Those who dared to check out my One Star Music…from the ‘92 Rolling Stone Album Guide playlist may have noticed a Pitchfork favorite or two - notably Galaxie 500 and Talk Talk - were included. The man who slammed those bands, as well as the first Husker Du album and the entire (unavailable for streaming) discography of Big Black, was J.D. Considine, who wrote for Rolling Stone all through the ’80s and into the mid ’90s, when he starred on VH1’s brief, beautiful critics’ roundtable Four On The Floor (he currently writes primarily about jazz for The Globe and Mail). While he didn’t write the whole Album Guide, he wrote a healthy chunk of it, including a lot of the entries concerning popular and underground music of the ’80s (from Bobby Brown to Guns ‘N Roses to Madonna to Run-DMC to Sonic Youth), and a good bit of the jazz, which would mostly be gone from the ‘04 edition.
So if he didn’t think Big Black (“to be honest, it’s just noisy”), Galaxie 500 (“pointless and self-indulgent”) and Talk Talk (“simply grew more pretentious with each passing year”) were worth a music lover’s time, what artists did he recommend? The answer can be found in JDC JAMS 1982-1992, Vol. 1: The Classics, which features highlights from albums from that time that Considine gave four-and-a-half to five stars (one per artist). I tried to focus on songs that JDC specifically praised himself, from the opener, Anthrax’s NSFW Tipper dis “Startin’ Up A Posse,” to the closer, Steve Wynn and Johnette Napolitano’s cover of Serge Gainsbourg’s “Bonnie & Clyde,” which is erroneously presented as proof of Wynn’s “strengths as a writer.” When he didn’t point out a particular favorite, I sometimes went with a track Robert Christgau hailed (while they have their differences, both are bespectacled blurb legends who want you to hear James Blood Ulmer). Failing that, I took a honest shot at picking one myself.
Though Nirvana “at their best…typify the low-key passion of post-MTV youth,” they only received four stars from JDC for Nevermind. If you want a diverse taste of what crit picks were like back when a Van Hagar/jazz enthusiast was allowed to give Nevermind less than five in a major publication (and the Woodentops more than four), here’s a chance to revel in the dated and gated.
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