Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Kevin Coyne

  • Marjory Razor Blade [Virgin, 1974] B+
  • Matching Head and Feet [Virgin, 1975] B+
  • In Living Black and White [Virgin, 1977] B+
  • Room Full of Fools [Ruf, 2000] ***

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Marjory Razor Blade [Virgin, 1974]
Another British eccentric with a voice scratchy and wavery enough to make Mick Jagger sound like Anthony Newley, only this one can write songs. The annoying kid-stuff tone of the perversity here purveyed is redeemed by the fact that there isn't a chance it will sell, not even with the Brit double-LP condensed down to one. Also, "House on the Hill" is as convincing a madman's song as I know. B+

Matching Head and Feet [Virgin, 1975]
Coyne is the kind of minor artist whose faults--mainly an undeniable narrowness of emotional range that forces him to repeat effects--I am willing to overlook in this homogenized time. Sounding like a sly, bony, and clinically loony Joe Cocker (or a failed Deke Leonard), he here abandons quirky singer-songwriting for unkempt rock and roll. B+

In Living Black and White [Virgin, 1977]
Given his invisibility in this country, this may be your last chance at this gravel-gutted dwarf with his weirdo proclivities. It's also your best--the live recording is a little loose, as usual, but the voice is less panic-stricken than on his studio LPs, and the material at a peak. B+

Room Full of Fools [Ruf, 2000]
Rocking on the edge of everything for 30 years, and how many margin mavens know his name? ("I'm Wild," "More Than Enough"). ***

Further Notes:

Subjects for Further Research [1990s]: When this name showed up in a listing one week, I was delighted to announce that the long-lost '70s gravel-voice, first the leader of the prophetically pubbish Siren and then a solo act whose three albums reached America mainly on Elektra's release schedule, had reemerged from what I had feared was a literal bout of the insanity he'd mimicked so convincingly. And though it turned out the Coyne who came to New York was actually some Irish folk musician, I soon received word that the English Coyne had conquered alcoholism and found a good woman in Germany, where he was painting, writing, churning out CDs, and cross-promoting himself like he's in it for life. With most failed old rocker and rollers, survivalist careerism is a species of mortality-in-denial. But Coyne had always played the old codger anyway. And while his mature worldview was rife with roots-rock humanism, he put his back, mind, and voice into it. His most notable German album is the narrative/conceptual Adventures of Crazy Frank.