Robert Christgau

Robert Christgau contributes regular music reviews to All Things Considered.

Christgau began writing rock criticism for Esquire in 1967 and became a columnist at New York's Village Voice in 1969. He moved to Newsday in 1972, but in 1974 returned to the Voice, where he was the music editor for the next 10 years. From 1985 to 2006, he was a senior editor at the weekly as well as its chief music critic. He is best known for the Pazz & Jop Critics' Poll, for over 30 years the nation's most respected survey of rock-critical opinion, and his Consumer Guide column, where he began to publish letter-graded capsule album reviews in 1969. The Consumer Guide is now published by MSN Networks. Christgau is also a senior critic at Blender.

Christgau has taught at several colleges and universities, most extensively NYU, where after stints with the English and journalism departments, he now teaches music history in the Clive Davis Department of Recorded Music. In 1987, he won a Guggenheim fellowship to study the history of popular music. In 2002, he was a senior fellow at the National Arts Journalism Program, where he is now a member of the national board. He was the keynote speaker at the first EMP Pop Conference in 2002, and a Ferris Professor of Journalism at Princeton University in 2007.

Christgau has published five books: the collections Any Old Way You Choose It (1973) and Grown Up All Wrong (1998), and three record guides based on his Consumer Guide columns. He has written for The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The London Times, Playboy, The New Yorker, Video Review, Blender, Spin, The Nation, Salon, Believer, numerous alt-weeklies and many other publications. Most of his writing can be read on his website, robertchristgau.com. His capsule reviews are also part of the editorial content at the online music service Rhapsody.

Christgau was born in 1942. He attended New York City public schools and got his B.A. from Dartmouth in 1962. He married Carola Dibbell in 1974. In 1985, they became parents of a daughter, Nina.

4:44pm

Tue May 27, 2014
Music Reviews

Album Review: 'Runaway's Diary'

Originally published on Mon June 2, 2014 11:46 am

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Memphis singer songwriter Amy LaVere specializes in lyrics that are more barbed than her sweet soprano prepares you for. Our music critic, Robert Christgau, thinks she's never gotten that balance quite as right as she has on her new album, "Runaway's Diary."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "RABBIT")

AMY LAVERE: (Singing) Old man, I hear they call you rabbit...

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4:16pm

Thu March 6, 2014
Music Reviews

Album Review: 'English Oceans,' By Drive-By Truckers

Originally published on Thu March 6, 2014 7:50 pm

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

The band Drive-By Truckers are in their third decade playing alternative country music tinged with Southern pride. Critic Robert Christgau says they put out a great album in 2008 then hit a lull. But he says their latest album, out this week, is a true comeback.

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4:53pm

Tue August 27, 2013
Music Reviews

Sam Baker's 'Say Grace' Is At Once Beautiful And Broken

Originally published on Tue August 27, 2013 6:31 pm

Sam Baker's Say Grace is his fourth album since he started making them in 2004, at age 50.
Chrislyn Lawrence Courtesy of the artist

Sam Baker has a backstory that must be told. In 1986, at age 31, he was traveling by train in Peru when a bomb from the terrorist group Shining Path exploded right next to him. The little girl he'd been talking to was killed along with half a dozen others, and his own injuries required 18 operations. His mangled left hand was rebuilt; work on his ears left him with a loud ringing that never stops, though Baker says he's made his peace with it.

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3:52pm

Tue April 30, 2013
Music Reviews

Marc Ribot Isn't Trying To Comfort Anyone

Originally published on Tue April 30, 2013 8:01 pm

Ceramic Dog is Marc Ribot, Ches Smith and Shahzad Ismaily.
Barbara Rigon Courtesy of the artist

After six years as a sideman for many soul veterans, Marc Ribot made his name in 1985 with Rain Dogs, the album that marked Tom Waits' permanent transition from eccentric singer-songwriter to truly weird singer-songwriter. Ribot has held down straight gigs since then, but his work has tended toward the avant-garde. That's much less true on the song-oriented second album by the trio he calls Ceramic Dog.

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4:28pm

Thu April 25, 2013
Music Reviews

Jonny Fritz: A Country Jester Gets Personal

Originally published on Thu April 25, 2013 8:16 pm

Jonny Fritz's third solo album, after two under the alias Jonny Corndawg, is called Dad Country.
Josh Hedley Courtesy of the artist

Dad Country is the ersatz debut of Jonny Fritz, but it's actually his third album: He recorded the first two under the name Jonny Corndawg. I enjoyed his 2011 album Down on the Bikini Line, but it's so much slighter, so much sillier and more risqué, that at first I didn't connect the two. From the new album's first seconds, Jonny Fritz sounds more intense and pained.

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3:55pm

Wed December 19, 2012
Music Reviews

Homeboy Sandman: A Rapper Leaves Law Behind

Originally published on Wed December 19, 2012 5:43 pm

Homeboy Sandman's fourth album is called First of a Living Breed.
Gavin Thomas Courtesy of the artist

The bare facts of Homeboy Sandman's back story don't sound very hip-hop: prep school in New Hampshire, Ivy League B.A., even some pieces for The Huffington Post. But, as is often the case with class and race in America, bare facts don't tell the whole story.

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4:30pm

Wed May 23, 2012
Music Reviews

By This 'Beak And Claw,' A Trio Shall Synthesize

Originally published on Wed May 23, 2012 10:55 pm

Left to right: Son Lux, Serengeti and Sufjan Stevens collaborate on a sometimes humorous but mostly beautiful EP.
Illustration by John Ciambriello

Sufjan Stevens is a classically trained singer-songwriter whose recent work has leaned symphonic. Son Lux is a classically trained beatmaker whose solo albums do indeed evoke luxury. Serengeti is a self-trained rapper who creates voices for a panoply of full-fledged characters who range from scufflers to yuppies. Billed as s / s / s, this ad hoc trio has just released an EP called Beak and Claw that somehow synthesizes their specialties.

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5:36pm

Mon October 31, 2011
Music Reviews

Jeffrey Lewis: Cosmic And Tongue-In-Cheek 'Dream-Songs'

Originally published on Wed November 9, 2011 9:38 pm

Prolific singer-songwriter Jeffrey Lewis has a new album, called A Turn in the Dream-Songs.

Courtesy of Beggars Group

Jeffrey Lewis is my homeboy. The prolific anti-folk singer-songwriter has lived less than a mile from where I live on the Lower East Side since he was born in 1975. Difference is, I moved to Avenue B as an adult, while he's a native — his dad is a Brooklyn-born motorcycle mechanic who hung with local politicos and musicians.

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2:57pm

Mon October 3, 2011
Music Reviews

Woody Guthrie's 'Note Of Hope' From Beyond The Grave

Woody Guthrie is the subject of a new tribute album, Note of Hope.

Robin Carson Courtesy of the Woody Guthrie Archives

When Woody Guthrie died in 1967, he left behind an enormous cache of unpublished lyrics and prose, which has resulted in an exceptionally rich posthumous career. Bob Dylan, who should know, has written of Guthrie: "He was so poetic and tough and rhythmic. There was so much intensity, and his voice was like a stiletto." Though I probably shouldn't admit it, I rarely listen to Woody Guthrie for pleasure.

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3:32pm

Thu September 29, 2011
Music Reviews

Mates Of State: Reaching Surprising New 'Mountaintops'

Mates of State's newest album is Mountaintops.
Glynis Selina Arban

Mates of State's members are literally mates: Kori Gardner and Jason Hammel have been a duo since 1996, married since 2001, and parents on tour since 2004. Their basic concept is two strong voices, Gardner's slightly predominant, over her keyboards and Hammel's drums. Over the years, the band has expanded its instrumental range and brought in guests for sonic color. But nothing in the pair's catalog anticipated "Palomino," the opening track from the new Mountaintops.

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3:23pm

Thu August 4, 2011
Music Reviews

Serengeti: Play Your Part

Serengeti, a.k.a. David Cohn, carries on a tradition of story songs on his latest album, Family & Friends.
Jacob Hand Courtesy of the artist

If the voices on Serengeti's songs often sound like they don't they belong to a rapper, that's the idea. More than any MC working, Serengeti (born David Cohn) writes story songs, in which he assumes the identities of the characters he creates. Sometimes these characters recur — like Kenny, the middle-aged sports enthusiast and rabid Brian Dennehy fan, whom Serengeti dreamed up on his 2006 album, Dennehy.

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5:44pm

Mon July 25, 2011
Music Reviews

Teddybears: Enigmatic Troublemakers

Teddybears.
Chrissy Piper Courtesy of the artist

The Stockholm production trio Teddybears aren't really a band as that term is usually employed. They rarely play live and prefer to hire more personable performers to front their tracks. In the past, they've been known for mild, electronically treated vocals on mild, electronically treated dance songs. But on their newly released album, Devil's Music, they like things much livelier.

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2:38pm

Tue May 17, 2011
Music Reviews

Those Darlins: Making Un-Country Noises

Those Darlins' latest album, Screw Gets Loose, finds the group moving toward harder-rocking material.
Veta&Theo Courtesy of the artist

The three women who front Those Darlins are all surnamed Darlin the way The Ramones were all surnamed Ramone. But the acoustic two-steps on their 2008 debut didn't sound very Ramones. True, "Wild One" talked the talk and "DUI or Die" hit pretty hard for a public-service announcement. But it was a relief when the lead and title track of Those Darlins' Screws Get Loose kicked off with some very un-country noises.

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1:51pm

Mon April 25, 2011
Music Reviews

Poly Styrene: Taking Moral Stances Solo

Poly Styrene stood out in British punk. Female in a male world, heavy in a skinny world, half-African in a white world, flaunting braces that looked like they could dent a lorry, she's linked in history to a song as iconic as "Anarchy in the U.K." itself.

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