A few weeks ago, I wrote about my life-long love of the writing of music critic Robert Christgau. One of the points of the piece was that I still looked forward to reading his monthly Consumer Guide on the Village Voice website.
Well, not so much anymore, as the news has come down that the Village Voice — or corporation that owns the Village Voice, as well as a bunch of other “Alternative Newsweeklies” — has given Christgau his walking papers.
I’m sure that I speak for an ever-smaller group of music geeks when I say this:
There, that was mature.
In a great piece in Slate, Jody Rosen summed up Christgau’s influence perfectly:
With Pauline Kael, Christgau is arguably one of the two most important American mass-culture critics of the second half of the 20th century—yet he’s devoted the majority of his working life to fashioning 100-word blurbs with letter grades. He’s a public intellectual who unwittingly invented the reviews section of Entertainment Weekly.
That might be seen as damming with faint praise, but I don’t think so: you can blame Led Zeppelin for Whitesnake and you can blame Nirvana for Silverchair but that doesn’t make Led Zeppelin or Nirvana any less great. As a matter of fact, I think that it makes them greater. Same with Christgau: he never fell into the same “summarize as review” trap that nearly everybody else who took up the grading format. In other words, his actual words always did the heavy lifting, not the grade itself.
In a year where the role of the critic of all stripes has been seriously questioned, this comes as a great blow to those of us who believe that music, book, film, theatre, etc. criticism still has a place in a Long Tail world.
Perhaps not as godlike authorities, but I’ve never felt that critics were godlike authorites: I’ve always found the ones whose voices I liked, whose opinions I respected, and — most importantly — who can turn me on to something that I otherwise would have missed.
At best, the critics I like give me insight I might otherwise have missed; at worse, they piss me off because they don’t get the beauty I’m hearing. Either way, I’m thinking slightly differently about something I may have already thought I’d figured out.
And surely the world needs people who are theoretically paid to think about this stuff all of the time?
For his part, I can’t imagine that Christgau won’t get someone else to publish the Consumer Guide: maybe someplace like Harp or one of the Brit mags, like Mojo or Uncut. Or how about Pitchfork? Wherever he ends up, I’ll be looking forward to his takes on Modern Times, I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass and Boys and Girls in America.
I also wonder how often I’m going to go back to the Voice website: for the past few years, I’ve only been checking there to see if Christgau has something new up. Sigh, I guess I can cross that from my weekly to-do list.
John R says
He just had his 65th birthday he might try retirement. I’m sure if he wants to continue writing he will have many offers. I love his web site and hope he continues the year-end critics poll. He will probably give Dylan a A-, the Hold Steady a B+, and Yo La Tengo ** .
I’ve read many of R. Christgau’s reviews and I can’t say that he is as good as you say he is. Matter of fact…every review that I have read, I disagree with. I would be happy to hear that his career in reviewing music is over with.
John B says
I say good riddance. I have read a lot of his reviews, particularly his reggae album reviews, and he lacks any the breath of knowledge of the genre that would allow him to speak intelligently about the music. But this never stopped him from being condescending and dismissive of artists/albums that have been classics depsite his words to the contrary.
R. Christgau is probably some stuck up French fag. If he isn’t French he probably blows French guys. I bet his favorite music is Pet Shop Boys and Boy George. I have read some of his reviews for some great bands and their albums and he slams them. Well, gay french guy, why don’t you tell us what you (we should) like and we can all sit around and eat brie and drink over priced wine ?
You most certainly should turn your natural writing talent towards reviewing the records that you love.
Because after that amazingly eloquent comment, I now totally agree with everything that you have to say.
I mean, who would have ever thought to call someone a “fag” just because you disagreed with them? Brilliant! That is just so utterly and totally original that I am beyond belief.
My hate for this bitter, no class man grows stronger everyday. I have fantasies of meeting him before his impending death and cheating him of his last few breaths of precious oxygen. If he spent a day with me I could play him track after track of classic rock bands from the 70s and 80s that he panned in all his reviews. I know that everything put out by every band in that era wasn’t solid gold rock but most of it beats the hell out of anything that came before or after it. R. (probably stands for Retard) Christgau is a music snob. I don’t know what genre of music he enjoys but I’m sure it sucks more than anything he ever slammed in his worthless career as a “music critic”. I pray for a long slow painful death for him. I hope he against assisted suicide too.
Well Jim I could really give a fudge what you think about my opinions of R.etard Christgau. How would you like it if I slammed every band you liked? I hope my description of him as a R.etard is more to your liking. He reminds me of my dear old dad who thinks Rag Mop…. R-A-G-G… M-O-P-P is a classic and thinks anything by any classic rock guitarist is noise. I’m not sure what music he listens to….I think I read it’s blues and Jazz. I love Blues and Jazz too. I wonder what he has to say about Kenny Wayne Shepard or SRV. I’m sure I will come across one of his negative reviews of them someday. And as for your comment about my natural writing talents… I’m sure I could do better than that old fart RC. I know I have better musical tastes than he has. He reminds me of some bitter old man that tells you to get off his lawn and calls the police when you crank up your stereo too loud. I hope he dies one day while listening to an “American Idol” =P I’m sorry if I insulted you by using the word “fag” obviously you are one.
….and Jimmy… I wasn’t looking for your approval when I called RC a French Fag. Thats my opinion of him, and as far as I know I’m free to state it just as he is free to trash great rock bands. I could really give a fudge if you think my comment is eloquent (a French Fag term) or brilliant or original. The guy is a freaking moron old fart. I’m glad he got fired and I hope he has to eat generic brand dog food until he dies a long slow painful death. YES that is what I wish upon people that disagree with my musical tastes!!! Do you have a problem with that?
Well, you certainly showed me how little you care about what I think by responding three times to my comment.
Also, according to Christgau: “Vaughan was the greatest traditional guitarist of his generation.”
I’m confused. I thought we were supposed to like French people this week.
Jim from Rochester NY says
I just saw the review this twerp R. Christgau wrote regarding George Benson’s Breezin album. He gave it a “C”. With many disparraging comments. I grew up a heavy metal rock fan and my favorite band was Rush. That album opened my eyes to jazz and a wider musical variety and it is a classic. I can see giving it a “B” just out of respect if he really did not like it. I think his ratings are more to make headlines than honest.
Couldn’t agree more with most of the posts and consider myself a proud member of the Anti-Christgau nation. It’s clearly evident the guy has no real understanding, appreciation of Reggae, Jazz or R & B. The guy trashed the O’Jays consistently…THE O’JAYS!!! They’re only regarded by true music afficianados as one of the greatest male singing groups of all time. I can handle dissing one or two albums….Levert and co. had a few misses, but overall, their body of work kicks the crap out of damn near any male group that’s come after them. A Deaf mute could critique music better than Christgau. GOOD RIDDANCE!!!!
To my ears, Christgau totally overrated George Benson.
What I don’t understand is this: out of tens of thousands of reviews of thousands of artists, y’all fixate on a single artist that he doesn’t like as your basis for a total and utter dislike for him.
Guess what? Just because he dismissed Robyn Hitchcock’s entire career on a total misreading of a single lyric doesn’t mean that I need to hate him. I just think: “oh, so we disagree on Robyn Hitchcock” and move on.
Gang, the entire world doesn’t hinge on whether or not everybody on the planet shares your exact musical taste.
As a matter of fact, sometimes you learn more from people who occasionally disagree with you about stuff.
Christgau reminds me of the (insert total loser describor here) that always wanted soooo much to be high school cool, but never, ever could be–the perpetual, consumate mega-nonachiever. I think he’s also nursing a huge case of rockstar envy….it’s so obvious.
Dude, your original review of Christgau was right on the money–not to mention a scream! I loved it–lol! Don’t listen to the metro-sexual girly-boys that cringe at anything not pc enough for their delicate ears. Wimps.
I’m glad to the prima-donna gone. I hope he dies a lonely, bitter, impotent & pathetic old fart.
I just finished reading a set of reviews by Christgau on Rhapsody and…well…I’m speechless. Not only did he demonstrate that he has no clue how to categorize the music he’s reviewing, but his constant, pointless bashing of most of the albums he reviewed basically left me wondering if he listened to the records at all. I will make it a point to never read his complete and total garbage reviews ever again.
Yes, because it’s very very important that all music be categorized exactly right.
Did Christgau have any credibility? All his comments should be deleted and replaced with writings that demonstrate at least a few active cells of grey matter.
Funny, I was just looking for Robert (Village Voice) to send him an email to say, more often then not, I don’t like his reviews. They’re written like he’s in desperate need of a toilet and doesn’t have time to really think it through. Grade C-
Reading a Rhapsody music review by R. Christgau is about as entertaining as hurling yourself down a razorblade slide into a bowl of gin. The man’s taste is in his mouth, a place also occupied by his foot. Fired, retired, whatever… I won’t miss his churlish nincompoopery. Adieu, sir, and I’m sorry you never found a way to remove that huge stick from your nether regions. Salud!
don’t you love how he gave Pink Floyds Dark Side of the Moon and Boston’s Debut a B-? both of these are some of the highest selling albums of all time… Floyd’s in general and Bostons as a debut. he even said that “The only thing that makes me wonder is that sometimes I catch myself enjoying it, which means some corruption is still at work here.” about Boston’s album. what the fuck does that mean? if you enjoy an album it’s wrong and should be disposed of? let’s toss out thriller and all of Jimi HendriX’s cd’s out too!!!!!!
I really love the people who get offended when other people don’t agree exactly with what they like.
I mean are you so insecure in your taste in music that you have to lash out at everybody who doesn’t agree with you?
The really funny thing about Jon’s comment is his other examples: Christgau gave Thriller an A, and has called Hendrix the best guitarist eve.
Personally, I like Animals and Wish You Were Here way better than Dark Side, and will always love Boston’s debut.
I just shrug when people disagree with me about music, instead of going all freakout.
Christgau is a guy who loves to ruminate and meticulously forge his sentences. That works for New Yorker columnists and Louis Menand, but for Christgau, it makes him a pretentious ass. He decries the “institutions” of the music industry, yet calls himself the “Dean of Rock Critics”, brags about academic and journalistic awards in nearly every interview he’s done, and enjoys the sloppy blowjobs gievn to him by sycophantic industry colleagues. That might be true if he wasn’t so erratic without explanation: he’s given A ratings to Souljah Boy, Cher, and Backstreet Boys (“‘I Want it That Way” is one of the greatest rock ballads of all time.” (Salon 2001)) while he callls Radiohead “fucking shit”.
I’m glad there are SOME people that haven’t been fooled by him and see him for what he is, a snobby and self-hating sore of a man who has found his own comfortable world in which to terrorize at will.
Wow. I’ve read all of these comments, and I gotta say that I have never in all my life seen a bigger group of ill-informed, whining pussies.
And lots of misrepresentation: for example, miraeja says that he called Radiohead “fucking shit,” but ignores the “A-” grade given to Kid A, or the fact that he’s given B+ equivalents to everything they’ve done since.
And then equates a rock critic with terrorism.
The thing about Christgau I have noticed is
what was mentioned earlier. The man has weird
tastes..giving a higher review to Souljah Boy than to say
an album like Tool’s “Lateralus” (which was given an
amazing review by David Fricke in Rolling Stone) .
The problem is his fast food reviews always have the spitefulness of an angry little boy who never got to be a musician. The reason I think he finally gave into Radiohead,
was more peer pressure than anything else. And..I think
Tool is a great band as far as mainstream rock music goes.
Do I dislike him for hating a band I like..no. But when he makes statements like Tool’s Aenema is “stupidity pretending to be underground”, it sounds good on paper
but an intelligent reader response is ” why?”
Especially when looking at the lyrical content of say
a song like “46 & 2” which has an interesting premise/message.
He has been unbelievably harsh on both of those bands..
I just detect an aging man who is a little too much
bent on the punk rock mindset that anything that tries
hard, is pretentious. What I find that is curious is there are no review of Mike Patton’s works whatsoever. Or The Boredoms. Or Melt Banana. Squarepusher. Perhaps
Christgau is at the age where he likes his music the way
he likes his food; spoon fed.
Wayne Bowman says
Was reading his critiques of Duane Allman.
How many hits has R. Christaug had? Has Wilson Pickett ever given him a nickname? Did he ever play with Clapton (as in “Clapton is God.”) Nope. Just a wannabee who doesn’t understand the value of purity.
I’d sign up to kick his ass, but that seems to be a long and unruly line.
There. I feel better.
when i first found Roberts site i fucking hated the guy, but he’s grown on me. his reviews can be pretty hillarious, refreshing compared to most other ones around. and even though i totally disagree with some of his ratings hes entitled to that. his bomb is a fucking piece of shit though, and he doesnt bother to say anything. its amazing really *bomb* but fuck it, in particular Panda Bear – Person Pitch, im convinced he didnt even play this more than once. you have to let it grow rob…
King Crimson says
I love how you write this glowing article about the guy and almost every single person is like, he fucking sucks, I’d rather slit my throat than read his trash… 😛 Their criticisms of this critic are pretty lame, other than jungian_disaster, who at least expressed himself in a collected way, but still, when the overwhelming majority hate the guy, it’s obvious that he’s pretty worthless as a source for worthwhile music analysis. He’s more comedy than anything, comedy that usually isn’t funny.
Personally, I think he’s worthless but nothing to freak out about. Some of his reviews purposefully make no sense though, I’m sure of it. He was definitely more about being a condescending douche than being an honest reviewer who wants to guide people to what is actually good. Although, I guess he never claimed to be that. If I want an honest, objective review about the actual music itself, I’ll go to Allmusic.com, or just read fan reviews. Not as professional, sure, but I like the honesty; there’s no agenda behind it, it’s just people expressing their love for music, or dislike, but even that is usually more honest and to the point. Pretty much every other music review source is just opinionated and sickening, like Christgau, Pitchfork, Blender, and even Rolling Stone, though they aren’t as bad as the rest.
I too dislike Mr. Christgau, but my problems with him lie, not with his opinions – I pretty much understand that I’m not going to agree with everyone all the time, so when someone insults a band I like, I tend to not take it out on them – but rather his writing style. He’s a lazy, untalented writer being lauded as a genuis just because he’s doing something that’s different than what everyone else does.
This guy is a crack-pot/hack/etc.
robert is a retard says
this guy is quite possibly the most retarded critic ive come across
he says tool albums were a dud and then give SOULJA BOY an A?
lol wait why am i even wasting time on this pathetic nobody? i dont even know who this idiot is. i guess he goes around trolling on wikipedia and putting his name under professional reviews so people visit his site
Anthony Cumia says
Christgau, I’m sure, was very relevant back in the day but so many of his reviews leave me cringing. The constant PC ultra-liberal whining about his perceived slurs against women/gays/blacks/hispanics/etc. is ridiculous. He actually insinuated racism in his review of Hotel California. Just a ridiculous guilty white man.
I hate this Radiohead hater.
Xgau is awful. Give me someone who actually has an understanding of music, and not someone who writes pithy one sentence reviews that are almost universally awful. If he spawned the modern music critic, then I hope he dies a painful death. (Yeah, Grandaddy’s “Sumday” sucks. Give me a fucking break.)
I googled R. Christgau because I was on Rhapsody and read a review of Pink’s “Can’t Take Me Home.” The reason why I think his reviews are useless is because I feel like I’m reading Lewis Carroll when my eyes alight upon them. Of Pink’s cd, (and by the way, I have no feelings either way about Pink), the review starts with “…a tough-talker diddles teenpop’s love button…” and ends with “when she admits to the loss of her slurred “cherry” in the finale, you can only wonder how sexy she’ll be when she shows pink for real.” (Grade B+) First of all, a totally base and classless review. Second of all, what is he getting at? I just want to read a review that I don’t have to decode with a ring from a cereal box. I am a fairly intelligent guy. I did well in all my english courses in college.I still, however, have trouble figuring out some of his reviews. I agree with the above posters that he is pretentious, condescending, and seems more interested in impressing people with his wordplay than actually doling out quality reviews. Everytime I see one of his reviews at the bottom of a page on Rhapsody, I want to roll my eyes. I know this is an old thread, but I wanted to chime in/vent.
Xgau is someone I loathe but also admire. I loathe him because he is a pretentious douchebag and self-styled elitist who knows next to nothing about good music, and disguises that fact with his elitist snobbery and pretentious, disdainful five-sentence writing style. I admire him because he has been smart enough to market his utter incompetence and arrogance as “stylish and cool, and has elevated himself, despite his lack of anything substantive, to superstar critic status. I have to admire a successful con man, and that’s exactly what Chriustgau is. He’s Jessica Simpson winning an Academy Award for Best Actress, thinking she actually deserves it.
Robert Christgau, just like all of you, has a particular taste in music. If you actually read some of his articles, or follow his consumer guide, you would see the pattern. He loves jazz and rock & roll, and has an ear for experimentalism as long as it retains a level of swing. I don’t think this makes him pretentious. I don’t think his academic writing style necessarily makes him pretentious either. He clearly states his musical prejudices (metal, progressive rock, most electronic music, etc.) and nonetheless is a great music critic who (unlike many others I can think of) stays consistent in his taste and judgment.
Robert Christgau, as a different person than I, is entitled to his own tastes in music. That being said, he knows NOTHING about good music. Pink Floyd is universally considered to be one of the best bands ever. They had four all-time great Albums in Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Where Here, Animals, and The Wall. He gave those albums B, A-, B+, and B-. The Dark Side of the Moon, one of the greatest (and best selling) albums of all time got a B from this moron. And a B- for the wall — are you kidding me?!
Another example of his horrendous taste, Pearl Jam’s debut Ten, one of the best albums of the ’90’s, got two stars. Seriously.
But there is more! Oasis’s Definitely Maybe got ONE star, and What’s the Story Morning Glory got two stars.
I’m not a huge fan of Coldplay, but Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends one a grammy and he gave it ONE star.
A good critic recommends good music. Christgau is just a fucking retard.
Jim Connelly says
I’ve pretty much let the comments on this play out, because I realize that loads of people don’t understand the function of criticism, much less music criticism, and that has played out in comment after comment where people have dissed Christgau because he didn’t like a specific album that person holds particularly dear.
But @justin, I gotta say, you take the cake: not only do you immediately undercut your original statement that Christgau is entitled to his own tastes in music by listing albums that he didn’t rate the way YOU would rate them, you then close with one of the most wrong-headed things I’ve ever read: “A good critic recommends good music.” WRONG!!!
Y’all seem to think that the function of criticism is to validate your own personal taste. It isn’t, the function of criticism is to CHALLENGE your own personal taste and help you discover new things you might love as well as avoiding things you might hate.
Also: a critic helps you find new angles and new ways of looking at things you already you’ve already discovered.
For me, Robert Christgau has always done this, and there are plenty of albums on which I fully disagree with him about. So, I shrug my shoulders, instead of whinging like a baby because the big mean critic doesn’t share my tastes. Because on the balance, he’s helped me discover people from The Clash to Pavement to Drive-by Truckers. Overall, I consider that a win.
Finally, I consider Dark Side of the Moon to be somewhat overrated; The Wall to be incredibly overrated (and getting more so, as the years pass); Animals to be perpetually underrated and Wish You Were Here to be one of the most perfect creations under gods green earth.
But those are just my opinions. Your mileage may vary. Which is the point.
Christgau is the only critic I ever listen to because he actually know what he’s talking about. I have been listening to albums he has prescribed and followed his yearly lists for several years now. Sometimes I am shocked by the end of year lists – but in a good way – for example I thought Lily Allen’s new album would by higher but it was below Nirvana at 17. After a few days of listening I totally agreed with him. As for his ratings of albums he is nearly 100% correct all of time. He very rarely rates something too high or low (normally by only one grade). Most people who dislike him use Black Sabbath as a counterpoint. Black Sabbath? Really? They are terrible – haven’t you heard? For a test I would like people to listen to Ghostface Killah’s “Fishscale” album, his “Ironman” album and then his “Ghostdini” album. I’m using Ghostface because most hipsters like him and they are the only people who have anything against Xgau. Know tell me that Fishscale is his best and Ghostdini is the worst (out of the three). It’s pretty obvious and they got an A+, A and A- (as above). His ratings make sense. This is why I like Xgau – because he has a rating system that NO other critic has. Most critics make it up as they go along. This is pure stupidity. So – a final note. Like that old saying “the best revenge is living well” at least I am listening to good music.
music lover says
If you want to know what kind of “public intellectual” Christgau is, you will find enlightenment reading his review of the Monterrey Pop Festival (especially his comments about a certain “super spade” and a certain “Uncle Tom”), followed by his reviews of Jimi Hendrix. Spice up with the lumpy elisions found in his reviews of Canned Heat. A close reading of his consumer guides from 1976-1978 will show him jumping on the punk bandwagon when it was safely grinding to a halt. The guy is notorious for missing just about every critical development in new music, largely I think because he is wedded to the tired 60s idea that music should be judged according to whether it advances some lame progressive agenda. Need some more evidence that music criticism is better off without him and his like? Read his notorious article on the murder of John Lennon. Christgau is a pompous, noxious and pretentious ass. Good riddance.
music lover says
I guess I’m not the only one who finds that tiresome sixties hack well past his sell-by date.
Hilarious that most of the people here with their panties up in a bunch are boo-hooing over Christgau hating their favorite mediocre, overhyped band. Weak, weak thinking all across the board in this comments section.
Music lover, I assume the article you linked to was some sort of satire, because it was ten times more incoherent than the most longwinded and obtuse of Christgau’s numerous essays.
Here’s the thing with Christgau: he tries to listen to everything he encounters a half-dozen times or more, and place it within some sort of context. If you reject his thinking on certain types of music or certain bands, then come back with an alternative that reflects some thought and serious listening of your own. (Pitchfork’s flighty, drive by ratings don’t count). Also, try listening to more genres of music, especially music made by black people and people in other countries (most people in this thread clearly haven’t — people still really argue violently over Pink Floyd and Radiohead?! And they claim Christgau is out of touch?)
FWIW, I’ve been hoping for a while for reviewers with a better understanding of modern trends in music and music journalism to assume a more authoritative voice. Instead, there are too many hacks that seem to have a happy audience consisting of the commenters in this thread. Kind of sad that someone like ?uestlove of the Roots likes Christgau for the simple reason that unlike so many rent-a-critics in the blogging age, his “pompous” “elitist” “pretentious” writing style reflects a simple fact: that he took the time to listen to the music he’s writing about seriously and formulate some thought on it.
yo this christgau motherfucker has given a million classic albums not one star, but bomb duds? what the fuck is that dudes problem, i listen to every kind of music almost and i might go on wikipedia and look it up and i look at reviews, and oh look who is it robert fucking christgau with another dousche bag opinion on a great album, i bet if you showed that asshole a fucking 8 track with a retard drooling and laughing for half an hour hed give a 5 star review, hell 6 stars if he could, fuck that wrinkled old asshole robert christgau, or his french fag name roberta christgawahhhmyasshole….. hahahahahahah
Really, what leads people to believe that Christgau takes time in crafting his reviews? I’ve seen some that come in under 20 words. I also don’t understand why people here and elsewhere claim it’s a good thing that he comes right out and puts his biases for and against certain genres on the table. The job of the professional critic is not only to let his opinion of a movie be known, but to let other people know whether it’s something they would like. 20-word capsules that don’t spend any time discussing the musical characteristics of a piece don’t do that. If you have an irrevocable bias against certain genres of music, that’s fine, but maybe you shouldn’t put yourself out there as a theoretical voice of reason, and you definitely shouldn’t style yourself “The Dean of American Rock Critics”. I’m sorry, but Christgau seems to me to be another critic who coasts on hype, irony, and enigma without actually doing a good job on his stated craft. I won’t miss him.
Robert Christgau is terrible, the most pretentious of all the first-generation rock critics. The problem with critics like him is that they are not interested in reviewing an album objectively. They are interested in parading their superiority. His reviews contain nothing but cynicism, an air of condescension, and inside references that are not understandable unless you have listened to the album that he is reviewing.
Honestly, I despise almost all of the first-generation rock critics. They decided to use their love of music to promote their own writing style, as opposed to taking a more objective approach. Compare Robert Christgau to a truly great critic like Roger Ebert, who plainly and cleanly explains and justifies what he likes and doesn’t like.
Also, I highly recommend the allmusic website for music reviews. Even when I disagree with their reviewers, I can completely understand their reasoning.
I’ve noticed that the people who defend Christgau here are as narcissistic and conceited as Christgau himself. Birds of a feather…
Jim Connelly says
Your slam would carry more weight if you had more balls than to slag him off anonymously.
Also, if I was as narcissistic and conceited as you suggest, I would have shut down comments here a long, long time ago instead of playing out over 3 1/2 years.
No big loss, Christgau’s tiny little blurbs read like the exerpts from a 20 something pseudo intellectual who uses obscure words and hyperbole to give the illusion that he knows how to write.
Even the albums that he enjoys receive barely a paragraph of praise (if you can call it that).
“She’s been raped, and she wrote a great song about it: the quietly insane “Me and a Gun.” It’s easily the most gripping piece of music here, and it’s a cappella. This means she’s not Kate Bush. And though I’m sure she’s her own person and all, Kate Bush she’d settle for”
This isn’t a review, he’s having a fit.
I don’t find his reviews all that great. Sometimes I find it lazy how he’ll just use a bomb symbol instead of explaining why he feels that he doesn’t like the album. I know the symbol is supposed to represent an album that “doesn’t merit much thought”, but still – lazy.
When he does go on to explain why he feels an album deserves a negative review, it’s usually filled with smugness, condescension, and pretentiousness. I don’t mind smugness and condescension once in a while, he does it far too often. And sometimes he’s not very good explaining what an album actually sounds like when he’s articulating his feelings.
The general impression I get is an old white man, full of himself, trying to simultaneously seem like the ultimate authority above everything, while at the same time trying to be cool and get down with the street kids.
I don’t want to seem all smug and condescending, but I’ve read so many of his reviews, maybe the attitude has rubbed off a little.
Maybe I’ll just erase all this and put a bomb symbol.
Faceless Coward says
Jim, you’re letting the comments go here because it’s got 50 responsesn and your average post would be lucky to pull a dozen comments. Let’s “keep it real,” as the kids would say.
Christgau has nothing to teach anyone about music. If he does, he’s incapable of expressing it through his writing. Some kind of software-based automated snark generator could predict his reviews with 85% accuracy or more.
Besides, even his positive reviews are utterly joyless. The only people who could ever enjoy reading them are either joyless themselves or believe that lack of joy equals status. I strongly suspect Christgau believes it does. Not surprising that he got fired yet again.
Whitesnake and led eppelin are better than all the bands mentioned in this thread, fucking moron.