Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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How to Use These Appendices

Right, there's no way this book can be comprehensive. But you can't blame a guy for dreaming. So the first four appendices are attempts to cover up gaps I already know exist, as opposed to those I'm certain to discover later. Subjects for Further Research is an optimistic designation (borrowed from Andrew Sarris's The American Cinema) for artists who one way or another deserve more attention than the critic can give them. Genres I have no feel for, artists whose best work is hard to find on U.S. albums, oddities and oddballs with impressive critical or popular support, titans in decline or in holding patterns, and people I like but never found time to sort out are all included. (So are four artists on the U.N. Special Committee Against Apartheid's register of performers who have lent implicit support to Pretoria by working in South Africa. I have problems with cultural boycotts, but this is a case where solidarity is paramount, so I've relegated violators to '80s limbo.) Distinctions Not Cost-Effective dispatches artists unlikely to repay the time it would take me (or you) to cull their not-so-bad from their not-so-good. Meltdown lists artists unworthy of the time it would take to dispatch them. And New Wave names two hundred "alternative," "postpunk" artists that somebody out there likes--toward the top, maybe even me--but that after two or three (or five or ten) full plays I adjudged, well, unnewsworthy, just too minor to merit the space it would take to describe them. Unlike the first three appendices, this one is in roughly preferential rather than precisely alphabetical order.

After that there's a compilation index arranged by category that should prove especially useful in African music, where many of the finest U.S.-available albums are multiple-artist collections now strewn alphabetically by titles no one can remember throughout the text. Then there's a basic rock library with its own explanatory introduction. Next a long cross-index I've taken to calling "The A Lists": every A+, A, and A- I've found in the '80s, arranged by preference within each year. And finally there's a brief glossary of acronyms, biz and rockcrit jargon, and world-music terms.

So right, I'm a list freak. Go crazy.

Christgau's Record Guide: The '80s, 1990

Z Subjects for Further Research