Christgau's Consumer Guide: Albums of the '90s

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Christgau's Consumer Guide: Albums of the '90s
Christgau's Consumer Guide '90s.jpg
Author Robert Christgau
CountryUnited States
Subject Albums, capsule review, discography, music journalism, popular music
Published2000 by St. Martin's Press
Media typePrint
ISBN 0-312-24560-2
Preceded by Christgau's Record Guide: The '80s  

Christgau's Consumer Guide: Albums of the '90s is a music reference book by American music journalist and essayist Robert Christgau. It was published in October 2000 by St. Martin's Press and collects approximately 3,800 capsule album reviews, originally written by Christgau between 1990 and 2000 for his "Consumer Guide" column in The Village Voice . Text from his other writings for the Voice, Rolling Stone , Spin , and Playboy during this period was also featured. [1]

Robert Christgau American music journalist

Robert Thomas Christgau is an American essayist and music journalist. One of the earliest professional rock critics, he spent 37 years as the chief music critic and senior editor for The Village Voice, during which time he created and oversaw the annual Pazz & Jop poll. He has also covered popular music for Esquire, Creem, Newsday, Playboy, Rolling Stone, Billboard, NPR, Blender, and MSN Music, and was a visiting arts teacher at New York University.

St. Martin's Press is a book publisher headquartered in the Flatiron Building in Manhattan, New York City. St. Martin's Press is considered one of the largest English-language publishers bringing to the public some 700 titles a year under eight imprints.

A capsule review is a form of appraisal, usually associated with journalism, that offers a relatively short critique of a specified creative work. Capsule reviews generally appear in publications like newspapers and magazines, may be placed within the context of a cultural digest section of a publication, and can range anywhere from just a few sentences up to around 500 words.


The book is the third in a series of "Consumer Guide" collections, following Christgau's Record Guide: Rock Albums of the Seventies (1981) and Christgau's Record Guide: The '80s (1990). [2]

<i>Christgaus Record Guide: Rock Albums of the Seventies</i> Music reference book

Christgau's Record Guide: Rock Albums of the Seventies is a music reference book by American music journalist and essayist Robert Christgau. It was first published in October 1981 by Ticknor & Fields.

<i>Christgaus Record Guide: The 80s</i> book by Robert Christgau

Christgau's Record Guide: The '80s is a music reference book by American music journalist and essayist Robert Christgau. It was published in October 1990 by Pantheon Books as a follow-up to Christgau's Record Guide: Rock Albums of the Seventies (1981).


As the music industry and record production expanded during the 1980s, Robert Christgau found himself overwhelmed by records to listen to and review for his "Consumer Guide" column in The Village Voice . In September 1990, he abandoned his original letter-grading scheme on a scale of A-plus to E-minus, which had B-plus records as the most commonly reviewed and grades rarely going lower than C-minus. Instead, he decided to focus on writing reviews for A-minus to A-plus albums, with A-minus becoming the most common and those that would have ranged from B-minus to C-plus largely ignored. This change was made because, as Christgau later said, "most of my readers—not critics and bizzers, but real-life consumers—used my primary critical outlet for its putative purpose. They wanted to know what to buy." [3]

Music industry companies and individuals that create and sell music

The music industry consists of the companies and individuals that earn money by creating new songs and pieces and selling live concerts and shows, audio and video recordings, compositions and sheet music, and the organizations and associations that aid and represent music creators. Among the many individuals and organizations that operate in the industry are: the songwriters and composers who create new songs and musical pieces; the singers, musicians, conductors and bandleaders who perform the music; the companies and professionals who create and sell recorded music and/or sheet music ; and those that help organize and present live music performances.

<i>The Village Voice</i> American weekly newspaper

The Village Voice was an American news and culture paper, known for being the country's first alternative newsweekly. Founded in 1955 by Dan Wolf, Ed Fancher, John Wilcock, and Norman Mailer, the Voice began as a platform for the creative community of New York City. It still is kept alive online.

In this new format, B-plus records were only reviewed occasionally and most were filed under an "Honorable Mention" section, featuring one short phrasal statement for each album alongside its recommended tracks. Records he considered poor were relegated to a list of ungraded "Duds" or featured in a special November column dedicated to negative reviews (titled "Turkey Shoot"), with the highest possible grade a B-minus. [3]

Christgau refined his new format further as the 1990s progressed, anticipating the decade's rapid increase in music recording and the diversification of the CD into longer album lengths and archival releases. In 1992, he started a "Neither" (or "neither here nor there") category denoting albums unworthy of an "honorable mention" but better than "duds". The following year, an argument with fellow critic Eric Weisbard persuaded Christgau to review in each column a "Dud of the Month", which, unlike the "Turkey Shoot", featured "a fair number of dull, disappointing, or overhyped B's". In the book, Christgau advises consumers to regard anything graded B and lower as a failure. [4]

Eric Weisbard American music critic

Eric Weisbard is an American music critic known for founding the Pop Conference, which is hosted annually by the Museum of Pop Culture. He also organized the conference for many years.

Grading key

The book explains each grade as follows: [5]

Critical reception

Fellow critic Tom Hull, a colleague of Christgau and a resource for his previous 1980s record guide, [8] later adopted the book's grading schema for his own database of primarily jazz-based records and reviews. [9]

See also

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  1. Christgau 2000, p. iv.
  2. Murray et al. 2006.
  3. 1 2 Christgau 2000, p. vii–ix.
  4. Christgau 2000, p. ix.
  5. Christgau 2000, p. xvi.
  6. Christgau 2019.
  7. 1 2 "Key to Icons". Retrieved January 27, 2019.
  8. "CG 80s: Acknowledgements". Retrieved April 26, 2019.
  9. "Tom Hull Music Database". Retrieved April 26, 2019.


Further reading

Reviews and interviews about the book