Robert Christgau -

Megaroad 2012

What if I said, "Which nigger took the last donut?
Anyone ever have the fortune or misfortune of reading Robert Christgau's music reviews?

Maybe ten years ago, anytime I went to a wikipedia page for an album and look at the critics, if I didn't see his name under the review scores I'd find him somewhere in the reception area bitching.

Who Robert Christgau is? He's a boomer who talks like he's some hip hemp cat writing mini capsule reviews but really just comes across as... a boomer bitching about clouds at the very best or just mumbling incoherent at the very worst. He very rarely I think ever talks about the music it self, just random shit tangently connected to it if anything. Maybe he's going for a gonzo, Hunter Thompson thing.

I still to this day am not really sure what his review system is as it includes stars, bombs, scissors, letter grades and I think emoticons.

Some choice cuts:

Violator - Depeche Mode
Fearing the loss of their silly grip on America's angst-ridden teens, who they're old enough to know are a fickle lot, they forge on toward the rap market by rhyming "drug" and "thug." And for the U.K.'s ecstasy-riding teens, who God knows are even more fickle, there's the techno-perfect synth/guitar sigh/moan that punctuates the easily rescinded "Policy of Truth." C-
Load - Metallica
One of the nice things about being old is that I'm neither wired to like metal nor tempted to fake it. Just as I figured, these here-come-the-new-heroes-same-as-the-old-heroes could no more make a "grunge" album than they could do double-entry bookkeeping. Grunge simply isn't their metier. So no matter what riff neatniks think, for outsiders this is just a metal record with less solo room, which is good because it concentrates their chops, and more singing, which isn't because they can't. C+
Republic - New Order
not techno and proud ("Regret," "Young Offender") ***
Then there are times he just uses his emoticons. Doesn't seem to like Offspring too much, but made sure to remind them of white privilige in their one album he liked.

Anyways, he's a weirdo I for some reason go and read even though I don't think I've ever agreed with him on anything.

Anyone else read him?

If not, here's his website. Go find reviews on your favorite artist!

constant exposure

The most inept that ever stepped
Christgau is an old hippy boomer. 'nuff said.
Like any critic he has opinions you can agree or disagree with, music taste is a pretty subjective thing. The only thing that makes him stand out is his self-proclaimed status as "The Dean of music critics", which is one of the most cringeworthy, self-important boomer phrases in existence.
But he's not wrong about Offspring


Your an ignorant idiot
Never understood the love he and Scaruffi receive. Neither have an adequate system of review and they each of them hardly go into specifics as to what makes a record good or bad. What they have is a bulky catalog of reviews and a longterm online presence. It’s too bad they near always agree with critical and public perception. I know less about Christgau but I assume he never takes a risky stance either for fear of being called out as wrong.

I would almost trust the autistics at RYM as tastemakers instead but that’s a community that deserves its own discussion thread.

Awful writer. So glad this sort of artsy "rock journalism" is dead, not that modern music journalism is much better.

His bizarre sociopolitical critique of Limp Bizkit:

The article where he talks about how his wife cheating on him "made their relationship stronger" is pretty funny.

Also check out his review of Metallica's Master of Puppets, which he admits is good, but he says he feels obliged to take points off anyway leaving it with a B- because they're toxically masculine white males.

Hazel Motes

"I can smell the sin on your breath"
I like this. He could just write, "whilst I understand Minor Threat are the most important hardcore punk band, I'm not really a fan of their music." Instead he wastes text space sperging.

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Duncan Hills Coffee

Oww, my byaaack
Christgau's got an incredibly narrow taste when it comes to rock music, which to me limits his credibility as a rock critic. The beauty of rock music is its diversity and the spiraling directions it can go in. Very frequently I'll come across his review of an album that I adore and he bashes it for somewhat inane reasons. I don't care that he doesn't like an album or a specific genre (especially metal since that's more of its own thing), but I don't know if you can call yourself a decent music critic if you don't at least allow for some leeway in your tastes.

Megaroad 2012

What if I said, "Which nigger took the last donut?
I was gonna share some metal ones but it's just old man proud to be confused and old nonstop (fuck how old was he in the 70's and 80s??) so lets go for the spergy proto-SJW/????? stuff.

Really does not like Zappa. That's being pretty unamerican, bastard.

Sheik Yerbouti [Zappa, 1979]
If this be social "satire," how come its sole targets are ordinary citizens whose weirdnesses happen to diverge from those of the retentive gent at the control board? Or are we to read his new fixation on buggery as an indication of approval? Makes you wonder whether his primo guitar solo on "Yo' Mama" and those as-unique-as-they-used-to-be rhythms and textures are as arid spiritually as he is. As if there were any question after all these years. C

The Mothers:
Over-Nite Sensation [DiscReet, 1973]
Oh, I get it--the soft-core porn is there to contextualize the serious stuff. Oh, I get it--the automatic solos are there to undercut the serious stuff. Oh, I get it--the marimbas are there to mock-trivialize the serious stuff. But where's the serious stuff? C

Rebel Yell [Chrysalis, 1984] - Billy Idol
Videos have been the making of this born poser's career and the unmaking of his music. Not that they've changed how hard and hooky it is, much less turned off the unwitting many who find sexism sexy. But if you've got no taste for the sound of the sneer, the visuals definitely aren't fantasy enough. C

Master of Puppets
[Elektra, 1986] - Metallica
I feel at a generational disadvantage with this music not because my weary bones can't take its power and speed but because I was born too soon to have my dendrites rerouted by progressive radio. This band's momentum can be pretty impressive, and as with a lot of fast metal (as well as some sludge) they seem to have acceptable political motivations--antiwar, anticonformity, even anticoke, fine. But the revolutionary heroes I envisage aren't male chauvinists too inexperienced to know better; they don't have hair like Samson and pecs like Arnold Schwarzenegger. That's the image Metallica calls up, and I'm no more likely to invoke their strength of my own free will than I am The 1812 Overture's. B-

Some insane ramblings.

News of the World [Elektra, 1977]
In which the group that last January brought us a $7.98 LP to boycott devotes one side to the wantonness of woman and the other to the futile rebelliousness of the doomed-to-life losers (those saps!) (you saps!) who buy and listen. C

Time's Up [Epic, 1990] - Living Color
The latest target of the black superman theory won't write history like Harold Cruse and spout Afrology like Robert Farris Thompson any more than Darryl Strawberry will act the mensch like Don Baylor and hit .330 like Rod Carew. That's not his job--leading an arena band is different, and plenty difficult. It's amazing enough for a jazz musician like Vernon Reid to make the transition to pop accessibility, proving that even art-rock can signify with the best album in that meaning-laden genre since Pink Floyd was in mourning. Though the striking choruses and fancy structures are pretty Euro, the proximate model is Bad Brains sans Jah. And though MTV's millions have heard Reid's more panhuman messages before, they've rarely heard them expressed so coherently--or by a black person. Both factors count for something. A-

Just kidding about no metal, I decided to look up Black Sabbath and...

Black Sabbath [Warner Bros., 1970]
The worst of the counterculture on a plastic platter--bullshit necromancy, drug-impaired reaction time, long solos, everything. They claim to oppose war, but if I don't believe in loving my enemies I don't believe in loving my allies either, and I've been worried something like this was going to happen since the first time I saw a numerology column in an underground newspaper. C-

[Warner Bros., 1970]
They do take heavy to undreamt-of extremes, and I suppose I could enjoy them as camp, like a horror movie--the title cut is definitely screamworthy. After all, their audience can't take that Lucifer bit seriously, right? Well, depends on what you mean by serious. Personally, I've always suspected that horror movies catharsized stuff I was too rational to care about in the first place. C-

Master of Reality
[Warner Bros., 1971]
As an increasingly regretful spearhead of the great Grand Funk switch, in which critics redefined GFR as a 1971 good old-fashioned rock and roll band even though I've never met a critic (myself included) who actually played the records, I feel entitled to put this in its place. Grand Funk is like an American white blues band of three years ago--dull. Black Sabbath is English--dull and decadent. I don't care how many rebels and incipient groovies are buying. I don't even care if the band members believe in their own Christian/satanist/liberal murk. This is a dim-witted, amoral exploitation. C-

We Sold Our Souls for Rock 'n' Roll
[Warner Bros., 1976]
By omitting pro forma virtuoso moves--"Rat Salad" has vanished without a trace--this two-disc compillation makes a properly mock-nostalgic document. Only two cuts total (out of seventeen) from LPs five and six, but three from four, cleverly entitled Black Sabbath Vol. 4, which I never got around to putting on in 1972. And you know, I'm still not sure I've ever heard anything on it. C

Guy reads like an early version of a twitter word salad.
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Duncan Hills Coffee

Oww, my byaaack
(fuck how old was he in the 70's and 80s??)
He was born in 1942, and Black Sabbath's first album came out in 1970, which would put him at around 28.

It's funny that even at the ripe age of 28 he sounded like a grumpy old man ranting about the music the kids listen to. I guess music elitism and general critic snobbery will do that to you.
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Dutch Courage

Curious Onlooker
True & Honest Fan
I will stick up for the crazy old socialist, Sabbath-hating coot.

Maybe you had to live in New York at a certain impressionable age and read a now defunct lefty weekly newspaper to have grown up with him (to some degree, I'm not that fucking old), but I have always enjoyed Christgau, even though I wholeheartedly disagree with him about a lot of stuff (not least of which is politics, but he often has his head up his ass about music too).

To "get" Christgau, you have to first put him into the context of his time. He began writing music articles in 1967 (one of his first was a notorious piece about the Monterey Pop Festival in which he very loquaciously elucidated the square-ish young academic's view of the beginnings of the rock and roll counterculture, and infamously referred to Jimi Hendrix (making his US debut) as a 'psychedelic Uncle Tom", words he has come to regret).

In 1967, there was barely a such thing as rock music criticism. Insofar as it existed at all, it can be traced all the way back to 1966. Before that, rock and roll was purely kid's stuff as far as newspapers were concerned. There were no rock magazines, unless Seventeen and Tiger Beat count, both aimed at teenaged girls. News coverage of rock music was mostly limited to screaming teenaged girls at Beatles concerts, where the screaming was the story and the music was inaudible.

To serious rock and roll musicologists, 1966 was a watershed year; as far as "exciting and new and not just for kids anymore" was concerned, 1966 was the game changer. Bob Dylan had fully converted to rock music, bands like The Beatles, The Byrds, The Rolling Stones, The Beach Boys and others were writing music that appealed to the college-age crowd (i.e. Baby Boomers) and offered a newfound maturity in lyrical content while pushing previously unimagined boundaries sonically.

San Francisco Chronicle jazz critic Ralph J. Gleason was one of the first music critics to review rock music seriously, in 1965, and he heavily covered the San Francisco scene, giving it national prominence (he wrote liner notes for Jefferson Airplane's debut album). Richard Goldstein (whom Christgau would join at the Village Voice) had a column called Pop Eye, which treated rock music with sophistication; it began in 1966. Crawdaddy, the very first rock magazine, launched in 1966. Among its contributors were much of the nucleus of the "new rock criticism", including Jon Landau (who went on to produce Bruce Springsteen), Sandy Pearlman (who went on to become lyricist/producer for Blue Oyster Cult), and Richard Meltzer,

In 1967, both the Summer of Love (which introduced the world to the west coast psychedelic bands) happened and Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band was released (which Goldstein panned, incidentally). Monterey Pop happens. Suddenly, hip, young, educated adults are into rock music in a big way, and a whole cottage industry of rock criticism sprouted up. Rolling Stone was launched in 1967 (also in San Francisco, by Jann Wenner and Ralph J. Gleason, the Airplane's liner-note writer). At various times, early rock critics such as Dave Marsh and later Lester Bangs picked up checks there.

It was into this milieu that Christgau got his gig writing the Consumer Guide for the Village Voice. At the time, there was no such thing as a monthly encapsulated rock album review column that spanned across all rock genres and included some interesting music at the fringes of rock. Due to the limitations of space in the paper, his capsule reviews had to be very brief, and he often resorted to shorthand in capturing fairly insightful descriptions of 20+ albums at a time. What made him entertaining to read was his amusingly academic wordplay, his generally decent-family-man perspective, his firmly ingrained from-the-streets-of-New-York lefty worldview, and his general adventurousness in following his love of rock music into unexpected byways (which has led him very deep into African music ever since he heard The Indestructible Beat of Soweto in 1982) The concept of the Consumer Guide has been lost in the digital archive age. You had xx amount of dollars to spend on records each month, where should you allocate those funds? The reviews originally were never meant to be taken outside of that context.

He was useful in that he let you know what was out there, and he gave honest appraisals. Often his appraisal was idiotic, but at least he had an ideology about rock music and pop music. He wasn't a hack.

Generally, he likes classic 60's rock, is leery of folk, embraces rap and hip hop, loves African music, never really understood heavy metal, has always given indie music wide coverage, even if he loved some of it and hated some of it. He never had much use of prog-rock, is only swayed by art-rock if it lives up to its pretenses, came to appreciate country music later in life, and is a sucker for young, female pop singers as long as they aren't too vapid. He did indeed miss the boat on Black Sabbath, but the dummies over at Rolling Stone hated them too (and Led Zeppelin; Jann was more of a James Taylor man) Only Lester Bangs stood up for them.

Knowing his preferences and biases, one can read between the lines and know if his opinion on a particular album is going to be insightful or not. I will say that Christgau talked me into listening to a lot of artists I never would have otherwise tried, and whom I still cherish now. And that's the whole purpose of rock criticism, isn't it?

I will say that his best Consumer Guides were from 1969 (the first one) until 1990 (when he changed his scoring system and (mostly) stopped reviewing albums he deemed below B+). After that, he got too selective in what he'd review, which meant he got a lot more idiosyncratic (a whole lotta African music, hip hop, and mainstream pop, a lot less rock music). I like reading his reviews of artists I know, and he listens to very few of them these days.

I acknowledge that if you simply come across random reviews of his, he may come across as a supercilious idiot. I won't defend his politics, but he would be happy to. He is sometimes very astute and nuanced in his thinking, even if he comes across as an overly academic, pseudo hip (much of that is meant with irony), musically ignorant socialist at times.

He do the kids say it these days?...a man of his time. Now, he's just old. But he's a decent fellow; he is what he is.

Megaroad 2012

What if I said, "Which nigger took the last donut?
His wife is the cunt that said "why is it always the John Lennons and Bobby Kennedys and never the Richard Nixons and Paul McCartneys?" After Lennon was shot and killed. Not sure why Robert thought it was appropriate to print.
Nevermind John Lennon was a piece of shit.