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

3 out of 5 stars 41 customer reviews

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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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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: 6.4 x 1 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #709,079 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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Format: Paperback
This is the third (and by far the worst) volume I've bought from Cristgau, `cause when he writes about things he likes he can be right on the money. A line such as "irony - an excuse for anything and a reason for nothing" is a good example. Unfortunately, I can't recommend this book, and for several reasons.
First of all, he doesn't like any hard rock or heavy metal, so why he even bothers reviewing these genres is beyond me because he has no understanding of them. Truth is, every time he dismisses a band like Alice in Chains, Metallica, or Kyuss, sometimes without so much as an explanation (more on that later), I feel like sending him to a corner and throwing a dunce cap on his head.
He also continues to wildly overrate 90% of all hip-hop and African albums, as well as any Ramones-influenced punk bands and hard rocking female bands (he's nothing if not politically correct). This also holds true for his beloved "Amerindie" artists, as well as for literate (but sometimes boring) singer songwriters such as John Prine, Bonnie Raitt, Randy Newman, and Lucinda Williams. Meanwhile, "pretentious" artists who actually try to do something new and different (such as Radiohead, Bjork, U2, Flaming Lips, for example) are obnoxiously dismissed.
I could go on about other albums I feel he's dead wrong about (Pearl Jam's "Vs.," Emmylou Harris' "Wrecking Ball," etc) but I'd run out of space. I've also given up trying to figure out why he loves Marshall Crenshaw but doesn't like Crowded House (they seem comparable to me, and I for one prefer Crowded House), especially since he won't tell me. This is because of his awful new rating system, on which simple letter grades are often confusingly replaced by turkey and bomb symbols, or by record symbols along with a list of a few songs.
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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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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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