Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Chris Bell

  • I Am the Cosmos [Rykodisc, 1992] A-

Consumer Guide Reviews:

I Am the Cosmos [Rykodisc, 1992]
Protopomo chameleon Alex Chilton had so much Anglophile in him he didn't need this full-fledged Beatle obsessive to create Big Star's world-historic Radio City and suicidal Third. And where Chilton evolved toward bent cabaret-rock, Bell's secret vice was folkiedom. But it's clear from Bell's very posthumous solo album--recorded mostly in 1975, three years before he slammed his TR-6 into a telephone pole--that Big Star was his idea. Stuck inside of Memphis with the Liverpool blues again, so pop-against-them he never fully grasped the function of the rhythm section, he was every bedroom bohemian who ever drove 300 miles to see the Kinks. Yet at the same time his spiritual yearnings are hippie on "I Am the Cosmos" (adolescent self-absorption at its most sex-starved), Southern on "Better Save Yourself" (in Jesus's name, amen), and both on "There Was a Light" (God meets gurl as if Bell's truly secret vice was Al Green). A-