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Christgau's Consumer Guide: Albums of the '90s Paperback – October 15, 2000


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 544 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin; 1st edition (October 15, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312245602
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312245603
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.2 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #729,918 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Robert Christgau has reviewed rock and popular music for over thirty years. He is a senior editor and chief music critic at the Village Voice, and writes for Playboy, Rolling Stone, Spin and other publications. Christgau's Consumer Guide: Albums of the 90s is his third record guide. Christgau is also the author of Any Old Way You Choose It: Rock and Other Pop Music, 1967-1973 and Grown Up All Wrong: 75 Great rock and Pop Artists from Vaudeville to Techno.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Hapworth on November 27, 2000
Format: Paperback
Yes, this version of Christgau's Record Guide is a bit more chaotic, but at least the author admits so in his introduction. The new grading system, although different, doesn't take long to get used to. I found myself whizzing right along after reading Christgau's introduction.
Yes, this book is shorter and less comprehensive than his two previous guides. Is this a fault? Yes and no. If you're already familiar with Christgau's work (I check the Village Voice online once a month to read his Consumer Guide) you'll probably thank him since he's cut away most of the fat and left only lean meat (i.e. the artists truly worth checking out). If, however, you're distraught that some of the bigger artists have been left out, you might want to check out a safer, broader (and, thus, more tepid) record guide such as the one published by Rolling Stone.
Christgau is opinionated (he IS a critic, after all), but I strongly suggest thumbing through this guide at your local bookstore. Look up some of your favorite artists, and if the reviews of those artists are unfavorable or, worse, if you can't even FIND reviews, well, then this book probably isn't for you. However, if your tastes already lean towards Sonic Youth, Lucinda Williams, Sleater-Kinney, and Randy Newman (my fave!) you'll more than likely turn to the Christgau Record Guide as you would your Bible.
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful By David P Jaudon on October 8, 2000
Format: Paperback
As a fan of Christgau's earlier consumer guides for albums of the 1970s and 1980s, I was looking forward to this edition chronicling the 1990s. After one hour of trying to read this thing, I threw it down in disgust. This book has to rank as the single most difficult and un-"user-friendly" record guide ever published.
Instead of the earlier, simpler method of reviewing albums with a paragraph and a letter grade, Christgau now includes stars, turkeys, ham, and bomb symbols and often combines them. The result is a confusing, sometimes contradictory mishmash. For example, a record may rate a "C+", but may be supplemented with a bomb or turkey symbol. Or, a record may not get a letter grade, but will instead have one, two, or three stars after it, or have an "N" or a ham symbol. While Christgau explains his new rating system in the introduction, I found myself flipping back to his ratings chart frequently to figure out what he was saying about a particular album.
In addition, it seems that over half the albums listed in the guide get no review at all and instead merely get a symbol. The book is also a lot slimmer and has larger type than previous editions.
Overall, this was very disappointing and frustrating. Not recommended.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 10, 2001
Format: Paperback
I've been reading Christgau for 30 years. He's a smart and amusing writer, and is willing to go against the grain. He's famous in critical circles for having dismissed Jimi Hendrix as a mere showboat after The Monterey Pop Festival - an error (which he later admitted), but an understandable one. I can usually count on him to ferret out the hokey stuff so that I don't have to. I share his views exactly on Elvis Costello, for instance ("fatally self-conscious"), and I'll never forget what he once said about Waylon Jennings ("Reminds us that he has balls by singing as though someone were squeezing them"). I wish he weren't such a sucker for world music, much of which, in my opinion, would be dismissed as pablum if it weren't for the exotic veneer. But no one's perfect.
Anyway, the point is not so much whether I agree with his reviews (although that helps), but whether this book works as a consumer guide, which it purports to be. I think that if you're seriously into popular music, Christgau is an essential read, but I've downgraded this particular book because, for one thing, the rating system is far too complicated. It's not that I can't decipher it - it's that I shouldn't have to. It's supposed to be a consumer guide, not a flight manual. His previous guides were more straightforward, and better for it.
Second, like that of his colleague Greil Marcus, Christgau's writing has become increasingly obtuse. It's partly a result of the fact that the better rock critics have joined (or want to join) the ranks of the literary elite and want everyone to know that they can do more than just review Kiss albums. That's a fine thing, they have much to contribute, but it's no excuse for obtuseness, especially in what purports to be a consumer guide, a reference book.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Eric Krupin on April 5, 2001
Format: Paperback
Almost everything that made Christgau's 70s and 80s reviews so great - their broad survey, their ferocious pith - is missing here. Even the beautiful simplicity of the famous letter grades is gone. Unless you're in the market for Afro-pop reviews, which take up a self-indulgently large part of this collection, this has little to recommend it.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Gregor von Kallahann on February 10, 2002
Format: Paperback
I guess it's not too surprising that many readers of this book are disappointed in some of the changes Robert Christgau has initiated, first in his "Consumer Guide" column, and now in this end-of-decade compilation. Christgau has shifted his focus from music that most knowledgeable rock fans had at least heard of, to more obscure sub-genres, to hip hop and to World Music. Trying to expand the musical horizons of his readers is a worthy enough goal, of course, but Christgau, as others have pointed out and he readily admits, is unable or unwilling to go back to square one, two or three for the sake of the reader. He's in medias res way too deep and leaves a lot of us neophytes behind.
Which may be deliberate. There has always been a dangerously smug and smart-alecky side to Christgau. In recent years, he seems to have given in to these tendencies more and more. It's worse than a "hipper than thou" stance: it's more of a leaving- you-and-the-rest-of-the-musical-illiterates in the dust stance.
But then again, I've never really felt that Christgau's "Consumer Guides" were really about the consumer anyway. I suspect that Christgau suffers from some weird compulsion to pronounce judgment on as much product as possible and this capsule review format allows him to achieve that sick end. Which is not to say that I never agree with him (when I know what the hell he's talking about), but I never get the impression that he's listening to music 24 hours a day for my (or any other reader's) benefit.
Which brings up another point, Christgau's experience as a rock critic of the obsessive variety is fundamentally different from yours and mine. Gee, sometimes he goes back and listens to something for a third or fourth time before rating it once and for all.
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