Sunday, September 29, 2013

The end of EW and tributes to Robert Christgau

It's a sad and beautiful thing at once. A couple of weeks ago, news filtered through that MSN were cutting down on their original content, and in turn letting their writers go. Among the casualties would be Robert Christgau and his Expert Witness blog. EW has been an outlet for Christgau's music writing since 2010, after he was let go from the Village Voice – a paper he helped to shape into one of the finest places to read about music and culture – a few years earlier, and writing a short-lived version of his Consumer Guide for MSN in between. That one of music journalisms giants once again would lose an outlet is a crying shame, and an indication of how poorly culture journalism at large is treated these days.

Via the community that over the years has formed around the EW blog (hats off in particular to Cam Patterson and Jeffey Melnick), people have been invited to write a few words, a testimonial, in honor of Christgau and his work, a tribute to the blog and the rather unique place that is the comment section, a place which has been (almost entirely) refreshingly free of trolls and other internet evils, and instead a venue for discussions big and small about Christgau's writing, music, culture, politics and other topics of interest

Since the last reviews were posted this Friday, tributes have been pouring in from readers, music fans, fellow writers and critics, and musicians, Chuck Cleaver (of the Ass Ponys and Wussy) and Adam Weiner (Low Cut Connie) among them.

The testimonials have told stories of discovery, inspiration, personal encounters, and much, much more. All have been worthy reads, to various degrees touching, and inspirational themselves. I was trigger happy, and posted a few words a week early, and added some further thoughts on Friday. As an attempt at explaining what makes Christgau one of a kind, and why he's been such an inspiration, my words were inadequate. However, fellow critic and writer Joe Levy stepped up and with his lovely tribute, which I'll allow myself to qoute a few pertinent lines from, pretty much hits the nail on the head:

"The reading [of Christgau's writing] has opened up worlds of new music, of course, but also something else: new ways of thinking, of being in the world. Music is about these things. But so much writing about music is like talking about music. That is, it’s about matters of taste: I like this, you like that, and here’s why everyone who feels differently than we do is wrong, wrong, wrong. 

Bob’s writing is about something else. Many somethings else, in fact. Culture and politics, you bet, but also the whole panoply of experience summed up in that moment right at the start of the New York Dolls’ “Human Being,” when Johnny Thunders invents the Ramones and David Johansen restates the entirety of John Locke’s social contract with these words: “If I’m acting like a king, well, that’s 'cause I’m a human being.” And also a lot stuff about love, and about fighting for your right to party with the same person for as long as possible."

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