Thursday, January 12, 2012

Spin and Christgau compete for short-attention spans

Posted By on Thu, Jan 12, 2012 at 11:17 AM

Unless the only publication you pick up is the Nation, you may have noticed that reviews by music critics (and arts writers in general) have gotten progressively shorter.

Now Spin is attempting to push the trend, announcing yesterday that it'll be tweeting well over a hundred album reviews each month.

Spin senior editor Christopher Weingarten breathed pretty heavily while explaining his revolutionary approach:

“We are completely changing the way we approach reviews. The @SPINreviews Twitter feed is a massive undertaking, aiming to be an exhaustively definitive listener’s guide and argument-starter for virtually every album or EP or mixtape that matters in 2012. Within the confines of a 140-character tweet, we’re hoping to take on more than 1,500 new records this calendar year alone, all reviewed by our eight in-house editors and a team of a dozen valued freelancers. As someone who survived writing 1,000 Tweet reviews in 2009, I can assure you it’s a project often as difficult to pursue correctly as a 1,000-word essay… and I wager it’s a lot more fun to read."

All of which prompted editor Everett True to respond:

"Go fuck yourselves, you bunch of cynical, gimmick-grabbing blowhards. If what you’re doing means so little to you, then why the fuck do it?"

Why indeed? Especially when renowned music critic Robert Christgau already pioneered, and arguably mastered, the short-form music review long before Weingarten composed his first laborious tweets.

Christgau was the Village Voice's music critic up until the New Times chain took over the paper and fired all its talented and/or principled writers. Christgau now writes for, which this morning published an essay in which he ponders his favorite albums for 2011. (Read it here).

Christau's list, it turns out, contains 107 albums, which he compiled by going through all the records he reviewed over the last 12 months and including only the ones he graded A-minus or above.

In past years, he explains, the number of high grades was considerably lower, because he included a selection of one-sentence "Honorable Mentions" that ate up time he could have spent investigating more rewarding records.

Anyway, here's a sample review from each, so you can judge for yourself.

From Christgau:

Wild Flag, "Wild Flag" [Merge, 2011]
Such is the sad state of indie that two Sleater-Kinney stalwarts can reconnect six years later and just like that power up the most explosive rock album in years. Sure ex-Minder Rebecca Cole's organ adds thickness and punch; sure ex-Helium Mary Timony adds dream and, crucially, ax. But the shaker is obviously Carrie Brownstein, yelping like Richard Hell as Timony shreds like Ivan Julian, and the mover is Janet Weiss, who for some reason never sounds like the greatest drummer in the world with anyone else. Bouncing off each other like loaded dice, they could make you cry once you're away long enough to think about it. But then you realize that Timony is still a space case and Brownstein writes too many songs about music. One that isn't is "Racehorse," keyed to the wickedly non-indie line "We're in the money." Here's hoping she figures out how to keep it. A-

And from @SPINreviews:

SYMMETRY/Themes For An Imaginary Film: Johnny Jewel’s official/unofficial 'Drive' score arpeggiates, pulses. For real human beings. #BS#8

Personally, I think Christgau's worth your extra minute.

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