Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Articles [NAJP]

We Could Call Them Rockcrit Rockets

Whilst preparing my critics' poll post (soon come, I promise), it occurred to me that three of the younger principles--Jess Harvell of Idolator and Rob Harvilla and Tom Breihan of the Voice--are really tall. Harvell I don't recall meeting, but he recently described himself as "freakishly tall and quite beefy in my younger days" (what, he's lost weight since then?). Harvilla calls his column Down in Front because that's what people are always telling him (and also because that's where and what he is--clever fellow, Harvilla), and Breihan, the paper's chief blogger, is probably six-eight. In the old days this never used to happen--not only were rock critics pencil-necked geeks, but they were often little guys, just like lead guitarists. Pushing five-ten, I could look over the top of Dave Marsh and Jann Wenner's pageboys and take the tip from Greil Marcus or R. Meltzer. But now the younger guys can field a respectable basketball team of people who can actually write good rock criticism--no ringers here, plus that Harvell-Harvilla thing might make for good announcer shtick. All in NYC, too, unless Harvell is checking in electronically from his native B'More. Any nominations for guard? We want a keen analyst who can penetrate musicians' defenses.


By harvilla on February 14, 2008 11:29 AM

it was a bob christgau blog post that got me started, though that happens seldom these days: i don't want to speak for my fellow oversized brethren, but i'm not sure that our team would be respectable. i am very bad at basketball. i was told repeatedly in high school that i had no killer instinct. (i was also told other things i will not repeat here.) the breihans (both of them) i find to be all talk. jess i've never met so i couldn't say. but "the lumbering oafs" might be a better team name. we are all in rock criticism for a reason.

point guard is kandia crazy horse.

By jess on February 15, 2008 9:27 AM

freakishly tall was a bit of comedy overstatement -- at 6'6" or so i've got nothing on "stilts" breihan, for instance -- and my sedentary blogger's life is re-beefing me slowly but surely. however, like rob, i am just as inept at sports now as i was as a high school student. unless nintendo wii tennis counts, which it does not.

By john rockwell on February 16, 2008 11:55 AM

I was a rock critic once. I am 6'4", no matter how pencil-necked one might describe me. Bob, you will recall that at the party following Lester Bangs's memorial I threw some guy who was bothering us out of the bar, a macho act that much impressed Dave Marsh. So the tall ones are not ALL latter-day.

By Robert Christgau on February 16, 2008 1:02 PM

Of course there were exceptions over 35 years of history, and John was an early one. He is anything but pencil-necked, and not afraid to use his size for ethical purposes--once I saw him defuse a street scene by getting out of a cab and saying to a loudly abusive boyfriend-we-hope something like, "Unhand that maiden, you varlet." What would have happened had said boyfriend taken a poke at him I don't know. The best rock critic basketball player I'm aware of was Doug Simmons. Could still be--sounds like he could beat any of my nominees at a game of H-O-R-S-E tomorrow.

By Richard Riegel on February 22, 2008 5:26 PM

Several more 1st- & 2nd-generation rock critics who were/are tall (taller than 5'09" me, anyway): Lenny Kaye, Lester Bangs, Rick Johnson, Dave DiMartino. Could be some tall-cool-one connection to the stratospheric concepts often found among these fellows' writings.

By Sara Sherr on March 20, 2008 9:05 PM

You're forgetting David Fricke, Rob Sheffield, and my pal and former housemate Anthony Miccio.

Articles, Feb. 14, 2008

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