Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Too Much Joy

  • Son of Sam I Am [Alias, 1988] A-
  • Cereal Killers [Giant, 1991] A-
  • Mutiny [Giant, 1992] Neither
  • Mistakes Were Made [People Suck Music, 2021] B+

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Son of Sam I Am [Alias, 1988]
Best thing about Green Eggs and Crack was the title, and even now their music is a strictly functional medium for smart-ass words. But there's melody, there's some sock, and you can hear Jay Blumenfeld's guitar ("Not lead guitar, not rhythm guitar. Just guitar."). Where formerly Tim Quirk spoke his lyrics in tune, now he mocks, expostulates, kid-drawls, projects, so that sometimes they sound smarter (and assier) than they read. And though sometimes they read fine--the scary suburban fairy tale "Connecticut," or "Kicking," which may be about cancer and is definitely about turning 23--listeners may prefer "Making Fun of Bums." Or "I didn't like being Edgar Allen Poe, I was sick a lot when I was Rimbaud." A-

Cereal Killers [Giant, 1991]
After a year of sleeping on floors, stealing wives, and expressing solidarity with 2 Live Crew, their music is thicker, tougher, hookier, sometimes even a tad overproduced. And their lyrics are still what it's there for. So smart they have dumb people sniffing about the Dead Milkmen, they have their moments of empathy, social responsibility, self-knowledge, and so forth. But as a sucker for a cheap laugh, I prefer "King of Beers" ("na na na na na na sorrow") and "Long Haired Guys from England" ("i bet in london i could get a date/'cause i'm a short haired guy from the united states"). Both of which are longer on self-knowledge than most dumb people I meet. A-

Mutiny [Giant, 1992] Neither

Mistakes Were Made [People Suck Music, 2021]
Grade hedged because in the decades since I praised two of their early albums (and panned and then missed the next three), I've come to owe two of these brainy, aging postpunks--singer Tim Quirk hired me to republish old Consumer Guide reviews in Formerly Rhapsody's early years and bassist Sandy Smallens co-produces my podcast. Which I hope frees me to report that every song on their first album in two decades is smart, most are funny, and many are catchy. Choicest cuts: anti-Trump "Something to Think About," pre-Biden "Blinding Light of Love," Google-seeking "Oliver Plunkett's Head," post-abusive "Uncle Watson Wants to Think," virtual "Flux Capacitor," and best-for-last the lonely, connubial "Not Being You." Randy Newman meets the Clash? Nah--those two are genius where Too Much Joy just have high IQs. But that goal continues to spur them on. B+