Got a question for Christgau?

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Just email the good people at rockcritics.com with your questions for the Dean.

(My question: Why the hell does everyone call him the Dean?)

Justyn Dillingham, Sunday, 7 July 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

I suppose the question about Cher's ribs would be really inappropriate, right?

Michael Daddino, Sunday, 7 July 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

On a more serious note...I remember about ten years ago raving about a Thai restaurant, saying "World music is great, but world cuisine is better." Was he serious? And if so, why does he write more often about world music than world cuisine? (I can think of a lot of rock- critics who migrate to film criticism, but not restaurant criticism. Why?)

Michael Daddino, Sunday, 7 July 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

that pompous idiot ! calls himself the Dean. He is so out of touch with what is really happening in music it is laughable !

DJ Martian, Sunday, 7 July 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

martian he listens to exactly the same nmumber of records as you: viz all of them

mark s, Sunday, 7 July 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

mark I have seen his best of lists, they don't cover the music on my tracking lists ! He portrays himself as an uber critic ! when simply is not - he is out of touch and needs to be pensioned off.

He may have been in the past a reliable/informed critic e.g 70s, but today no way !

question are there any anti Christgau critics on the web?

DJ Martian, Sunday, 7 July 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

martian he has heard many thousands of records you have never heard = YOU ought to be pensioned off as he is way ahead

mark s, Sunday, 7 July 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

No mark regarding contemporary music Christagau ! is not with it.

DJ Martian, Sunday, 7 July 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

how do you know? you are so behind with yr listening!! you only think it is contemporary but once you listen to every record ever made in the 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s you may think differently

mark s, Sunday, 7 July 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

haha has anyone on ilm ever seen xgau and martian in the same room? i think not!! they are the SAME PERSON!! this mutual hatage is a publicity same, like wrestlers etc or that father brown story

mark s, Sunday, 7 July 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

mark i am just referring to 2000/ 2001 and his lists/ analysis on that poll thing he organises. I am not talking about the past, I am taking about this decade.

DJ Martian, Sunday, 7 July 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

you cannot understand this decade until you understand all the other ones that made this decade what it is

mark s, Sunday, 7 July 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

actually there must be a third figure in this triple-form avatar which is the person who has listened to all the records that will be made in the future

mark s, Sunday, 7 July 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

i think the third figure is anna rose

mark s, Sunday, 7 July 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

but she is keeping it secret

mark s, Sunday, 7 July 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

Martian and mark FITE!

Julio Desouza, Sunday, 7 July 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

i know from looking at his 2001 and 2000 lists Christgau - simply is not with it ! that was the point and I am correct !

DJ Martian, Sunday, 7 July 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

''you only think it is contemporary but once you listen to every record ever made in the 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s you may think differently''

no one can listen to that many recs surely! Even if they could that person would surely find it difficult to extract everything from those recs.

Julio Desouza, Sunday, 7 July 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

well to YOU he is not with it. but he's prob heard much more types of music. talking RANGE not QUANTITY martian. and because of that he has a diff perspective then again i haf not looked at his 2000/01 list.

Julio Desouza, Sunday, 7 July 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

again your trading on past performance/ reputation: look at

Christgau 2001

Christgau 2000

DJ Martian, Sunday, 7 July 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

(My question: Why the hell does everyone call him the Dean?)
No, the real question is whose the Martin...or the Jan.

Lord Custos III, Sunday, 7 July 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

i think dean martian does not really understand the point of my joke

mark s, Sunday, 7 July 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

Lord Custos you will find me here: DJ Martian

DJ Martian, Sunday, 7 July 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

or even lord custos's joke!!

mark s, Sunday, 7 July 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

what you drinking tonight mark?

DJ Martian, Sunday, 7 July 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

haha which proves my point!!

mark s, Sunday, 7 July 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

you been on the Skol 3.2 per cent, again?

DJ Martian, Sunday, 7 July 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

dean martin made music back in the mesozoic age martian: it is true of course that we should only ever listen to music of the past after we have entirely and perfectly understood all the music of the present and future, because that is the only direction in which influence flows

mark s, Sunday, 7 July 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

not the word influence again. Christgau should read my weblog each day ! then he would be able to keep in touch with the present and future.

DJ Martian, Sunday, 7 July 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

''understood all the music of the present and future, because that is the only direction in which influence flows''

Mark will teach us some physics now.

Julio Desouza, Sunday, 7 July 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

Christgau could also learn from a critic such as Philip Sherburne regarding contemporary electronic music.

DJ Martian, Sunday, 7 July 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

Fuck that old shit mark, those cats don't got nothing on us newbies. Ctrl+N mark, Momus taught me that. Ezra Pound likes new paper. It smells clean and new. New ideas - because the thing the ideas are presented on are new, don't you know that mark. Fuck me, mark. Time don't flow from the right to the left; it's the opposite. See. Left - > right. Not right -> left. Man! Only thing worth listening to, s'out tomorrow.

sorry, Sunday, 7 July 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

Boy, this thread filled up REAL fast!

Michael Daddino, Sunday, 7 July 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

i want to fuck you but i don't know who you are

mark s, Sunday, 7 July 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

DJ Martian makes Michael Jackson look in touch with the present.

J Blount, Sunday, 7 July 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

xgau seems to listen much more widely than all of us. look at the 2000 list:

17. Blink-182 Take Off Your Pants and Jacket MCA and then

68. James Blood Ulmer Memphis Blood: The Sun Sessions label m

There' also country, salsa, etc etc. He seems to indeed listen to everything (though not much improv)

He's not that bad: i can respect anyone who has that range (he must gets lots of free recs though).

Julio Desouza, Sunday, 7 July 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

Ezra Pound prescribed 'make it new' to artists not critics: his own favorite writers had been dead for a thousand years by the time Christ was born. Xgau has a mind like a whip & an enviably broad critical reach. That he doesn't think electronic music is the reinvention of the wheel sez nothing against him

John Darnielle, Sunday, 7 July 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

ha but pound-as-critic was a pretty thorough proponent of 'the new', wasn't he? (incl. pound-as-editor, etc.)

Josh, Monday, 8 July 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

point taken

John Darnielle, Monday, 8 July 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

my theorem: understanding all records you have listened to > number of records you have listened to, but < misunderstanding all records you have listened to then coming to your own conclusion, thereby creating new visions (ornette = living exemplar).

Dingbod Kesterson, Monday, 8 July 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

rock the casbah = greatest single of 2001?

and alicia keys there but not gillian welch => completely invalideanery.

Dingbod Kesterson, Monday, 8 July 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

he actually Honorable Mentioned some of my fave records last year: DJ /rupture, Avalanches, Clinic. he keeps up, he just doesn't think as much of a lot of "newer" (in style/form) stuff as I do. he's still as good as anyone else out there right now, and he still writes better than nearly anybody I can think of who does this for a living (or doesn't).

M Matos, Monday, 8 July 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

The fact that he's 60 and still the best at what he does, despite many imitators, should not be held against him.

J Blount, Monday, 8 July 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

I enjoy him most when I don't understand him.

Andy K, Monday, 8 July 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

Christgau only lists 79 albums for 2001, while Martian's list for the FIRST HALF of 2002 has a staggering 333 records--the evidence is pretty clear on who is really keeping up.

dan, Monday, 8 July 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

how the fuck does listing more records equal keeping up more? Christgau's list is of the records he likes most--it's hardly everything he likes from a given year

M Matos, Monday, 8 July 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

Any hack can be non-discriminatory. Writing well is something else altogether. Martian couldn't hold Toure's jock.

J Blount, Monday, 8 July 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

I was kidding. I enjoy Martian's posts and find his site useful but I can't understand how he listens to everything that comes out and still finds time for old Killing Joke records.

dan, Monday, 8 July 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

haha dan HE DOESN'T

Josh, Monday, 8 July 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

I've never managed to get past those bloody gradings to actually read any Christgau, aside from his semi-penetrable Village Voice Pazz and Jopp round-ups. Where to start?

Tom, Monday, 8 July 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

haha

Sequel to Sadness (Sund4r), Wednesday, 28 July 2021 15:22 (eleven months ago) link

"Sky Saw" has lyrics, Bob, duh.

Super weird, because it's literally the first song on an album he gave (and has kept) an A+, too.

Josh in Chicago, Wednesday, 28 July 2021 15:24 (eleven months ago) link

my tastes clearly run more r&b-let’s-call-it than Soto’s

I...have my doubts.

― but also fuck you (unperson), Wednesday, July 28, 2021 9:36 AM (forty-nine minutes ago) bookmarkflaglink

that's why they call him terence trent d'ean of rock critics

bezos did the dub (voodoo chili), Wednesday, 28 July 2021 15:27 (eleven months ago) link

I love that he actually liked "YYZ" too, 40 years late. If only someone had told him earlier that Rush started bringing in some jazz fusion influences after the album he panned.

Sequel to Sadness (Sund4r), Wednesday, 28 July 2021 15:35 (eleven months ago) link

"YYZ" is just so much fun, even he apparently can't deny it.

Josh in Chicago, Wednesday, 28 July 2021 15:40 (eleven months ago) link

I'd call "Sky Saw" an instrumental with negligible lyrics, like "Tequila" or "Maggot Brain".

Halfway there but for you, Wednesday, 28 July 2021 16:27 (eleven months ago) link

Really? It seems like a complete sung verse to me, pretty different from something like "Wipeout".

Sequel to Sadness (Sund4r), Wednesday, 28 July 2021 16:33 (eleven months ago) link

Well, for example, I remember seeing some kind of lyric/art book he released in the 80s with artwork matched to each of his songs, and the "Sky Saw" page had no lyrics.

Halfway there but for you, Wednesday, 28 July 2021 16:35 (eleven months ago) link

Same with "Here Come the Warm Jets".

Halfway there but for you, Wednesday, 28 July 2021 16:35 (eleven months ago) link

Still seems like a weak case for it to be a top Eno (or top rock) instrumental. There's a verse of lyrics, sung to a melody, right in the middle of the song, feeling to me like at least a sort of key moment in the song, if not quite a climax.

Sequel to Sadness (Sund4r), Wednesday, 28 July 2021 16:43 (eleven months ago) link

We need a Soto vs. Xgau debate at Town Hall!

... (Eazy), Wednesday, 28 July 2021 16:49 (eleven months ago) link

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4gi_IGuKx4U

Josh in Chicago, Wednesday, 28 July 2021 16:56 (eleven months ago) link

if xgau wanted to swap out an eno instrumental, there are plenty of another green world examples to choose from that have no singing at all, let alone negligible singing

bezos did the dub (voodoo chili), Wednesday, 28 July 2021 17:29 (eleven months ago) link

Calling Sky Saw an instrumental proves the lyrics right: no one knows what they mean, everyone just ignores them

obvious, Wednesday, 28 July 2021 18:29 (eleven months ago) link

Same dada thing as Talking Heads' "I Zimbra," but no one would call that an instrumental.

Josh in Chicago, Wednesday, 28 July 2021 21:28 (eleven months ago) link

It's based on how much time the vocal takes up as well, but everyone can draw the line where they please.

Halfway there but for you, Wednesday, 28 July 2021 21:56 (eleven months ago) link

It's eight bars, a middle eight of sorts.

Sequel to Sadness (Sund4r), Wednesday, 28 July 2021 22:52 (eleven months ago) link

Funny how Christgau had never heard "YYZ" but then very casually adds it to his list. It seems that compiling a best rock instrumental list is kind of a low-stakes affair. I must admit I have a hard time remembering ones that have made an impression. My bar for a good instrumental track would be one that doesn't feel like too much of a drag next to the tracks with vocals. Good all-instrumental rock bands are rare as hens teeth, Dick Dale is one of the few. Including the kind of avant stuff on the jazz borderline (eg John Zorn and downtown music) makes it easier. I guess bands with wordless vocalizing are still out (e.g. Koenjihyakkei, Magma, Ruins, etc).

o. nate, Friday, 30 July 2021 16:17 (eleven months ago) link

Needs more 'East-West'.

pomenitul, Friday, 30 July 2021 16:18 (eleven months ago) link

unrelated, but just wanna say I always hear this thread title to the tune of "Take a Message to Mary"

swing out sister: live in new donk city (geoffreyess), Friday, 30 July 2021 16:21 (eleven months ago) link

Or "Take a Letter, Maria".

Halfway there but for you, Friday, 30 July 2021 16:25 (eleven months ago) link

Would probably work with "Message to Michael" too.

o. nate, Friday, 30 July 2021 17:46 (eleven months ago) link

His review of Marc Ribot's new memoir leads into a fascinating glimpse of an erstwhile scruffy bohemian NYC milieu. "Don the Burp" sounds intriguing but not enough to shell out $60 to find out.

Then, just as I was finishing it, Akashic Books sent me Unstrung: straight essays, memoiristic briefs, and other stuff by the irascible, idealistic avant-rock guitar dynamo Marc Ribot. And there on page 113 I was astonished to encounter, in the role of Ribot’s pot dealer, my unforgettable acquaintance Ray Dobbins, whose pseudonymous 1980 story collection I’d just devoured on the Q train to his wake at Roy Nathanson’s place. As I write there seem to be five copies of that one for sale, priced between $59.95 and $596.02 at Amazon and somewhat cheaper elsewhere.

https://robertchristgau.substack.com/p/storytellers?r=khofd&utm_campaign=post&utm_medium=email&utm_source=copy

o. nate, Wednesday, 4 August 2021 15:09 (ten months ago) link

eight months pass...

What did Kurt Cobain and GG Allin have in common? The last thing they read was a short paragraph and a letter grade that would sum up and judge their lives and lifeworks. Written by a certain judge, jury, and executioner: Christgau...A-

— Raymond Pettibon (@RaymondPettibon) April 19, 2022

Josefa, Tuesday, 19 April 2022 03:12 (two months ago) link

Wait, what?

Wile E. Kinbote (James Redd and the Blecchs), Tuesday, 19 April 2022 03:14 (two months ago) link

more like Raymond Ham Bone

So who you gonna call? The martini police (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Tuesday, 19 April 2022 09:40 (two months ago) link

Yesterday was Xgaus 80th bday.

o. nate, Tuesday, 19 April 2022 13:39 (two months ago) link

"Reactionary gentility" is otm.

immodesty blaise (jimbeaux), Tuesday, 19 April 2022 13:50 (two months ago) link

Another thing they had in common was throwing their own shit at the audience, and I will never forget Kurdt for what happened

Karl Malone, Tuesday, 19 April 2022 14:07 (two months ago) link

as far as i know xgau never gave a capsule review to gg allin. he is on the "meltdown" list though.

Thus Sang Freud, Tuesday, 19 April 2022 22:18 (two months ago) link

And not to be cruel, but based on what I know of GG Allin, "lifeworks" seems a little lofty. (It'd be a ridiculous tweet no matter who he was trying to defend.)

clemenza, Wednesday, 20 April 2022 00:59 (two months ago) link

one month passes...

Sometimes on one of the Christgau threads people will quote stuff he wrote 50 years ago to show how out of touch he is. This came up in his reader-mail column today, something he once wrote about Betty Davis. He began by acknowledging the problem ("I'm certainly aware of this issue") and finished with this: "And by the way, I make it a principle not to censor myself--or simply avoid criticism--by removing anything I’ve published from my site even if I have regrets about it in retrospect." I think that's admirable; not everyone will.

clemenza, Wednesday, 15 June 2022 15:17 (two weeks ago) link

I don't mind the grades or his not liking Flack or Davis; I mind the terms under which he dismissed Flack for instance. Respectability politics.

Malevolent Arugula (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Wednesday, 15 June 2022 15:18 (two weeks ago) link

I revere "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face," but in the midst of one of the greatest periods for Top 40 soul ever--Al Green, the Stylistics, the Spinners, the Dramatics, etc.--I can certainly put myself in the mind of a critic who came of age during Motown and the '60s in general who wouldn't.

clemenza, Wednesday, 15 June 2022 15:26 (two weeks ago) link

Sure! And Marcus is far worse about calling out Black middle-class politics.

Malevolent Arugula (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Wednesday, 15 June 2022 15:36 (two weeks ago) link

I actually sent in a reader e-mail to Marcus not three weeks ago about "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face." Was surprised to learn he liked it at the time, even if he's tired of it now. (His misinterpretation that I was aware of critical support when I was 11 is funny.)

Greil — I’m wondering if you’ve ever commented on Roberta Flack’s “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face.” I don’t think it had much critical support at the time. I was 11 when it was a hit: it was one of my favourite songs from my favourite year then, and remains so today. I don’t think I’m alone in the deep impression it made on me: it’s been used memorably in episodes of both Mad Men and, more recently, Atlanta.
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
I’m kind of shocked that you had the concept of critical support in your head at the age of 11, not that the record needed it. It was a natural hit and made its own atmosphere. I liked listening to it, admired its craft, but it dried up for me very quickly, like “Live to Tell” and “Every Breath You Take,” which came on so strong, promising eternal wisdom and world domination and then became good songs you’d heard enough.

clemenza, Wednesday, 15 June 2022 15:43 (two weeks ago) link

alfred otm

not sure i agree with the dean's definition of censorship there

nobody like my rap (One Eye Open), Wednesday, 15 June 2022 15:44 (two weeks ago) link

There was a major war fought throughout the middle decades of the 20th century against censorship in the name of freedom of expression, including the freedom to express vulgar, ugly, inappropriate, etc. things. It felt like a big deal at the time, and many artists and friends of artists felt like they had to line up on the side of freedom of expression. That war is now largely forgotten, but for someone of a certain age, there is still something noble to be said for openness and transparency even if feelings are hurt or people are offended.

o. nate, Friday, 17 June 2022 19:10 (two weeks ago) link

Dear Xgau,
Is Joe Levy still the Crown Prince Poobah, and if not, who has taken his place?
Yours,
JR &tBs

Jimmy Jimmy Loves Mary-Anne Mary-Anne (James Redd and the Blecchs), Friday, 17 June 2022 19:21 (two weeks ago) link

xp idk, removing something published on yr own site that you can no longer stand by in order to make it better reflect your views, that kinda seems like the opposite of censorship to me? its fine to not like betty davis but the last line of that review is straight up racist, by modern & 1970s standards, & he should feel shame & guilt about it. standing by it in 2022 as a point abt self censoring is a low bar for noble imho

nobody like my rap (One Eye Open), Friday, 17 June 2022 19:58 (two weeks ago) link

I can't speak for Xgau but I get the feeling he feels like he has to be true to the Xgau who wrote that line, who was perhaps imperfectly trying to express something, even if he wouldnt use those exact words today.

o. nate, Friday, 17 June 2022 20:01 (two weeks ago) link

i dont disagree necessarily, but being true to the xgau who wrote that line is bad imo, or at least not admirable

nobody like my rap (One Eye Open), Friday, 17 June 2022 20:06 (two weeks ago) link

Also I don't really get the point of how him censoring words he wrote in the past because he's embarrassed about them today would be the "opposite of censorship"? You mean like censorship is itself a form of expression because it expresses the censor's desire for purity? Seems a bit Orwellian.

o. nate, Friday, 17 June 2022 20:06 (two weeks ago) link

i don't think that correcting something you said in the past should be called "censorship". it needs a different word.

Bruce Stingbean (Karl Malone), Friday, 17 June 2022 20:21 (two weeks ago) link

to me censorship implies not being able to express something that you believe. so if he no longer believed what he wrote, not just regretted saying it or was embarrassed by it but truly felt he could no longer stand by it, then freely a piece on his own website to more perfectly reflect his actual views ... imo thats editing, not censorship, 2 very different things. but if he truly doesnt regret those words & still believes them & was only changing them to avoid criticism, then i suppose it would be self censorship. "transparency" is a more useful term for what he might be talking about - taking accountability for past errors in judgement by not trying to hide them or scrub them away. but idk if that's what hes thinking.

nobody like my rap (One Eye Open), Friday, 17 June 2022 20:22 (two weeks ago) link

or, what karl said in 10x fewer words than i used

nobody like my rap (One Eye Open), Friday, 17 June 2022 20:23 (two weeks ago) link

It's generally a complete archive of what he wrote (i.e. he'd probably want to include as much as he can if not everything), and it's clear from his Q&A's that his opinions all evolve over time, so it becomes a bit of a morass in terms of how he'd handle past reviews that he'd change now, whether for regrettable statements or different views. I know some other critics with their own archival sites will put a small disclaimer when republishing a lengthy review, but that's usually a paragraph for a feature-length piece. I want to say there's no perfect solution - just engaging in dialogue about something he wrote before may be the best way about it. At least it allows for a thorough discourse with him on something he wrote in the past.

birdistheword, Friday, 17 June 2022 20:54 (two weeks ago) link

The last line of the Betty Davis review should never have been typed, but as for the rest of what he said...he's right, she mostly sucks.

but also fuck you (unperson), Friday, 17 June 2022 21:19 (two weeks ago) link

Like I said, I've no problem with a person who thinks she sucks (I agree or is at least a footnote worth studying and citing, no more) or is bored by Flack, but he gets weird about Black artists when they don't meet his ideals of (a) transgression (b) domesticity.

Malevolent Arugula (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Friday, 17 June 2022 21:27 (two weeks ago) link

Yeah, I agree about that. His argument that he grants them the same disrespectful hauteur he grants white acts doesn't hold up at all, because his bored response to Flack and Hathaway doesn't track with his adoration of bland-as-fuck singer-songwriters.

but also fuck you (unperson), Friday, 17 June 2022 21:43 (two weeks ago) link


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