A Grade A Record Guide

Christgau's Record Guide By Robert Christgau Ticknor Fields, 1981

Christgau. The name alone conjures up both savior and fascist. Yet he mercifully falls somewhere in between. Explicit about his point of view ("equal" with rock fans), open about his limitations (the fact that grading albums could land him 6-7 B-plusses a week), and unabashed in his literary style (the construction of new words like "semipopular"--and the use of simile--like Mott the Hoople's "Rock and Roll Queen" is to "Star fucker" as Bad Company is to the Rolling Stones), this man is everything a rock critic should be, without any of the pretensions to which his cohorts fall prey.

There is none of John Rockwell's "This writer" bullshit, none of Kit Rachlis' ludicrous over-intellectualization, none of Dave Marsh's brash favoritism (who likes Beaver Brown, but not the Clash!), etc. When Rolling Stone has grown more and more uncool, the Voice quietly retains its cool, thanks to Lester Bangs and Mr. Christgau. This book is hardly comprehensive, nore objective, but it doesn't and couldn't try to be. He loves enough types of music--Reggae, Soul, Punk, and Rock and Roll--and listens to enough music (14 hours a day, brag his zealous press releases) to at least be accepted on his face value. Okay, so he went overboard and gave all the Ramones albums A's, and both NY Dolls Albums A-plusses. So what? He explains himself in a few sentences. There's non of the tortured delving into non existent souls. He trashes trash, and embraces fun, genius, and things between. I totally sympathize with the capsule summary format, and prefer it when writing. It's often ludicrous to spend any longer on an album, and how many people read beyond the good/bad label? How many people are even reading this?

You should buy this, or at least use The Coop's copy when shopping there. Bob, you're a model for all us tortured souls. The two pages subtitled "Who Cares?" and the one called simply "Meltdown" in the back show the proper attitude when regarding rock. Discard the bullshit. Turn off the typewriter, put on the stereo, and dance.

Grade: A