Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

Consumer Guide:
  User's Guide
  Grades 1990-
  Grades 1969-89
  Expert Witness
  Going Into the City
  Consumer Guide: 90s
  Grown Up All Wrong
  Consumer Guide: 80s
  Consumer Guide: 70s
  Any Old Way You Choose It
  Don't Stop 'til You Get Enough
  CG Columns
  Rock&Roll& [new]
  Rock&Roll& [old]
  Music Essays
  Music Reviews
  Book Reviews
  NAJP Blog
  Rolling Stone
  Video Reviews
  Pazz & Jop
Web Site:
  Site Map
  What's New?
Carola Dibbell:
  Carola's Website
CG Search:
Google Search:

Robert Christgau's Going Into the City


Expert Witness: Tinariwen, Terakaft, and Sidi Touré

New in Expert Witness:

  • Tinariwen: Live in Paris (Anti-) A-
  • Lost in Mali (Riverboat) A-
  • Sidi Touré: Alafia (Thrill Jockey) B+
  • Terakaft: Alone (Ténéré) (Out Here) B+
  • Samba Touré: Gandadiko (Glitterbeat) ***
  • Boubacar Traoré: Mbalimaou (Lusafrica) ***
  • Lobi Traoré: Bamako Nights--Live at Bar Bozo 1995 (Glitterbeat) **
  • Samba Touré: Albala (Glitterbeat) **
Expert Witness: Craig Finn's Best Bunch of Songs This Decade

New in Expert Witness:

  • Jinx Lennon: 30 Beacons of Light for a Land Full of Spite, Thugs, Drug Slugs, and Energy Vampires (Septic Tiger) A-
  • Craig Finn: Faith in the Future (Partisan) A-
  • Public Image Ltd.: What the World Needs Now (PiL Official) *

Carola Dibbell's novel, The Only Ones was listed by the Washington Post as one of the Best science fiction and fantasy books of 2015.

Expert Witness: Middle Eastern Rap to Jewish Southern Folk

New in Expert Witness:

  • Khat Thaleth: Third Line: Initiative for the Elevation of Public Awareness (Stronghold Sound) A-
  • Mark Rubin Jew of Oklahoma: Southern Discomfort (Rubinchik) A-
  • Sleaford Mods: Chubbed Up + (Ipecac) ***
  • Neil Young + Promise of the Real: The Monsanto Years (Reprise) **
  • Algiers: Algiers (Matador) **
  • Sleaford Mods: Key Markets (Harbinger) *

Robert Christgau also has a new article at BN Review:

Expert Witness: You Should Always Listen to More Jazz

New in Expert Witness:

  • Last Exit: Iron Path (ESP-Disk) A-
  • Aram Bajakian: There Were Flowers Also in Hell (Sanasar) A-
  • Big Lazy: Don't Cross Myrtle (Tasankee) ***
  • Last Exit: Head First Into the Flames (DMG/ARC) **
  • The Esoteric Circle: George Russell Presents the Esoteric Circle (Flying Dutchman) *

We've also added some archival pieces by Carola Dibbell:

Our books were selected for the "Reading Room" page of the Oprah's Favorite Things issue of O. To quote:

  1. THE ONLY ONES by Carola Dibbell (Two Dollar Radio) Dibbell's major accomplishment (besides publishing her first novel just shy of 70) is her narrator, Inez, blessed and cursed with immunity in a society ravaged by plagues. Inez's voice--a fragmented vernacular that is wise, tough, and humane--elevates this dystopian novel in which, after a botched experiment leaves her an unwitting mother, every choice is a desperate one.

  2. GOING INTO THE CITY: PORTRAIT OF A CRITIC AS A YOUNG MAN by Robert Christgau (Dey St.) The legendary rock critic remembers the people, places, ideas, and art that have informed his writing. Pay special attention, as Christgau has, to the women: Ellen Willis, a powerful cultural critic who teaches him the meaning of loss; and his wife of 40 years, Carola Dibbell (also on this list with The Only Ones), who's coauthor of the marriage he considers his greatest work.

Expert Witness: Love, Doubt, and Death in New York City

New in Expert Witness:

  • Laurie Anderson: Heart of a Dog (Nonesuch) A+
  • Jeffrey Lewis & Les Bolts: Manhattan (Rough Trade) A
Expert Witness: Just Rhythm Music, on Its Own Unrelenting Terms

New in Expert Witness:

  • Mbongwena Star: From Kinshasa (World Circuit) A-
  • Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba: Ba Power (Glitterbeat) A-
  • Tal National: Kaani (Fat Cat) A-
  • Tal National: Zoy Zoy (Fat Cat) A-

Carola Dibbell's website was crippled for a few days but is back up now. Unfortunately, the outage occurred while she is promiting her novel, The Only Ones, in Portland, Oregon. She appears Friday night, October 23, 7-9PM at Late Night Library's All Fines Forgiven, reading and conversing with Amelia Gray.

Expert Witness: Canada, Croatia, and the Misery of Sufjan Stevens

New in Expert Witness:

  • John Kruth: Splitsville (2008, Smiling Fez) A-
  • John Kruth: The Drunken Wind of Life: The Poem/Songs of Tin Ujevic (Smiling Fez) A-
  • Amy Lavere and Will Sexton: Hallelujah I'm a Dreamer (Archer) A-
  • Old Man Luedecke: Domestic Eccentric (True North) B+
  • Kinky Friedman: The Lonelinest Man I Ever Met (Avenue A) ***
  • Guy Davis: Kokomo Kidd (M.C.) **
  • Sufjan Stevens: Carrie & Lowell (Asthmatic Kitty) *
  • Guy Davis: Juba Dance Featuring Fabrizio Poggi (M.C.) *

Robert Christgau and Carola Dibbell will be appearing at the Texas Book Festival in Austin, TX:

  • Saturday, October 17, 4PM, Robert Christgau will be in conversation with Jeff Salamon
  • Sunday, October 18, Noon, Carola Dibbell will be reading with Colin Winnette

Carola Dibbell will be speaking and reading from The Only Ones in Portland, Oregon:

  • Thursday, October 22, 4-5:15 PM, Carola will give a public talk at Portland State University
  • Friday, October 23, 7-9 PM, Carola will be reading and in conversation with Amelia Gray at Late Night Library's All Fines Forgiven, Clinton Street Theater
Expert Witness: A Trip Down Country Road

New in Expert Witness:

  • The Bottle Rockets: South Broadway Athletic Club (Bloodshot) A-
  • Jason Isbell: Something More Than Free (Southeastern) A-
  • Wussy: Public Domain, Volume 1 (Shake It) ***
  • Daniel Romano: If I've Only One Time Askin' (New West) **
  • Ashley Monroe: The Blade (Warner Bros.) **
  • Kacey Musgraves: Pageant Material (Mercury) *

Also a technical note: for some time now, the Random A-List page has been stuck in a rut where the same dozen items appear nearly every time you load the page. This was a consequence of the ISP installing some server-side caching software: a good idea in terms of overall performance, but crippling in this case. I've disabled the caching, so the page works now. I've also added a convenient "reload" link near the top. By the way, the page has a couple options built in: if you add to the URI ?xgr=[ABCDE][mp] you can generate a grade for an exact grade (m for minus, p for plus, so ?xgr=Cp for C+. You can also use ?gr=[ABCDE] for a whole letter grade including plus/minus. There are a few cases with parameterized options like this that have never been properly documented.

Expert Witness: Future Is the Proof We Need That Money Doesn't Buy Happiness

New in Expert Witness:

  • Future: Monster (free mixtape) B+
  • Future: DS2 (Deluxe Edition) (Epic) A-
  • Migos: Yung Rich Nation (300 Entertainment/Quality Control/Atlantic) B+
  • T.I.: Da Nic' (Grand Hustle) ***
  • Drake & Future: What a Time to Be Alive (Cash Money/Epic) **
  • Young Thug: The Barter 6 (300 Entertainment/Atlantic) **
  • Migos: Rich Nigga Timeline (free mixtape) *
  • Future: 56 Nights (free mixtape) *
Expert Witness: Chance the Rapper and Friends Count Their Blessings

New in Expert Witness:

  • Donnie Trumpet and the Social Experment: Surf (Free) A
  • Paris: Pistol Politics (Guerrilla Funk) A-
  • STS X RJD2: STS X RJD2 (RJ's Electrical Connections) ***
  • Akrobatik: Built to Last (Playaktion) **
  • P.K. (Park Kultury): Get Lost (H.S.I.) **
  • Public Enemy: Man Plans God Laughs (Spitdigital) *
Book Events

Robert Christgau and Carola Dibbell will be at the Brooklyn Book Festival on Saturday, September 20:

  • Christgau will appear on the 1PM Modern Families panel, conversation with Kate Bollick and Augusten Burroughs (North Stage) [link].
  • Dibbell will appear on the 5PM New Brave World panel, readings and conversation with Laura van den Berg and Andrew Ervin (North Stage) [link].

They also have an event scheduled for Austin, TX (October 18).

In addition, Dibbell has an event sponsored by the Portland Public Library (October 23) in Portland, OR.

Expert Witness: Exploring Legendary and Overlooked Afropop

New in Expert Witness:

  • Le Grand Kallé: Le Grand Kallé: His Life, His Music (Sterns Africa) A-
  • Youssou N'Dour: Mballax Dafay Wax (FM) A-
  • Amara Touré: 1973-1980 (Analog Africa) B+
  • Verckys et l'Orchestre Vévé: Congolese Funk, Afrobeat & Psychedelic Rumba 1969-1978 (Analog Africa) ***
  • Highlife on the Move: Selected Nigerian and Ghanaian Recordings From London & Lagos--1954-66 (Soundway) *
Expert Witness: Young Thug's Most Useful Performance Since Black Portland

New in Expert Witness:

  • Jamie XX: In Colour (Young Turks) A-
  • Diplo: Random White Dude Be Everywhere (Mad Decent) A-
  • Shamir: Ratchet (XL) A-
  • Major Lazer: Peace Is the Mission (Mad Decent) B+
  • Funkadelic: First Ya Gotta Shake the Gate (The C Kunspyruhzy) **
  • In the Mix: Dancepop Anthems (Astralwerks) **
  • Skrillex and Diplo Present Jack Ü (Mad Decent) **
  • Glitterbeat: Dubs and Versions I (Glitterbeat) *
  • Duck Sauce: Quack (Fool's Gold) *
Expert Witness: You'd Think Willie Nelson Wrote the Song About Pot

New in Expert Witness:

  • Boz Scaggs: A Fool to Care (429) A-
  • Leonard Cohen: Can't Forget: A Souvenir of the Grand Tour (Columbia/Legacy) A-
  • Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard: Django and Jimmie (Legacy) ***
  • Richard Thompson: Still (Fantasy) **
  • Bruce Springsteen: High Hopes (Columbia) *
  • Elvin Bishop: Can't Even Do Wrong Right (Alligator) *
Expert Witness: Yo La Tengo Made Their Loveliest Album Ever

New in Expert Witness:

  • Yo La Tengo: Stuff Like That There (Matador) A
  • Freedy Johnston: Neon Repairman (Singing Magnet) B+
  • Rhett Miller: The Traveler (ATO) ***
  • Giant Sand: Heartbreak Pass (New West) ***
  • Wilco: Star Wars (dBpm) ***
Website Update Status: Working

I attempted an update of the website this afternoon (about 3:30 PM CDT). The flat file part went smoothly, so there are a number of new files and minor programming changes. See Changelog for further information (although I doubt it actually covers everything).

Initially the database failed due to a version incompatibility. I found a workaround for this, so the database is currently loaded and functioning. Sorry for the brief inconvenience. Please send mail to webmaster [@] if you find further problems.

Expert Witness: Hopping Along Into a Girlpool

New in Expert Witness:

  • Hop Along: Painted Shut (Saddle Creek) A-
  • The Go! Team: The Scene Between (Memphis Industries) A-
  • Chastity Belt: Time to Go Home (Hardly Arts) **
  • Lizzy Mercier Descloux: Press Color (Light in the Attic) **
  • Joanna Gruesome: Peanut Butter (Slumberland) **
  • Girlpool: Before the World Was Big (Wichita Recordings) **
Expert Witness Returns

New in Expert Witness:

  • Sam Smith: In the Lonely Hour (Capitol) A-
  • Miguel: Wildheart (RCA) A-
  • Jason Derulo: Everything Is 4 (Beluga Heights/Warner Bros.) A-
  • Tinashe: Aquarius (RCA) ***
  • Oceaán: The Grip EP (Rough Trade) **
Perfect Sound Forever

Robert Christgau was guest editor for the August/September 2015 issue of the online music magazine, Perfect Sound Forever. In his introduction, Christgau wrote:

Like its predecessors (2008 & 2011), the third NYU/Tisch Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music edition of Perfect Sound Forever is dominated by final papers, mostly by sophomores, in my required Artists and Audiences history and writing course. The ringers are papers written for the '50s Rock and Roll course I taught in the spring, two of them are also by sophomores (from Steinhardt and Gallatin) and one of them by a ReMu senior. As before, I think these students have done critical work that deserves the kind of public presence PSF can provide--writing at least as good and often better than professional work I've edited.

Expert Witness at Cuepoint/Medium

It took a while, as new business models cough-cough always do, but as of June 25 what had seemed increasingly likely ever since my June 5 submission was put on hold became official: 10 months in, Expert Witness's run at Cuepoint/Medium is over. Editor Jon Shecter compensated me well and always gave me the freedom he'd promised, for which I'm very grateful--it felt so right to be reviewing (and grading) albums after a year's hiatus. But let me emphasize that both the compensation and the institutional home were part of the satisfaction--I like earning money for my work and I like being part of a top-edited periodical.

As with MSN in 2013, I have not been singled out here. Where MSN offed its entire freelance sector, Shecter's bosses have apparently decided that their music "vertical" will now feature what web publishers like to call "reader-provided" copy. Me, I think the term "unpaid" is more to the point. Having made a living as a journalist for more than 50 years now, I don't regard writing as a hobby, or as "self-expression." It's a job, and better for it. Having taken a teaching post in part because it's hard out there for a freelancer, I expended most of what little spare time remained between September and May keeping EW afloat. One sad thing about the timing of the Medium reboot is that with the spring term over I was going back to stuff I'd never fully borne down on and seeking out titles I'd missed. It was interesting--in fact, kind of exciting.

I'm still listening to current music all day and writing occasional reviews, but with less organizational purpose--often as a way to get my head around something I've immersed in deep enough. My basic theory hasn't changed. My working assumption is that popular music is of lasting artistic value, that the album format remains an excellent way to realize that value, that an album's potential often becomes more vivid when it's a physical object, and that my little reviews have proven of some importance in a complex historicizing process. If somebody wants to pay me to continue to publish these reviews, I'll definitely consider it, and it's possible the Witnesses, as I call the amazingly articulate fan base that crystallized when MSN turned the Consumer Guide into Expert Witness in 2010, will persuade me to go it alone in some format yet to be determined, although I have reservations about every one so far proposed. I can't see any way, however, that such a development will come to fruition before Carola and I take a two-week European vacation set to commence three weeks from today--although I do admittedly have a dozen reviews in the kitty and may even turn out a few more before we leave.

It's conceivable I'll see you in September--even August. Just in case, though, I figure I owe the Witnesses at least one small thing--the final listing in a file called EWMDEX in my WP51 files. It goes:

6/5 scaggs/cohen//nelson-haggard/giant sand/springsteen/bishop

More Ancient

More Information