Thursday, August 31, 2006

The Dean Is Dead

So distracted I've been of late by all the News-Press horribleness that I've ignored a worse calamity in the world of journalism--the final take-down of all that's good in the Village Voice. Sure, you could say the Voice ran its course when it cut its insightful sports section or even with the death of Lester Bangs, but I've always been sentimental about it, even constructing an entire Voice v. New Yorker "what kind of reader are you?" dichotomy that totally ignores my love of Pauline Kael and is simply a way to make me feel cooler than I am or ever will be.

That said, the Voice, now owned by New Times, canned Robert Christgau today, which sort of means it ripped out its own heart, although that's probably the wrong organ. For as much as Xgau claims he likes good songs with a good beat and his reviews often spout the dance/sex talk, that talk often sounds like this, "In fact, I access punk with much the same part of myself that loves Thelonious Monk, who, like punk, buzzes the synapses while stimulating gross motor function, a metaphor and catharsis designed for the modern city."

But that might be the very reason I like him, how he comes at music with a sure love for it that's ever-intellectualized. There's a charm to that, pausing his pogo for his beloved Ramones just enough to wonder what it all means, but still being willing to surrender to pleasure. At times his Consumer Guide entries in particular can seem as if they are glosses to essays much longer, and they're so tight that trying to access them can be impossible--it's as if there's a decoder ring that didn't come with your issue of the Voice, but that ring is really Christgau's head. For he seems to have heard nearly everything, and remembered it, and formed erudite sentences about it, and remembered those, too. Like his former Voice compatriot Andrew Sarris, at times the sheer volume of what they know is the actual show. But that, of course, means if you can glide by the gaps you're going to learn something. There's numerous groups I first got turned onto by Christgau, and you can forgive a lot of pretentiousness for that.


Blogger Tom Hilton said...

I've never been a regular Voice reader (hmmm...I do read the New Yorker, so I suppose that puts me on the other side of the divide) but I do have the two record guides he did, and it's always fun to browse through them and savor his brief but astute (and often hilariously cutting) blurbs. Sorry to see him get the boot.

8:04 AM  

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