Pop Quiz: Amazon or Christgau?


Yesterday we ran a series of hilariously negative reviews of classic albums, and noted at the time that we could have cited several more from the inimitable Robert Christgau, a man who’s never been shy about putting his most controversial foot forward when it comes to music. Christgau’s hairy-chested prose, idiosyncratic tastes, and habit of reviewing himself rather than the album in question have often perplexed us, as has his Dean of American Rock Critics™ schtick. In view of this, after the jump, we’ve set out a selection of mystifying reviews — both good and bad — of notable records, and we’re asking you: which quote comes from an Amazon commenter, and which was penned by the man himself? The results, which you can find at the end of the post, may or may not surprise you.

David Bowie — Young Americans

1. “This is a failure. The tunes make (Lennon-McCartney’s) ‘Across the Universe’ sound like a melodic highlight, and although the amalgam of English hard rock and Philly soul is so thin it’s interesting, it often overwhelms David’s voice, which is even thinner.”

2. “It’s ironic that David Bowie refers to this album as his version of American soul. Like most of Bowie’s ‘innovations,’ this work is based upon the previous works of other artists. To paraphrase Mark Twain, his works are both good and original; but the original parts aren’t good — and the good parts aren’t original.”

Elvis Costello — My Aim is True

1. “Costello arrived on the scene with all the bases covered — as is evident in every phrase eloquently spat out. Stylistically, he’s one that crosses genres at will, creates new ones, wraps it all into a tight bundle and throws it at you.”

2. “I like the nerdy way this guy comes on, I’m fascinated by his lyrics, and I approve of his rock and roll orientation… Yet odd as it may seem, I find that he suffers from Jackson Browne’s syndrome — that is, he’s a little boring.”

Suicide — Suicide

1. “How much can you endure? … [Suicide] is a provocative endurance test where the artistic statement became more important than music. [It’s] just not that much fun to listen to — unless you need bragging rights for just being able to endure the pain.”

2. “A friend who loves this record offers the attractive theoretical defense that it unites the two strains of ‘new wave’ rock minimalism — neoclassy synthesizer and three-chord barrage. So maybe it will prove popular among theoreticians.”

Antony and the Johnsons — I Am a Bird Now

1. “Right, Antony suffers. But billions of humans have it worse, and while we who are luckier are morally obliged to remember that, we’re not obliged to empathize with any of them. Those convinced of the metaphoric-political centrality of transgender issues and the AIDS epidemic will feel Antony’s songs. Those who don’t should find a record they enjoy.”

2. “Just because someone finds the overly syrupy, oh-so-tired coy shy meek Morrissey trip a little more than past its due date, doesn’t necessarily mean they listen to Black Eyed Peas. Hey, personally call it a phase but I’d much rather put on some music where it sounds like the band members have grown a pair. Boris? Deerhoof? Boredoms? hell, even Xiu Xiu manages to prove engaging AND emotionally genuine.”

The Black Eyed Peas — The E.N.D.

1. “How dare people call this wondrous album… ‘insipid,’ ‘saccharine,’ ‘clumsy’? … Just plain people love it — love it so much that various of its tracks topped the pop charts nonstop for the entire summer.”

2. “This is my favorite Black Eyed Peas CD — I love it! I’m sixty three years old and I’m still sittin’ at my computer, bouncin’ around in my chair and singing along with the lyrics!”

The answers:

David Bowie: #1: Amazon / #2 Christgau

Elvis Costello: #1: Amazon / #2 Christgau

Suicide: #1: Amazon / #2 Christgau

Antony and the Johnsons: #1 Christgau / #2 Amazon

Black Eyed Peas: #1 Christgau / #2 Amazon (sadly)