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end of an era
September 1, 2006 10:23 PM   Subscribe

the voice fires robert christgau the decimation of what was once the village voice continues apace.
posted by sdn (42 comments total)

 
I'm not from New York, or the US, so I guess I probably miss why the loss of Christgau is a big deal— every time I've seen him mentioned in the past four or five years, it's been legions of people rolling their eyes at the concept that he has any idea what is good music.

I didn't know he was 64. That's pretty impressive.
posted by blacklite at 10:32 PM on September 1, 2006


does that mean he gets an "e"?
posted by pyramid termite at 10:40 PM on September 1, 2006


Some days back here on the MeFi front page someone rather ignorantly wondered out loud if anyone outside of NYC even cared about The New Yorker magazine anymore. But the Voice, now there's a rag that you could say the same about, without much fear of anyone disagreeing with you.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 11:14 PM on September 1, 2006


They also just fired at least one music editor at one of the former New Times papers (Village Voice Media merged with New Times last year) on really shoddy pretenses. Essentially, he was a good editor who kept things very local, and they were pushing (on him and ALL their other music editors) a very jokey, national style for all the papers.

My guess? VVM is intending to transition all its papers into homogenized, jokey, national-trendy arts and music rags, then fire most of the local staff, keeping on a few stringers for flavor. Then, they can have all the main editorial content syndicated from their main office without anyone bitching.
posted by InnocentBystander at 11:29 PM on September 1, 2006


In the past few years Christgau may not hit the mark as much as he used to, but I think that he's still as reliable and relevant as any other music critic currently working. But since he’s part of the old guard and has become an elder statesman of music criticism he’s become the disgruntled music fan’s punching-bag that it’s hip to hate. If you’re going to devote any energy to hating Christgau, I’d like to know what current music reviewers you do like and/or rely on. Or do you just hate the idea of music critics? I disagree with him as much as I agree with him, but outside of Jack Rabid, I can’t think of another music reviewer that I can’t say that about.

He’s not as cutting edge as he used to be (and I don’t think he ever claims to be), but he still covers a wide range of music with a knowledge of current trends and a historical context to put it in. And that's becoming a rarity in music criticism.

In my early days of record buying madness he was pivotal in me discovering lots of my favorite records. Quite often even a bad review of his could send me to the record store to buy an album. That’s one of the nice things about becoming familiar with a critics tastes and biases, you know when you can trust them and when you should seek a second opinion.

Thanks to the diversity of the internet and the abundance of places to read about new music, there’s not as much need anymore for a wide-net, one-stop-shop music reviewer. I tend to care less now about stars/ratings and just want enough information to know what a new band sounds like. Maybe enough other people think that as well and that’s why critics like him are on the way out. I’d be lying if I said I still religiously read every column, but I will miss having him around. At least now I know that I never have to go to the Village Voice web site again unless I’m visiting New York.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 11:53 PM on September 1, 2006


They did the same thing at the LA Reader when it was absorbed by New Times: at first all sunny promises and kittens, then Black Sunday-type firings, coupled with insults and derision.

And I gotta disagree with flapjax. The Voice is the granddaddy/touchstone of all alt newsweeklies. Comparing it to the New Yorker is apples and oranges: The New Yorker is local in name but national in outlook; the Voice is the opposite -- a hometown paper for Manhattan (and to some extent, the boroughs), with national news and opionion that doesn't play so well off-island. There's a reason they call it the "Village" Voice.

Also, circulation is somewhere between 250-300K -- more than many "major" metro dailies. Somebody's reading it, and they definitely care what happens to it.
posted by turducken at 12:02 AM on September 2, 2006


So is it still 50% ads for hookers?
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 12:08 AM on September 2, 2006 [1 favorite]


See, I didn't even know it was an alt weekly. It's pretty easy to go through life not actually coming across the Village Voice these days- not to say it sucks, but it seems like no one's happy unless they have global appeal and readership these days, and perhaps that's what these changes are toward.

If it's the "granddaddy/touchstone of all alt newsweeklies", it's pretty much gotta be, TheOnlyCoolTim. 50% ads for 'escorts', 20 pages of full-page ads for mediocre music at nightclubs, 15 pages of reviews of okay local bands, 5 pages of theatre reviews, 1 page of a gay guy talking about being gay, four comics, and a half-page of sarcastic commentary on news somewhere near the front.

Still better than USA Today, though.
posted by blacklite at 12:33 AM on September 2, 2006


My father, living in Ottawa, would go out and buy the Village Voice each and every week for years.

They fired my friend Elizabeth Zimmer too. She was the dance editor.

And for those of you who have no idea what the Village Voice is and was (TheOnlyCoolTim, blacklite), you might consider taking even a few seconds to find out why people care about it before exposing your ignorance to the rest of the world.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 12:56 AM on September 2, 2006


Metafilter: Exposing your ignorance to the rest of the world.
posted by Justinian at 1:14 AM on September 2, 2006 [1 favorite]


"Some people swear by us...other people swear AT us."

And most people outside New York City, ignorantly or not, just don't give a fuck.

Your favorite freebie "weekly newspaper that eschews comprehensive coverage of general news in favor of opinionated reviews and columns, investigations into edgy topics and magazine-style feature stories highlighting local people and culture" sucks.
posted by pracowity at 1:40 AM on September 2, 2006


....wondered out loud if anyone outside of NYC even cared about The New Yorker magazine anymore. But the Voice, now there's a rag that you could say the same about, without much fear of anyone disagreeing with you.

Well, I have to disagree with you. In they eyes of many, myself included, The New Yorker is the best Eng lang magazine in the world. Lots of people care about it, everywhere.
When I was a kid in London, Ont. I used to go to the library and read The Village Voice too - it was a window into this exotic, exciting world. Then I went out into the world and found that every big city a fairly passable imitation of the VV. It may be the original, the biggest and the best, but I doubt it matters too much for those outside of NYC.
Indeed, for Christgau this might be an opportunity to move on/up to a proper national platform - I'm sure the offers will abound. I wouldn't be surprised if we even started seeing his byline on Pitchfork reviews soon.
posted by Flashman at 2:06 AM on September 2, 2006


The new management preemptively failed when they ditched Chuck Eddy...
posted by hototogisu at 2:29 AM on September 2, 2006


Good riddance.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 3:13 AM on September 2, 2006


Flashman, if you had read my above comment a little more carefully, you'd realize that we are actually in agreement, not disagreement. I didn't make the comment about the New Yorker being irrelevant to people outside NYC. That comment, which I indicated was a rather ignorant one, was made in this post. What I said was that one could say that about about the Voice: that no one outside NYC particularly cares about it. Understand? Good!

Anyway, I'd also argue that very few people in NYC particularly care about it anymore. Almost everyone I knew in New York during the 11 years I lived there really didn't care for the Voice. It was handy for the event listings, and the occasional decent article, but then so was the NYPress, which was free, and which was also the impetus for the Voice ultimately dropping the price down to gratis as well. The Voice was, for years, just so full of writers taking swipes at each other, it became incredibly incestuous and suffocating. Actually, in that regard, it was a little like MetaFilter at its worst... But MetaFilter at its best is better than the Voice ever was.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 3:14 AM on September 2, 2006


Well, I got what you were saying in the first part (but still went ahead and twisted it disingenuously) but ok I *did* misunderstand the second part to mean the opposite of what I guess you was meanin.
I guess we'll just have to agree to agree.
posted by Flashman at 3:49 AM on September 2, 2006 [1 favorite]


Odd too that we have something like this on Metafilter the same AM. So deliciously appropos to talking about the VV.
posted by Flashman at 3:53 AM on September 2, 2006


I sort of support concept of the "old school" VV in principle, given that it employed writers like Christgau, Eddy, Simon Reynolds... but with so much smart writing available on the net I haven't picked it up in years.

Perhaps the majority of music criticism - carried out instead on blogs, Pitchfork, ILM etc - will return to being a hobby rather than a career?
posted by Spacelegoman at 4:21 AM on September 2, 2006


They fired my friend Elizabeth Zimmer too. She was the dance editor.

hey, i know elizabeth too. now i need to go and empathize with her.
posted by sdn at 5:07 AM on September 2, 2006


MetaFilter: 50% ads for 'escorts', 20 pages of full-page ads for mediocre music at nightclubs, 15 pages of reviews of okay local bands, 5 pages of theatre reviews, 1 page of a gay guy talking about being gay, four comics, and a half-page of sarcastic commentary on news somewhere near the front.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 5:25 AM on September 2, 2006


> My guess? VVM is intending to transition all its papers into homogenized, jokey, national-trendy
> arts and music rags,

Hey, fake hippies need a USA Today of their own.
posted by jfuller at 5:31 AM on September 2, 2006


They fired my friend Elizabeth Zimmer too. She was the dance editor.

She asked me how I came up with the name Totally Ditmo for a dance piece. I told her that I had a dream where a friend told me that the next piece I did had better be totally ditmo, (whatever that means.)

In her review she said I couldn't even come up with an original name, so I had taken the name from a friend.

And she's fat and ate a big sandwich during the performance.
posted by StickyCarpet at 6:35 AM on September 2, 2006


"Village Voice Media merged with New Times last year"

Ha, ha!

If your paper didn't suck before, it's guaranteed to suck now!
posted by majick at 7:04 AM on September 2, 2006


StickyCarpet: And she's fat and ate a big sandwich during the performance.

Did she order her own sandwich or did she have a friend order it for her?
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 7:09 AM on September 2, 2006


I'm a major Robert Christgau fan*, and this does amaze me.

I've looked for, but haven't found, any of the "so much good writing on the internet" that betters Christgau. That is, nothing to replace the work of someone who has listened to just about every notable bit of music released in the last 37 years and thought and worked to dig out the meaning of it and enjoy it at the same time.

Yes, he has his idiosyncrasies, and his writing has gotten too dense, like a graduate thesis. But jaysus, do all those years of great writing and labor over the VV mean nothing? Does some MeFi-approved ass in retro glasses, with all indie creds in place, the guy who isn't -- gasp -- grumpy, actually know music that deeply?

*and a major Pauline Kael fan and, what the hell, an atheist as well so I'm on my way to Most Despised Person.
posted by argybarg at 7:09 AM on September 2, 2006


One tip: Don't send Christgau your CD to review, then call him up at home and ask if he listened to it yet.

He'll tell you he was a warehouse full of CDs he never listens to and then hang up on you.

posted by nonmyopicdave at 7:34 AM on September 2, 2006


I say good riddance too.

His reviews are a paragraph each of complete nonsense, sometimes impossible to tell what the hell he's talking about or even if he liked the album. Then he lists a bunch of "winners" and "duds" as if that was enough to inspire you to investigate the music he lists. A waste of space.

If you ever wanted a stereotypical snooty alt-weekly writer, Christgau is your man. (A close second is J. Hoberman.)
posted by fungible at 8:14 AM on September 2, 2006


And most people outside New York City, ignorantly or not, just don't give a fuck. Comments like this make the feeling mutual.
posted by DenOfSizer at 8:19 AM on September 2, 2006


What argybarg said. Christgau hasn't been cutting-edge for years, but then neither have I. He inspired me to go out and buy dozens of records I might never have heard of. He was a huge part of the Voice when it still meant something to a lot of people, and for them to dump him now means they've given up on meaning anything to people ever again.
posted by languagehat at 8:56 AM on September 2, 2006


And most people outside New York City, ignorantly or not, just don't give a fuck.

I might feel this way if New Times wasn't also running off the entire Seattle Weekly staff, too.

Not that the Weekly is the best weekly in Seattle, but they've run off all the writers who could actually write.
posted by dw at 9:41 AM on September 2, 2006


And for those of you who have no idea what the Village Voice is and was (TheOnlyCoolTim, blacklite), you might consider taking even a few seconds to find out why people care about it before exposing your ignorance to the rest of the world.

I don't know what the Village Voice may have been in its heyday, but I know that when I used to pick it up once in a while, a couple years back, there sure were a ton of hooker ads. 50% is hyperbole, but it was probably the biggest single section of the paper, definitely a significant percentage.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 9:46 AM on September 2, 2006


I don't particularly like Christgau or his writing (or his self-importance). But I can and do appreciate the unique take he brings, and in a world that has become all Pitchfork-ized and Blender-ized, that is a rare commodity. The Village Voice has fallen into the same fate as every other alt-weekly bought by the New Times Media (now called Village Voice Media) has, including the San Francisco Weekly and the East Bay Express.

Here's an October 2005 column by Bay Area music writer Neva Chonin on the Stepfordization of the Village Voice. As she quotes Jeff Chang as writing, "There is no longer anything 'alternative' about the alternative."
posted by blucevalo at 9:52 AM on September 2, 2006


I don't know what the Village Voice may have been in its heyday, but I know that when I used to pick it up once in a while, a couple years back, there sure were a ton of hooker ads.

Pretty much most big-city alt-weeklies are 50% hooker and massage and phone sex line ads.
posted by blucevalo at 9:56 AM on September 2, 2006




Someone at the Times needs to look up the real meaning of the word decimate. I know it's a holiday weekend and all, but get on the ball copy desk!
posted by CunningLinguist at 11:45 AM on September 2, 2006


for them to dump him now means they've given up on meaning anything to people ever again.

Or they've given up on him meaning anything to people ever again.
posted by pracowity at 11:47 AM on September 2, 2006


Doesn't this offer NYC folks a golden opportunity to start up a--gasp!--alternative newspaper? It could take ads from head shops. Hippies could hawk it on street corners in the Village. And it would be beholden to no one and could Speak Truth To Power.
posted by jfuller at 12:23 PM on September 2, 2006


Revive the East Village Other!
posted by languagehat at 12:45 PM on September 2, 2006


jfuller, honest question--have you ever been to NYC? I like to visit when I can, and I've never seen a "hippie" there. Did NYC shoot your dog or something?
posted by bardic at 1:00 PM on September 2, 2006


Ah, the East Village Other. And there used to be similar "free press" rags in cities across the countryin the 60's. Go R. Crumb (publishing in the New Yorker these days!?!).

And the Village Voice...I would subscribe to it to mentally escape the Midwest in the 70's. But it slipped into irrelevance and stupidity (and, yes, hooker ads) years ago. The firing of Christagau hardly comes as a surprise.
posted by kozad at 1:08 PM on September 2, 2006


> jfuller, honest question--have you ever been to NYC?

Repeatedly, over about 40 years.


> I like to visit when I can, and I've never seen a "hippie" there.

Return with us now to the long-ago Village of 1968... Trust me, there have been hippies. Are there truly no long-haired peaceniks in all of NYC now? If true then the Republicans win I mean very likely that has something to do with the straits the Voice finds itself in, and reviving it would involve restoring the Village's long-haired-peacenik population to its former glory. Breed 'em in captivity and release 'em into the wild, like wolves in Yellowstone.


> Did NYC shoot your dog or something?

Not at all, I meant my question seriously. Nothing lasts forever, and if the Voice is going into rigor and starting to smell funny, then why not take that as a sign that it needs replacing with a counterculture sort of publication that isn't into its Alzheimers years? Hell, if nobody up there has had that thought you clearly need some hippies, they were so very entrepreneurial--always starting up bong'n'poster shops and beads'n'sandals pushcarts and alternative weeklies. Just arrange an influx of hippies from somewhere (capture a starter set at SXSW maybe) and I guarantee you several of them will clump together automatically and POOF there's your new counterculture tabloid, its very prose giving off little puffs of incense and dope smoke.
posted by jfuller at 6:31 AM on September 3, 2006 [1 favorite]


Christgau fans can still get their fix here.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 4:58 PM on September 6, 2006


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