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Debra Rae Cohen


  • The Concert

    When I was growing up in New York City, Creedence Clearwater Revival was the closest we ever got to America. Their stream of Top Forty singles — each with a homely, supple guitar riff pulling it into focus — tapped into the notion of rugged populism the way the Band summed up the idea of […]

    • Music
  • Eat To The Beat

    Blondie has always been a band less concerned with weaving dreams than with critiquing them in order to emphasize the distance between desire and fulfillment. They pioneered a reverse-twist musical archivism that's antiromantic rather than escapist: instead of digging for intact nuggets of nostalgia, Blondie went at pop tradition with a ball peen hammer, splintering […]

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  • Ghost In The Machine

    Esperanto, like the League of Nations, was one of those good ideas that just didn't work. Intended as an international language not native to anyone but foreign to no one — an answer to divisiveness dating back to the Tower of Babel — it failed because its design gave a sop to every culture while […]

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  • Tattoo You

    For too many years it's seemed almost impossible for the Rolling Stones to make an album that hasn't involved — at least partially — the problem of being the Rolling Stones. This difficulty dogged them throughout the Seventies — it's part of the responsibility of having lasted so long, I guess — and they responded […]

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  • Hard Promises

    There's a peculiar challenge that faces rock & rollers who aren't at the music's cutting edge: the problem of how to mature. The genre's intellectuals may challenge themselves with philosophical lyrics and ethnic rhythms, changing the parameters of their music with every LP, but those musicians wedded to what Robert Christgau's called "the rock & […]

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  • Boy

    "I Will Follow," the kickoff cut from the debut album by Irish whiz kids U2, is a beguiling, challenging, perfect single. With its racing-pulse beat, tinkling percussion and mantra-simple chorus of dogged affection ("If you walkaway, walkaway/I walkaway, walkaway — I will follow"), it's already a dance-floor favorite. Unfortunately, much of the rest of Boy […]

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  • Scary Monsters

    In Nicholas Roeg's movie The Man Who Fell to Earth, there's a scene in which David Bowie, playing a vulnerable extraterrestrial visitor, intently watches the ritualized, larger-than-life violence of a Kabuki performance. That scene — the way Bowie is at first transfixed and then darts abruptly away, as if repulsed, satiated and sufficiently instructed — […]

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  • Taking Liberties

    Taking Liberties takes its title from "Crawling to the U.S.A.," Elvis Costello's scathing equation of foreign aid and whoredom — perfect for the latest installment of Costello's love-hate affair with America. As a commercial gesture toward our LP-oriented market, this collection of twenty B sides, British album cuts and outtakes is backhanded right down to […]

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  • Boys Don't Cry

    In the spectrum of self-conscious postpunk British bands, the Cure fall squarely between Wire's sophisticated, jagged architectonics and the Undertones' concise, wide-eyed pop music. They incorporate a little of each. I guess this means that these guys average out at the college-sophomore level, which is appropriate, since their first English single (the desert-spare "Killing an […]

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  • The Up Escalator

    There's a big gap between being a rock & roll classicist and actually turning out classics. Specifically, it's the difference between reaffirming traditional rock truisms and reinvigorating them — between, say. Tom Petty, whose rich and ringing minianthems meld half-a-dozen heartfelt homages, and Graham Parker, who aims higher without thinking about it.   Parker's early […]

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