Grown Up All Wrong: 75 Great Rock and Pop Artists from Vaudeville to Techno

Robert Christgau, Author Harvard University Press $32.5 (528p) ISBN 978-0-674-44318-1
Christgau's columns and reviews at the Village Voice and elsewhere over the last three decades helped create the casually knowing, aggressively personal style of an entire generation of professional rock critics. This volume collects columns and reviews of gigs and records from about 1972 to 1997 (with some early work beefed up or revised). Christgau's idiosyncratic, often information-rich essays range from prerock pop (Nat King Cole) to classic rock (Hendrix), funk (George Clinton), punk (the Clash), postpunk (Switzerland's LiLiPUT), postpostpunk (the Mekons), Afrobeat (Mzwakhe Mbuli) and chart superstars (Garth Brooks). More so than his friend and peer Greil Marcus, Christgau can be relentlessly glib, maddeningly gossipy, far too focused on what other critics have said or addicted to lit-crit-lite: ""Freebird"" is ""a perfect example of technopastoral counterculture transcendence."" (The introduction shows Christgau at his self-celebrating worst: ""From early on I saw pop as class warfare."") What he says about Patti Smith is as true of his own work: it ""recalls a time when rock and roll was so conducive to mythic fantasies that pretensions were cutting into its artistic potential."" But his phrasemaking efforts can pay off: the New York Dolls--Christgau's all-time favorite band--""refused to pay their dues, so we had to pay instead."" At his best, he's showing off while having fun, while telling readers what he thinks about the work he likes--the first job of all critics. These essays provide so much raw information, and show so much listening-in-action, that readers and fans should--sometimes-- forgive both the academese and the inside baseball. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 11/16/1998
Release date: 11/01/1998
Paperback - 512 pages - 978-0-674-00382-8
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