Friday, January 27, 2006

An admirer - OK it's me - writes: "Your style is reminiscent of Robert Christgau of the Village Voice. You mentioned his influence early on in your blog. Were there any other critics who impacted your style? More to the point, why was it so necessary to "borrow" from them in the first place?"

Actually the first critic that I remember reading was Wayne Robbins in Newsday during the late '70s. For the first time I was introduced to music I had never heard before from artists such as Television, the Talking Heads, and Elvis Costello. I was fascinated that any one was actually writing about contemporary rock music in such an insightful way. I learned so much from reading these reviews that it made me hungry for more.

I stumbled on to Robert Christgau quite by accident. I picked up an issue of The Village Voice one day in February 1982, and read the annual "Pazz and Jop" critics poll. All of a sudden there were all these different types of music that I had never considered. I couldn't put it down; I easily devoured the whole issue. Later on that year I bought Christgau's book on '70s rock albums and the race was on. Between reading his reviews on '70s music and reading his monthly consumer guide, I dare say I ran through half my weekly paycheck just keeping up with buying records. I averaged about 90 plus LPs a year for the next 8 years.

Christgau was like no other critic in that he skirted the line between fan and objective observer better than any body out there. He was passionate about music but careful not to let it cloud his judgment, something that, sadly, most critics fail miserably at. In the 20 plus years that I have been reading him I have never found any one else who is as consistent, unbiased, and reliable as he is. If I approach 50% of what he has attained during the last 38 years, I will consider myself fortunate.

As for borrowing from him or others, I believe we all borrow from others to some extent. There has always been a love/hate relationship between Americans and critics. People love to read about their favorite movie or piece of music, until that is they find said movie or music has been panned. At that point they get all bent out of shape. But at heart we are all critics; each of us has an opinion and a mouth to share it. I think what pisses people off is that critics get paid to share their opinions and most of us don't.

Well, I thank me for sharing my question and sincerely hope that some one - any one - sends me another.

Until then, keep on listening!

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