Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

Consumer Guide:
  User's Guide
  Grades 1990-
  Grades 1969-89
Books
Writings:
  CG Columns
  Rock&Roll& [new]
  Rock&Roll& [old]
  Music Essays
  Music Reviews
  Book Reviews
  Playboy
  Blender
  Rolling Stone
  Billboard
  Video Reviews
  Pazz & Jop
  Recyclables
  Newsprint
  Lists
  Miscellany
Bibliography
NPR
NAJP Blog
Web Site:
  Home
  Site Map
  What's New?
Carola Dibbell
CG Search:
Google Search:
Twitter:
Paul Westerberg is getting kind of old for an enfant terrible, so I'm sure he's responding to an inner urge rather than Sire's siren call. But with its maturing tempos and hooky guitar-chime echoes, Don't Tell a Soul, his third album for the major label since he triumphed over chaos for indie Twin/Tone with 1984's Let It Be, sounds like the commercial compromise his cult began claiming in 1985. His gifts are undiminished--he's pithy, tuneful, raucous, sincere. But though he proved long ago that the longing for wisdom is a winsome thing, achieving it is harder. Back when he wrote songs called "Fuck School" and "Tommy Gets His Tonsils Out" and "Kiss Me on the Bus," Westerberg and his careening band made adolescent angst not just intellible but compelling. Summing up his ruefully jaundiced worldview in "We'll Inherit the Earth" and "Asking Me Lies" or his feelings on "Achin' To Be" and "Darlin' One," he's just pithy, tuneful, raucous, and sincere. Which is plenty, and not enough.

In age and class, Long Island's De La Soul are like the young Replacements. But the same pop cuteness and accessibility that represent a retreat for the white hardcore veterans signify an audacious eccentricity in the black rappers. 3 Feet High and Rising (Tommy Boy) is radically unlike any rap album you or anybody else has ever heard. With its 24 cuts crammed into 67 minutes (long enough to make cassette or CD sound a must), it's playful, arch, often obscure, sometimes self-indulgent. Yes, they write songs about their "jimmies"--there's even a heavy breathing interlude called "De La Orgee." But they're also fascinated by childhood, and by high school. "Treading Water" features a squirrel, a monkeys, a fish, and a crocodile; "Transmitting Live from Mars" samples a French lesson. De La Soul's totem is the daisy. You can dance to them.

Playboy, Feb. 1989


Jan. 1989 Mar. 1989