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Christgau's Consumer Guide: Albums of the '90s Paperback – October 15, 2000
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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.
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.Read more ›
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.
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Christgau seems to love hip-hop and goes cold for indie, but is still a fun read. Too bad he changed his rating system.Published 5 months ago by James Simpler
Fifteen minutes were up 15 years ago. Everyone saw. Everyone knew. Cept one. Cept one.Published 9 months ago by Chadwick Henley Essex
As a young student at Melbourne University I read Robert Christgau's guide to 1980s albums a great deal and found it very interesting. Read morePublished on May 23, 2009 by mianfei
Let's give the devil his due - Christgau's acerbic style of writing makes for some fun reading and his heart is in the right place - soul, rock and punk over adult easy listening? Read morePublished on January 30, 2006 by Cromulus
This collection is just as entertaining as the other two, and because the albums are more recent it has more to offer younger readers. Read morePublished on January 29, 2006 by P. Couture
Robert Christgau, one of the leading rock critics in the US reviews and rates albums released in the nineties.Published on January 28, 2006 by James D. Stanios
It's comforting to know, that before art and pop culture are gone, Christgau will be gone. His intelli-prole tone of authority
rings throughout this book, giving it no useful... Read more
Robert Christgau has been writing rock criticism for over 35 years. He has graded over 12,000 albums. That's TWELVE THOUSAND. Read morePublished on January 16, 2004 by Jacob Bailis
His writing aims to be clever at the expense of informing the reader. Not only is his "analysis" woefully lacking in detail and description, but Christgau's taste in... Read morePublished on December 5, 2003