Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Articles [NAJP]

The Vanguard of Something

Idolator just posted an IM interview with an online record reviewer who, toilers in other fields should note, make just about zero money (plus what sounds like a promo CD or two a day, if that) for his arts journalism. This is a valuable undertaking; I'd read a dozen more, and recommend it to anyone who cares enough about arts journalism to visit this site. But I'd like to register three . . . call them observations, don't want to say something judgmental like quibbles.

  1. I can see no reason why this interview in particular (maybe not others in what seems to be a series) needs to be anonymous (or as the header has it, anonimous). The observations about the editorial process are general and, I'd say, quite mild--milder than one would wish, since who's a relatively responsible editor and who isn't it valuable info (though were he naming names the interviewee's desire for anonymity would make sense).

  2. Interviewer and interviewee agree without further comment that the desire to be on "the vanguard of something" is an important reason to do this work. I would say that the desire to tell people about good music they're unaware of is one important reason to do the work. But so is elucidating the known. Kneejerk vanguardism is an important reason so much online record reviewing sucks. There's brief mention somewhere in there of the pleasure and profitability of enjoying and presenting music in the communal space of the club. And then somewhere else both guys brag that their year-end top 10s include almost nothing in anybody else's top 10. There's an unexamined and probably altogether unconscious contradiction there.

  3. Guy's a professional writer. Maybe he doesn't have the taste or a knack for the somewhat ridiculous jewelbox concision almost all print record reviewing now requires. But most of the editors I work with keep an eye out for fresh talent. The right person doesn't always have to make $20. Makes me curious. Makes me wish I had just a sample of Windupbird's non-IM prose.

1 Comment

By Robert Christgau on January 2, 2009 8:11 AM

Having received a note from the interviewee referenced above, I would like to note that "he" is in fact female. Granted, I was thrown off by her deceptive generalization that "most of us are 25-year-old guys" (something like that). Nevertheless, I leapt to the sexist cliche, and I apologize. Worth noting too is that she isn't 25 either--not hardly. I urge Idolator to subject some tyro to the IM-interview treatment before its wrinkles start showing.

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