Robert Christgau on Homeboy Sandman's Constant, Anti-Boredom Reincarnations

The Dean of American Rock Critics reviews Homeboy Sandman's 'Veins,' Aesop Rock & Homeboy Sandman's 'Triple Fat Lice,' and Open Mike Eagle's 'Brick Body Kids Still Daydream.'
January 12, 2018, 6:13pm
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The self-proclaimed "Dean of American Rock Critics," Robert Christgau was one of the pioneers of music criticism as we know it. He was the music editor at the Village Voice for almost four decades where he created the trusted annual Pazz & Jop Poll. He was one of the first mainstream critics to write about hip-hop and the only one to review Simon & Garfunkel's Bridge Over Troubled Water with one word: "Melodic." On top of his columns, he has published six books, including his 2015 autobiography, Going Into the City. He currently teaches at New York University. Every week, we publish Expert Witness, his long-running critical column. To find out more about his career, read his welcome post; for four decades of critical reviews, check out his regularly updated website

Homeboy Sandman: Veins (Stones Throw) Given how it signs off by wrapping "God" and "Speak Truth" around "Nonbelievers"' and its "light brown privilege" verse, 2016's 16-track, 40-minute Kindness for Weakness feels so much like a signature classic that this 10-track, 25-minute follow-up seems trifling despite its identical minutes-per-song ratio. But on both albums, Sand remains the most consistent song-crafter in whatever we're supposed to call the game he's playing. Accept his rat-a-tat delivery and his looplike beats and recognize how rarely he lets four lines pass without proving that "Every single morning I handle boredom by being born again." Never one "to waste time tryna be cute," he rocks his "Fila and Le Tigre on the Tigris and Euphrates," reads Moby Dick between sets, and delivers delight. If his flow and beats were a smidge more iconic, he'd epitomize the kind of major minor artistry Le Tigre—hell, Spoon or somebody—parlayed into legend. A MINUS

Aesop Rock & Homeboy Sandman: Triple Fat Lice (Stones Throw) On their third free EP in three years, Ace and Sand's permanent floating alliance for gravity defiance finds itself somewhere between "I hate you all" and "hungry for affection." While leading efforts to get the giant panda off the red list, they make sure you "find your keys before you cannot find your keys" and hustle up that kidney transplant you're waiting on. Yet they're always in the mood to play—to say anything they feel like as long as it feels good. How about rhyming "MMA," "lemonade," "emanate," and "Hemingway"? Can you get with "Don Mattingly mustache" and "naked lady mudflaps"? Would you go as far as "candelabra" and "blah-blah-blah-blah-blah blah-blah-blah-blah-blah-blah-blah-blah"? A MINUS

Open Mike Eagle: Brick Body Kids Still Daydream (Mello Music) The meek shall inherit the rubble of the Robert Taylor Homes, demolished because drugs even though most of the 27,000 who resided in a development designed for 11,000 were ordinary Chicagoans surviving as best they could. So this rap nerd who rhymes this band he likes called the Kinks with a refrigerator that don't stink makes up songs for these Chicagoans. In one he's a superhero he thought up himself who protects his neck with magic jewels; in another he celebrates a holiday he thought up himself by extinguishing garbage fires; in yet another he's so brave he had an asthma attack last bar and you didn't even notice. Hey, he's even got a They Might Be Giants beat. Why would any bedroom music fan deny him? A MINUS

CunninLynguists: Rosa Azura Njano (RBC) Inciting to riot up front, awestruck by lust at closing time, they're most convincing mourning their people's losses and nailing a 16 for Muddy Waters ("Gone," "Any Way the Wind Blows," "Mr. Morganfield and Ms. Waters") ***

L'Orange: The Ordinary Man (Mello Music) Mellow, grooveful, humorous beatmaster-soundscaper emerges from a bout of hearing loss with an ear-friendly bag of tricks that's never trickier than when guest rappers pay their respects and collect a check ("Blame the Author," "Look Around," "Things Are Just Props"); ***

L'Orange: Old Soul (self-released) Billie Holiday tribute mixtape-qua-rip, no more and definitely no less ("Lost Souls," "The Night") **

Mr. Lif & Brass Manazeri: Resilient (Waxsimile) Luxuriating in a second life, clipped Boston alt-rapper thought it an interesting challenge to adapt to beats from a live if messed-with Balkan brass band, and interesting is precisely what it is ("The Wanderer," "What About Us?!") **