This Blog--The Whats, Whys, and Wherefores
The Return of Consumer Guide
As some readers will know and others will not, I had a column at MSN Music until June, 2010: the Consumer Guide, which compiled letter-graded capsule record reviews at The Village Voice, Creem, the Voice again, and finally MSN for 41 years. This blog continues a part of that work I'd feel musically deprived to give up. The idea is to skip the reviews of good but ultimately marginal albums I called Honorable Mentions. Though they filled out the column conceptually, these required a lot of work without commensurate musical reward, and since no blogger gets paid enough to put in that kind of time I intend to break myself of the habit (though there'll be exceptions). What I don't want to give up is "A records": albums graded A+ (the rare masterwork), A (the meat of my leisure listening), A- (well over half the total), and B+ (too close not to get half a cigar). That's because these judgments are the gut and backbone of my musical pleasure‑-by the time I'm done writing a capsule, I know and understand the record in a way I didn't before, which prepares me to revisit it in the future, as I usually will. It's time-consuming work, but so rewarding psychologically that I'm happy to do it at blogger's rates.
The way the blog will work is this: two posts a week, Tuesday and Friday most of the time, usually comprising reviews of two A records. Since that would require me to find 16 or 18 A new records a month when there are seldom more than a dozen, I'll augment these with reissues, older records new to me, once in a while a live report, maybe a book review, and occasionally one of those flights of fancy that make blogging the inchoate free-for-all it is. But I've been off the album beat for so long that for a while I'll mostly be catching up, leading with two of the most widely reviewed albums of 2010, both of which I've written essays about elsewhere. My hope is to keep self-indulgence to a minimum. Forty years ago I dubbed myself the Dean of American Rock Critics. That was a joke with legs. The blog title Expert Witness is not a joke. It's a boast that in criticism, knowledge counts, and that I have a load and a half.
Robert: To the knowledge load and a half, I would add insight, passion, access, courage, and of course, expressive skill.
Again, thank you sir.
And as a bonus, this methodology brings with it an entire community of lay Christgauvians with which to interact. Today is a good day indeed.
I, too, am glad for this return. Your columns have been important to me for decades. The dedication of your Nineties Consumer Guide book refers to a letter I could have written you every month. Every year you have praised a dozen titles that I would not have ever found on my own researches (Pierre de Gaillande) and that have both opened me as a listener and as a person. You have been an important stranger in my life.
I look forward to your many more discoveries. And, of course, as I hope every sentence in this post conveys, thank you.
In the spirit of gentle greed, is there a 2000s Consumer Guide book on its way?
He's probably referring to M.I.A.'s Maya and Arcade Fire's The Suburbs in this blog post; the two albums he has already written about; but I can't wait to read his thoughts on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. I can see potential areas where Christgau might dislike the album, but for me, it's the album of the year, and Kanye's best. It's obviously a very dense, ambitious album, so it'll be very interesting to see Christgau's thoughts.
I hope he also uses this to communicate with his fans, somewhat like Roger Ebert has been doing with his blog. If not, I won't be disappointed, because I'm more than happy to get to read Christgau's thoughts on music again. And with more frequency!
This is just great news
leading with two of the most widely reviewed albums of 2010, both of which I've written essays about elsewhere.
I guess that's Maya and the Suburbs(in my opinion the best album of the year)
and M.I.A. is still so cool.
cant wait to see you wrote more about older stuff plus exciting new albums
cant find much 67-70 album review on xgau.com (but i guess they have to be reissued to be reviewed by you)
and these days i find other critics' taste more and more unrelyable
I'd like to know your opinion about kanye west's new album,too
but i dont think is a A or A- or even B+ record
it's rather pretentious and dull(i tried)
i think kanye west's music has(long) lost his fun part
look at those crazy metacritic numbers, kanye west is the new radiohead(ewww)
Well Xgau you've earned yourself a reputation in sweden recently and it'd have been a shame to quit the CG now when you're famous in the land from which the band which magnum opus you gave a C (or was it C+?).
Really happy to have you around and sice you've been gone I've missed someone trustworthy, someone who did NOT give Joshua Tree an A (i.e. 5/5 stars), and someone controversial (throwing bombs at achtung baby, cutting Working on a Dream in pieces and keeps "Queen of the Supermarket", calling buckley a dick etc.)
Since I'm from sweden i consider myself having the rights to have some CG-requests I'm really looking forward to be graded.
1. Of course it's the new Kanye
2. Big Boi's "daddy fat sax" which probably is one of the hottest tracks of the year.
3. The Promise
4. 'd be nice to read an article in which you kill bobo and the other guys for NLOTH even though it was not released this year)
5. an epitath for Kate McGarrigle
6. Pavement in New York
7. and then... Robyn
I have to agree with Hawkeye here regarding the HM's and Choice Cuts. I would never have found Jason Collett, The Electrelanes, The Big Fellas, and the Roswell Rudd cuts, to name four out of dozens and dozens on or even below the margin. Tonex, A****on Shepherd, Mika Miko, Dub Colossus, Queen Ifrica, Paramore, Amira Saqati, The Dirty Hearts, Jazmine Sullivan, Frightened Rabbit, Fool's Gold, H Is for Hellgate, the worthwhile cuts from Sugarland, Mike Doughty, Julian Casablancas, Ian Hunter, . . . (somebody stop me!!)
Of course, our wants and the Dean's time and energy are two very different things.
about the blogger
Starting in 1967, Robert Christgau has covered popular music for The Village Voice, Esquire, Blender, Playboy, Rolling Stone, and many other publications. He teaches in New York University's Clive Davis Department of Recorded Music, maintains a comprehensive website at robertchristgau.com, and has published five books based on his journalism. He has written for MSN Music since 2006.