Farewell, Robert Christgau’s Consumer Guide


The Dean breaks the bad news in this month’s edition of the Consumer Guide at MSN: “Barring miracles unlikely to ensue, this is the final edition of Christgau’s Consumer Guide, which MSN has decided no longer suits its editorial purposes. The CG has generally required a seven-days-a-week time commitment over the 41 years I’ve written it, and I’m grateful to MSN for paying me what the work was worth over the three-and-a-half years I published it here. But though I always enjoyed the work, work it was, and I’ve long been aware there were other things I could be doing with my ears. So while I have every intention of keeping up with popular music as it evolves, being less encyclopedic about it will come as a relief as well as a loss.”

A relief for him, maybe. Hosted in these pages since long before they were virtual (and for a while afterward, too, before Christgau left the Voice in 2006 and landed at MSN), the Consumer Guide at once set the template for pretty much every subsequent music review section and stands today as one of the more formidable and dauntingly complete records of popular music ever undertaken. As a critical experiment, it is entirely unrivalled: four decades worth of extreme compression, breadth, and originality, in which one writer tried to elevate his exceptional taste and work ethic into something like a science.

It was never quite that, of course, though Bob would probably disagree–me, I just liked watching a smart person’s thoughts unfold over time. (Me and pretty much every other rock critic. Ever.) Plus he was a better writer than the rest of us–and happily, still is. Find his work at Barnes & Noble, the National Arts Journalism Program, or at his own site, where all four decades of the Consumer Guide remain available as an inspiration and how-to guide for pretty much anyone who has ever considered writing anything about music or the arts. If permanent, this truly is a loss. [MSN]