Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Alvvays

  • Alvvays [Polyvinyl, 2014] B+
  • Antisocialites [Polyvinyl, 2017] A-
  • Blue Rev [Polyvinyl/Transgressive, 2022] A

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Alvvays [Polyvinyl, 2014]
Molly Rankin's wan, naturally flat soprano renders her ironically upbeat cannot-love ditties more credible, and "Next of Kin" extends the cliche to a suitably alarming metaphorical extreme in which a suitor drowns due to Molly's emotional ineptitude. So no wonder her excited new fanbase is so relieved by "Archie, Marry Me." Assuming the challenged couple get to cut that cake, I wish them many lubricious years of one-on-one "debauchery"--Rankin's word, and I sincerely hope it's no metaphor. B+

Antisocialites [Polyvinyl, 2017]
From what I gather--she's not forward about it and has no obligation to be--when I refer to the Molly Rankin of this album I mean the Molly Rankin character. The biographical Molly Rankin seems committed to an ongoing romantic relationship with guitarist Alec O'Hanley. The character is more rootless or footloose, hence easier for young indie-rockers to relate to--easier to write songs for, too. Where her debut topped a bunch of cannot-love songs with the upbeat "Archie, Marry Me," here Archie is gone, and despite a few independent-female-on-the-town moments, the lyrical evidence doesn't bespeak an emotional life fit to support an album. But the musical evidence does. It's an optimistic alt-pop she calls "plimsoll," a retro flourish no one else with comparable brains and backbone risked in 2017 (though I alvvays thought it was "plimsoul"). For 10 tracks running, Rankin and O'Hanley's little band ring the bell every time, and while the hooks and harmonic tricks are nothing new, they have more brio than most. So Molly the bandleader and Molly the character have a key virtue in common: they know what they want and know how to get it. A-

Blue Rev [Polyvinyl/Transgressive, 2022]
Something bothered me about the sound of this much-admired album by Canadian power poppers I was on early only not with album three, which made many top 10s. So I got to it late by buying a CD whose hi-fi I thought might help separate the tunes proper from the shoegaze fuzz that dimmed them when I Spotified it--and still does, but less hence not decisively. Instead what converted me was yet more replays plus closer attention to the lyrics. First I noticed how explicitly collegiate they were, situating Molly Rankin both culturally, in her devotion to aesthetic usages less staid than "the lettered life" she once aspired to, and generationally, as the postgrads who populate her songs negotiate love lives they're seldom ready for. "Is she a perfect 10? Have you found Christ again?" she asks one soon-to-be ex. "You were my Tom Verlaine," another is reminded as she enjoys the feel of the breeze on her back. And the noisy double-time three-minute kissoff "Pomeranian Spinster" levels so many insults at one or more whoevers you can hardly believe it leaves room for an extra touch of anticlericalism: "Presbyterisn ministers/Travel in packs and never split/They deviate in the tiniest concepts." Rock and roll! A