Thursday, July 08, 2010

Legendary Critic Robert Christgau Retires Consumer Guide

Referred to as the “Dean of American Rock Critics,” after an outstanding 41-year run of Robert Christgau’s Consumer Guide, music critic Christgau is retiring his infamous column.

The news comes with an almost unsettling feeling to both journalists and dedicated music fans, but will full support and understanding. It also almost comes like a punch in the gut to true music journalism; like we are losing someone we know. Cited one of the godfathers of pop music criticism, Christgau stands as an iconic influence amongst names like Lester Bangs, David Fricke or even Anthony DeCurtis (depending on who you ask, much like music criticism itself, it’s a matter of opinion who you deem “influential”).

“Barring miracles unlikely to ensue, this is the final edition of Christgau's Consumer Guide, which MSN will no longer publish following this month's edition,” the scribe said in his final July column on “The CG has generally required a seven-days-a-week time commitment over the 41 years I've written it, and I'm grateful to MSN for paying me what the work was worth over the three-and-a-half years I published it here. But though I always enjoyed the work, work it was, and I've long been aware there were other things I could be doing with my ears. So while I have every intention of keeping up with popular music as it evolves, being less encyclopedic about it will come as a relief as well as a loss.”

Christgau’s Consumer Guide began in short from in 1969 when he first published a set of rock reviews in The Village Voice. He later wrote a monthly column for CREEM and the CG later ended up as a highly respected and well-read online monthly column for Village Voice and eventually landed online at MSN Music. Christgau was more than just CG; he also writes essays for Barnes & Noble and appeared frequently on spots for NPR’s All Things Considered.

“The Consumer Guide at once set the template for pretty much every subsequent music review section and stands today as one of the more formidable and dauntingly complete records of popular music ever undertaken,” wrote Zach Baron on The Village Voice blog. “As a critical experiment, it is entirely unrivalled: four decades worth of extreme compression, breadth, and originality, in which one writer tried to elevate his exceptional taste and work ethic into something like a science.”

Ann Powers did a short email interview recently with Christgau for The Los Angeles Times about what the Consumer Guide meant to the author. Perhaps the best of the interview was Christgau’s final answer: “I’m not done yet.”

That’s what we like to hear.