Author Topic: THE DEAN'S LIST: Robert Christgau's best albums of 2009  (Read 4681 times)

masterofsparks

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Re: THE DEAN'S LIST: Robert Christgau's best albums of 2009
« Reply #15 on: January 14, 2010, 07:37:37 AM »
Robert Christgau's Best Albums of 2009


It looks like The Dean of American Rock Critics forgot to include any actual rock music in his top 5.

Can we all pretty much agree that this guy is the worst ever? Seriously, is there any living person on planet Earth who actually looks to this man for insight about music?




I guess you've never heard of Greil Marcus.

(By that I mean Marcus is worse)

In general I agree with you, but Marcus did write MYSTERY TRAIN, which is a pretty great book despite the fact that he spends about half the book talking about artists who stink. That was thirty-some years ago, though, and the subsequent years have been filled with increasingly unreadable academia and approximately 47 books about Bob Dylan.
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crumbum

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Re: THE DEAN'S LIST: Robert Christgau's best albums of 2009
« Reply #16 on: January 14, 2010, 08:22:31 AM »
Pauline Kael once said something along these lines: the critics' judgements don't matter much -- readers can make those for themselves. It's the rare insight that makes you understand more deeply why something works, or doesn't work, that matters. It seems self-evident, but in the last few months' deluge of lists I've had to remind myself of that fact over and over while steaming about someone or other's stupid top __ of the __.

Does Christgau have a venue to get into more detail than a list? I'd like to know if he can offer any such insights about his choices, 'cause in his prime he had a lot of value to say. I've seen those bullet point thingies he publishes in the Believer, but there's not a whole lot of wisdom to be found there.

EDIT: Never mind, I see the link at the bottom of the list to his individual reviews. I'll withhold judgment on his overall value as a critic until such time as I read his extended take on the greatness of 'I Gotta Feelin'.

Pat K

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Re: THE DEAN'S LIST: Robert Christgau's best albums of 2009
« Reply #17 on: January 14, 2010, 08:54:21 AM »
Does Christgau have a venue to get into more detail than a list? I'd like to know if he can offer any such insights about his choices, 'cause in his prime he had a lot of value to say. I've seen those bullet point thingies he publishes in the Believer, but there's not a whole lot of wisdom to be found there.

EDIT: Never mind, I see the link at the bottom of the list to his individual reviews. I'll withhold judgment on his overall value as a critic until such time as I read his extended take on the greatness of 'I Gotta Feelin'.

There's also this. I started reading it, but I lost interest after the first 9,000 words.
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Pat K

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Re: THE DEAN'S LIST: Robert Christgau's best albums of 2009
« Reply #18 on: January 14, 2010, 10:23:43 AM »
OK, I need to distract myself from thinking about Jay Reatard for a little bit here...

Mackro: I hear what you're (very politely) saying. As someone who obviously has a deep respect for and knowledge about music criticism, it's gotta be frustrating when people go all "lol Xgau u dumb" on the man. I am kind of trollishly using him as an easy punching bag. I agree with you that it is too bad a lot of "serious" criticism and cultural writing is getting the shaft these days. Whatever anybody's opinion may be on individual writers, the culture is clearly leaving a lot of that stuff behind, or burying it, or whatever metaphor you want to use, which is a shame. The age of critics like Christgau, Kael, Agee, Bangs, etc, critics who are talked about and well known purely on the basis of their written criticism, is clearly on the wane, which is a major loss to the culture in a lot of ways.

On the other hand, there IS a Darwinist aspect to the situation which I can't totally be sad about, in that I'm glad to see some of the sacred cows finally getting cut down to size. For example, Christgau.

He's always struck me as the perfect example of a way-past-his-prime writer who has still been at it for so long and is so well-respected (like the VU, in certain small-but-influential circles) that he seems to get a free pass on a lot of stuff that nobody else could get away with at this point - the kind of writer that editors might be too afraid or intimidated to actually edit or second guess.

I've read the occasional piece of his that's given me some insight into this-or-that group or cultural moment. But just as often, I've read plenty of his reviews that are more like haiku or zen koans than anything having to do with the actual music at hand.

He's a great fan of that kind of maddening critical tic of passing off bizarre self-contradiction or unfathomable vagueness as insight. Times when he'll spend 9/10ths of a one-paragraph review talking about how the singing, playing, production, and songwriting on an album are execrable, and then append "but of course, it's brilliant" to the end. Or stretching out these bizarre, florid metaphors or unfathomably complex sentence constructions that fold back in on themselves three or four times before concluding "…and that's why this album needs more of a breakbeat," or something like that. As a writer, the guy can often be baroque to the point of total meaninglessness. I love a critic that lends a deeper insight into the work at hand, but more often than not with Christgau I'm left scratching my head rather than stroking my chin.

Combine that with the fact that (as his list this and most every year proves) he has manifestly crummy taste in music, and think it's fair to call open season on him. I can get something out of a critic who has lousy taste but is still a good writer, or a critic who is a lousy writer with impeccable, insightful taste. But someone like Christgau - a bad writer with bafflingly awful taste - is useless to me.

So while I am sorry that I have to witness the passing of serious, intellectual criticism that is also considered a part of the (relative) mainstream, at the same time I'm not too sorry at all to see the end of the age of the critic-as-inscrutable-oracle.
I'm warning you with peace and love.

Pat K

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Re: THE DEAN'S LIST: Robert Christgau's best albums of 2009
« Reply #19 on: January 14, 2010, 10:42:58 AM »
I mean, come one - the guy could only think of 39 albums from 2009 that he thought were better than "Now That's What I Call Party Hits!".
I'm warning you with peace and love.