. Mick Ralphs and Verden Allen make catchy. Bowie's title tune captures the spirit of a dispossessed younger (than me, Bowie, or Mott the Hoople) generation united by a style against time. The Velvet Underground cover is definitive. And Ian Hunter does more than get away with a long, slow, pretentious one at the close--"Sea Diver" is a triumph. A-

Mott [Columbia, 1973]
Ian and the boys are definitely too self-referential, and they don't entirely convince me that they've earned our credence as the great failed band of the new loser mythology. But as rock and roll this is damn near irresistible, sure to stand as a textbook of killer riffs 'n' hooks. Even the throwaways are ace, except maybe for Mick Ralphs's Spanish guitar showcase. And not only has Ian's Dylan fixation become funny, but Ian knows it. A-

The Hoople [Columbia, 1974]
"Roll Away the Stone" and maybe "Golden Age of Rock 'n' Roll" are classics in their neoclassical mode, which is also to say that they're nothing new, and the marginal stuff is quite undifferentiated. I suspect that Ian Hunter's ego, which he deserves, is crowding out the others. And I know for sure that Ariel Bender flashes more ego than Mick Ralphs ever did, and that he deserves none of it. B

Rock and Roll Queen [Atlantic, 1974]
Mick Ralphs's title tune--which is to "Starfucker" as Bad Company is the Rolling Stones--defines the virtues and limitations of this raucous compilation. Rescuing serviceable rockers from all of their Atlantic albums and utilizing only the most simple-minded covers ("You Really Got Me" and "Keep a Knockin'"), it presents pre-Bowie Mott as an endearingly crude touring band, with enough hooks to keep things going. And it draws on only five minutes of Brain Capers. B+

Greatest Hits [Columbia, 1976]
Hits my ass. Never heard "Foxy Foxy" on the radio, and never want to. But the other new one, "Saturday Gigs," recapitulates quite movingly a banal theme this collection fleshes out with real wallop: a band and its fans. Four songs is too much overlap with Mott, but this is the essence of Mott the Hoople as a group, which always needed Ian Hunter and always did more than back him up. A-

The Ballad of Mott: A Retrospective [Columbia/Legacy, 1993]
I could cavil about omissions, "Death May Be Your Santa Claus" especially. But 20 years after the fact, you remember great bands for their sound as much as their songs, and these guys had one. They were prepunk, everybody knows that, but too often the "pre" is given short shrift. So remember this: committed to sarcasm, dystopia, and noise, they never took refuge in punk's inspired-amateur minimalism. On the contrary, their expansive mess was pure '60s, as was their penchant for the elegiac and the lyrical. It's a synthesis 10,000 garage bands have fucked up since. The 10,001st was Nirvana. A

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