Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Carola Dibbell
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Web Site HOWTO

Of course, it should be intuitively obvious how to use this website, how to find whatever it is you're looking for, and how to figure out when what you're looking for just isn't here. But if it isn't, here are some tips to sharpen your intuition.

What Is Here

What you'll find here is writing: a lot of writing, mostly about music, mostly rock and roll, all from one critic: Robert Christgau. This writing comes in two sizes: short (essays, articles, reviews, and lists) and very short (the one-paragraph Consumer Guides).

We're adding new stuff, and backfilling old stuff, as we go along. The Consumer Guide database has grades for almost all records reviewed since 1970--over 10,000. Of these, about half have one-paragraph reviews. The essays are mostly limited to the PC age, which started here in 1988.

What Isn't Here

For starters, there isn't any actual, downloadable music here. We don't have the disk space, the bandwidth, or the legal clout to get involved in downloading music.

There's also very little in the way of graphics here. If you want a picture of an artist, or an album cover, it's a pretty safe bet that it isn't here.

There isn't any advertising here. This isn't an "e-business" site. The closest we come are some book links to Amazon.Com, which are provided so you can look up the reader reviews that they provide. This is not an endorsement of Amazon.Com, and we don't have a kickback deal with them. In fact, we really dislike Amazon.Com's anti-union policies, and we urge you to support your local bookstores.

Finally, this is not a particularly interactive, user-oriented, or community-type website. There's no chat. We don't solicit comments, or even make feedback all that easy. We don't pass out cookies. We don't mean to be rude, but every unnecessary bit of interaction takes time and work, and we can't afford a lot of that.

Page Design

The page design is simple and consistent throughout the website: a top banner spanning a two-column table, where the left column has a quick navigation menu, and the right column has the page content. You should be able to adjust your browser window width to get whatever page width you find most readable.

The Home page has some suggestions for getting started, including a link to this page. In the future it may have some news items or some way to spotlight particular articles. For now it has a link called What's New, which generates a list of web pages that have changed in the last 14 days.

Navigation

If you're a web robot, you'll find that this website contains more than 7000 pages. But the navigation tools can help you cut that down to a more manageable size, where you can get to any web page in two or three clicks. You have two choices for navigation: you can browse or your can search.

If you know what you're looking for, use the search tools. There are two:

  • Use the Text Search form at the bottom of the left navigation menu to search for a word or words anywhere in the text of any web page. Use the Enter key to kick off the search. This should present you with a ranked list of web pages that match your search key, along with some context for the search match. Pick whatever page seems most interesting, and back up to look at your other matches. Or use the expanded search widget at the top of the search results page to refine your search.

  • Use the Consumer Guide Search for Artist from the Home page or any Consumer Guide page to search for a particular artist name. Type in the name, then press Enter or click on the Submit Query button. This looks first for an exact match, then for a substring match, in the Consumer Guide database. If there is only one match, you go straight to the artist's CG page. If more than one artist name matches, you are given a choice.

If you're not looking for anything in particular, just browse. The content is organized much like the left-column navigation links.

Consumer Guide

The Consumer Guide data is stored in a database, which gives us some flexibility in presenting the data. For instance:

  • You can look up an artist name, which gives you a page with all of the artist's records. To do this, type the artist name into the search form, then Enter; or go to the Consumer Guide browse page, click on a letter to get an artist list, then click on the artist name. The artist pages first give you a listing (with grades) of all records under that artist name, then give you all available reviews. (About half of the total reviews that have been written are available.) There may also be cross-references to other related artist names.
  • You can go to the CG Columns index and click on a date, to get a Consumer Guide column. This groups together a set of contemporaneous Consumer Guide reviews.
  • You can go to the books page, click on one of the decade-spanning Consumer Guide books, then click on a letter in the table of contents to get a chapter listing of all of the Consumer Guide reviews for that artist-letter in that decade.

Various artists compilations and soundtracks are also listed by letter under the Consumer Guide page. In this case, there is a link for each album which has a review. (Again, not all reviews are available yet.)

The Consumer Guide page also has A-Z links for browsing by label. Each label has links to artists who released work on the label, and to various artist compilations/soundtracks issued by the label.

The artist pages may also have a section called Subjects for Further Research, which is a short review of the artist's work rather than individual record reviews.

Books

The Books link gets you a table of Robert Christgau's books, cover art, and brief summaries. Each book has its own page, with blurb information, table of contents, and some additional reference links. The table of contents links to whatever parts of the book's contents we have available on the website.

Writings

The Writings sections organize various essays, articles, reviews, lists, etc., into tidy bins. Each one has an index, which is generated from the article titles and sorted alphabetically. (Well, CG Columns has a special index, since nearly 200 repetitions of "Consumer Guide" gets old fast.)

Of the other bins, Rock&Roll& is the name of Christgau's Village Voice column, whereas Music Essays covers similar ground for other publishers. Pazz & Jop collects essays written for the Voice's annual rock critics poll, including vote totals.

Most writings have a tag line at the end which tells you where and when the piece was originally published.

Site Map

The Site Map is a more comprehensive directory of web pages. It does not go down to the detail of listing every page--it ends with the indexes of articles and Consumer Guide listings--but it does cover some less frequently used web pages, including some of the more technical pieces on how the website is put together, future plans, recent accomplishments, and so forth.