Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Jethro Tull

  • This Was [Reprise, 1969] C-
  • Stand Up [Reprise, 1969] B-
  • Benefit [Reprise, 1970] B-
  • Aqualung [Reprise, 1971] C+
  • Thick as a Brick [Reprise, 1972] C-

Consumer Guide Reviews:

This Was [Reprise, 1969]
Ringleader Ian Anderson has come up with a unique concept that combines the worst of Roland Kirk, Arthur Brown, and your nearest G.O. blues band. I find his success very depressing. C-

Stand Up [Reprise, 1969]
People who like the group think this is a great album. I don't like the group. I think it is an adequate album. B-

Benefit [Reprise, 1970]
Ian Anderson is one of those people who attracts admirers by means of a principled arrogance that has no relation to his actual talents or accomplishments. He does have one undeniable gift, though--he knows how to deploy riffs. Nearly every track on this album is constructed around a good one, sometimes two; play it twice and you'll have the thing memorized. But I defy you to recall any lyrics. For all his e-nun-ci-a-tion and attention to wordcraft, Anderson can't or won't create the impression that he really cares about love/friendship/privacy, which I take to be his chief theme--the verbiage isn't obscure, but he really does make it hard to concentrate. I'm sure I hear one satirical exegesis on the generation gap, though. B-

Aqualung [Reprise, 1971]
Ian Anderson is like the town free thinker. As long as you're stuck in the same town yourself, his inchoate cultural interests and skeptical views on religion and human behavior are refreshing, but meet up with him in the city and he can turn out to be a real bore. Of course, he can also turn out to be Bob Dylan--it all depends on whether he rejected provincial values out of a thirst for more or out of a reflexive (maybe even somatic) negativism. And on whether he was pretentious only because he didn't know any better. C+

Thick as a Brick [Reprise, 1972]
Ian Anderson is the type of guy who'll tell you on one album that a whole side is one theme and then tell you on the next that the whole album is one song. The usual shit--rock (getting heavier), folk (getting feyer), classical (getting schlockier), flute (getting better because it has no choice), words. C-

Further Notes:

Everything Rocks and Nothing Ever Dies [1990s]

See Also