“DD Review: Cate Le Bon – Reward, or ‘Why Dopamines Matter’.”

Score: 5/10


You know what’s funny? Just as I was in the midst of what seemed like the umpteenth track of Cate Le Bon’s vapid, desultory voice absently oozing out some more sterile, politically correct chamber pop that sounds like it was made to be listened to on expensive, candy-colored vinyl, I thought of Bukowski (not Dean Moriarty, this time). I thought of this Bukowski quote, where he was being his usual sweaty, drunken, pig-headed and honest self, about a woman who keeps her legs closed until 30, and how for her, by that time it’s “too late for anything.” I thought, that’s what Cate Le Bon is to me. Well, I was made to suffer through this shamelessly self-promoting Rolling Stone review calling Reward her “best album” (it’s like yeah, I’m sure this bimbo has really listened to Mug Museum), and what should the first sentence of that very review be when I finally get up the nerve to climb down into that foxhole but “They key to Cate Le Bon’s dazzling new album, Reward, is a chair.” Haha. So there you have it. The passionate “reward” behind this alleged masterpiece is… a chair. What, was she like humping on black chairs, like Paul Mooney said about Mariah Carey? [1]

Um, what day did God create this hipster high-rise camouflage-vinyl crap and couldn’t he have rested on that day too? [2]

You know what? It doesn’t even matter if Reward is good music or not. I mean the reward isn’t the music. Just ask this person with a vagina.

And I mean, I see you at home. I see you sneering at my website, saying, he’s just trying to be Pitchfork, he’s streaming this music for free, he can’t actually have any disposition, any perspective, he just failed out of business school and lives with his mom (I do not live my mom, for the record, not currently).

But I ripped Mug Museum, Cate Le Bon’s 2013 album, from my hometown library on CD, which I guess still isn’t like buying it but at least I did expend some effort. It was everything Reward isn’t. It was BUSY, full, robust, its cup overflowed and sure the vocals were banal but they were banal in a way that fit in with the music, sort of like No Age (actually I remember my favorite song on that album being “No God,” although I also specifically remember enjoying each and every track, too). I can count two tracks on Reward, “Miami” and “Mother’s Mother’s Magazines,” that are of any value on Reward, and what’s more, they do nothing to advance her career, since at their best they’re basically a blueprint of St. Vincent’s finer poppy moments like “Strange Mercy” and “Happy Birthday, Johnny.” The only successful direction she could go in from here would be to more adherently ape St. Vincent, becoming something like an Oasis to St. Vincent’s Beatles. All the guitar virtuosity is gone. And sure, it’s true that Le Bon is now a producer too, having worked on Deerhunter’s Why Hasn’t Everything Already Disappeared, which of course happens also to be a new advancement in terminal blandness. She’s an industry insider now, and an “indie” industry insider, which in a way is an even scarier thought. I suppose I should just accept her as that. But I remember when she had edge, and spark, constructing those verbose guitar rock songs full of tension and a Stereolab-type riot girliness. Whereas take a song like “Sad Nudes.” She’s noticing with her left brain that by this time people are just BORED by nakedness — nakedness in public isn’t even fun anymore. She’s semantically correct. In fact, she’s semantically correct to an entirely nauseating extent, and there’s no passion in this music whatsoever — it’s administered with her left brain. I give her kudos for banging out this album which probably caused her zero anxiety whatsoever, but still, to stay warm at night we might have to still turn to the desperados. Same as it ever was.


External link:

“Dolby’s Top 500 Indie Rock Tracks of All Time (250-1)”


[1] This would be a reference to ever-eloquent Paul Mooney featured in one “Ask a black guy” segment of the venerable, now defunct Chapelle’s Show, circa 2004.


[2] Thank you This is Spinal Tap… k I promise I’m done now.


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