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TWILIGHT OF THE ROCK CRIT

X-Gau.jpeg

The turbulence and ructions bedeviling the Village Voice have finally resulted in the inevitable, the firing of Robert Christgau (above), or X-Gau, as he is known in Rock Snob circles. Yesterday, he sent this e-mail out to his faithful:

“It is now official–Village Voice Media fired me today, ‘for taste,’ which means (among other things) slightly sweeter severance. This despite the support of new music editor Rob Harvilla, who I like as a person and a writer. We both believed I had won myself some kind of niche as gray eminence. So I was surprised Tuesday when I was among the eight Voice employees (five editorial, three art) who were instructed to bring their union reps to a meeting with upper management today. But I certainly wasn’t shocked–my approach to music coverage has never been much like that of the New Times papers.

“Bless the union, my severance is substantial enough to give me time to figure out what I’m doing next. In fact, having finished all my freelance reviews yesterday, I don’t have a single assignment pending. So, since I have no intention of giving up rock criticism, all reasonable offers entertained; my phone number is in the book, as they used to say when there were books. What I don’t need is a vacation–the three of us just had a great two and a half weeks, and Nina matriculated at BMCC yesterday.”

There’s no gloating to be done over this man’s dismissal from the paper he’s worked at for almost four decades, but, as folks like Jim Wolcott have said, X-Gau should have diversified his portfolio a long time ago; there should be more to his professional life than grading records in the Voice’s Consumer Guide and reviewing concerts and such. Maybe X-Gau will catch on at Mojo, or maybe he’ll surprise us with some thoughtful memoirist articles like this one, a lovely career retrospective published by the Los Angeles Times’s Robert Hilburn in July.

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Hilburn (pictured above, with Keef), now semi-retired, has been at it even longer than X-Gau, and yet he’s aged more gracefully, coming across less as a relic clinging to a dying constituency and more like a man for whom age has not dimmed his ardor for an abiding passion, rock music. The antithesis of the exclusionary Crit Snob, Hilburn is an enthusiast who never let his writing become cryptic and impenetrable; he takes pleasure in turning on non-Snob civilians to the music he likes.

With Hilburn and X-Gau fading out of the picture, we must now reckon that the twilight of the major American rock critic is upon us. (Lester Bangs flamed out early and got all the glory for doing so.) Greil Marcus has moved on to bigger subjects, and Dave Marsh is more of a curator these days, keeping busy at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. All the serious action is online now, so visit the sites listed in the Snobroll at right.

September 01, 2006 More Rock Snobbery »

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