Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Carly Simon

  • Carly Simon [Elektra, 1971] C-
  • No Secrets [Elektra, 1972] B-
  • Hotcakes [Elektra, 1974] C
  • The Best of Carly Simon [Elektra, 1975] C+
  • Boys in the Trees [Elektra, 1978] C+
  • Spy [Elektra, 1979] B-
  • The Bedroom Tapes [Arista, 2000] Dud

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Carly Simon [Elektra, 1971]
Since affluence is an American condition, I suppose it makes sense not only for the privileged to inflict their sensibilities on us, but for many of us to dig it. Too bad, though. It's OK for "That's the Way I've Always Heard It Should Be" to voice a cliché, but not with that calculated preciosity and false air of discovery. If Carly's college friends are already old enough to have alienated their children, her self-discovery program is a little postmature anyway. C-

No Secrets [Elektra, 1972]
If a horse could sing in a monotone, the horse would sound like Carly Simon, only a horse wouldn't rhyme "yacht," "apricot," and "gavotte." Is that some kind of joke? Why did Mick Jagger want her? Why does James Taylor want her? Come to think of it, why does she want either of them? B-

Hotcakes [Elektra, 1974]
"You're So Vain" left a nice afterglow--as Ellen Willis says, it proves that rock and roll is so democratic that even a rich person can make a great single. But except for the startling "Mockingbird" (buy the forty-five if you must) the album's most interesting moment occurs when Simon whistles. Need I add that her whistling is flat musically and epistemologically? C

The Best of Carly Simon [Elektra, 1975]
Given her self-knowledge and her fans' taste (they like her, right?), a compilation isn't going to get her at her best, though this does collect some of her more attractive melodies. Light a fart for the two big Jacob Brackman statements: "Attitude Dancing," which means exactly what it says, and "Haven't Got Time for the Pain," which doesn't, not quite--the most insidious let's-write-God-a-love-song to date. C+

Boys in the Trees [Elektra, 1978]
Carly generally makes marriage seem both more boring and more nasty than I've found it to be, but not on this album, where matrimony is abandoned for more adolescent subjects. Even the two please-don't-cheat-oh-hubby songs--the better (and nastier) of them written by Carly's hubby--can be interpreted by her younger fans as please-don't-cheat-oh-boyfriend. In a way, this is too bad--if Carly were to come up with an interesting song about marriage, someone less conventional musically than Carly & Arif might cover it and give Carola and me something new to sing along to. John and Yoko, where are you now that we need you? C+

Spy [Elektra, 1979]
This advocate of the fuck-around-and-fib-about-it school of post-monogamy ("Morality is what I can do and still live with myself," she revealed to her publicist recently) dedicates her latest to Anaïs Nin, and for once I think she's selling herself short--at her best she's sharper than Anaïs Nin. If she'd been able to maintain the shrewd, ironic, vengeful-to-loving-to-bemused pace of the first three songs, she might actually have made a case for her ethical theories. But after that she mostly seems confused. Anaïs would be proud. B-

The Bedroom Tapes [Arista, 2000] Dud

Further Notes:

Everything Rocks and Nothing Ever Dies [1990s]

See Also