Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Robert Christgau's Consumer Guide

Are you looking for a fun way to kill a few hours and maybe rekindle your love for some forgotten albums? If so, you have to check out Robert Christgau’s forty years of entertaining album reviews here.

While it would be impossible to agree with all of this takes, Christgau has impeccable taste in music and a very witty writing style. Best of all, his reviews are usually only a few sentences long, so it’s tons of fun (and addicting) just to browse. You can search by artist, by year, or by grade.

Here is a little ditty from one of Christgau’s A+ albums:

The Who - Tattoo (buy album)

[Note: For a cool refreshing drink to accompany your browsing, I’d recommend an Orange Blossom. Worked for me.]

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Vaughn said...

The problem with Christgau is, he's such a great writer that when you initially find yourself disagreeing with him, you can't shake his comments on the recordings. They're forever tainted by his words.

Greg said...

True: read about your treasures at your own risk.....

godoggo said...

Good thing about critics is they can turn you on to stuff you might not have checked out otherwise. Bad is that if you let them infect your brain you find yourself referring to whatever you like as The Greatest blah blah blah...which Bangs at least got.

Anonymous said...

It's all a matter of personal preferance, but personally I'm not a fan of Robert Christgau's. Any man that can give the Stone Roses debut album a B- is not to be trusted. I also know he likes Billy Joel and prefers New Order to Joy Division. Which is fair enough. And to be fair some of his reviews are spot on. But the quality is variable and I've left many review of his none the wiser as to whether even he likes the album or not. All this dean of rock critics is utter nonsense too, like he oversees the music world from a higher plain than we mere mortals. Like anyone else, some music he gets and some he just doesn't. Whether I agreed or not though I must admit I did enjoy trawling through his archive though, like I would any music lover.

Paul said...

I am just as entertained by his reviews that I disagree with as I am by the ones I agree with.

Music is very subjective and your ability to like it depends a lot on your own personal experiences and the circumstances by which you are introduced to the music. Since that is different for everyone, it's impossible to objectively quantify the value of different works. Also, the act of being a professional critic changes how you approach music, though I think it hasn't affected Christgau as much as some others.

In the end, Christgau's perspective always makes me think, which I appreciate.

And I have re-evaluated some albums (i.e., given them a new listen) after reading his and other reviews.

There is no reason to let a critic ruin YOUR equally valid appreciation for something.

I'm curious which reviews you guys find to be the most "wrong."

Greg said...

Dave Alvin & The Guilty Men: Out In California. Bomb?

Anonymous said...

Comparing James Taylor to the Smiths along with claiming they were looking to achieve something
'spiritual' on their self-titled debut has to go down as one of the most wide of the mark reviews I have ever read. Bombing UT's 'No Depression', the Jayhawks 'Sound Of Lies' and the landmark indie-dance classic 'Screamadelica' by Primal Scream also indicates Robert Christgau struggles to grasp anything that falls outside his classic rock era comfort zone. Yes, I too can clearly dissect the key influences from Gram Parsons, the Stones to the 13th Floor Elevators that lie within these classics but it's the chances they take and the boundaries they stretch with these influences that make them the classics they now are.
After all, where would Dylan be without Woody Guthrie, Cash without Hank or punk without rockabilly. And no, 'Rock Of The Westies' by Elton John is not an album that comes anywhere close RC.
I do agree though that his probing, prodding and provocative style is certainly entertaining and there are many of his reviews with which I do agree, such as his review of DBT's 'Brighter Than Creation'sDark. Also agree with your comments on personal experience, Paul. Take my
uncle, nothing but heartbreak all his life and he lives for George Jones. Along with a beer and a double shot of Jack Daniels of course. If only he'd shown half as much devotion to the women in his life.

godoggo said...

Well, when I here Cristgau's name, the 1st thing that comes to mind is something that's maybe more suitable to Destination: Out than here, but I done mentioned it there already...Anyway, a few years ago I was googling one of my favorite musicians, the late avant jazz clarinetist John Carter, and I just have to say that Cristgau's B- review of his wonderful Castles of Ghana album stands as the single most clueless thing about Carter that I've ever read.

Other than that what I know offhand is the 2-sentence reviews in the Short Takes column that he had in Musician magazine. I think it was him anyway.

Marc McDonald said...

Let me see: an absolutely stone-cold classic like Iggy and the Stooge's "Raw Power" gets a measly "B+"?
And what is probably the greatest prog rock album of all time (King Crimson's first record) gets an absurd "D+"???
And Elvis Costello's bracing, flawless, classic first album is "boring"?
And Black Sabbath's powerful albums like "Paranoid" and "Master of Reality" (which continue to have enormous influence on heavy metal to this day) both get a "C minus"???
And sappy, cowardly, ultra-commercial pap from the likes of Justin Timberlake and Backstreet Boys get positive reviews (for albums that will be completely forgotten a decade from now?)
And all of the brilliant Nick Cave's albums get a thumbs-down?
Of course, all music critics are entitled to their own views.
The problem with Christgau is that he simply doesn't have a fucking clue as to what a good album is.

Anonymous said...

Christgau is the most overrated music journalist of all time. He proclaimed himself the "Dean" so he could justify his parochial rating system, but his writing is the least academic of any critic; most of the time it's garbage. Lester Bangs and Greil Marcus are infinitely better writers, and their reviews are readable and understandable, and not terrible biased by their personal interests. I agree with the comment above, Christgau wouldn't know a good album if he heard it; his ratings are based on his tastes, not the quality of the music. If you want a good laugh, Google his reviews for the Metallica and/or Nirvana albums - too funny!