Excerpt from The Consumed Guide
by Brian Joseph Davis
The Consumed Guide is a text composed from thousands of negative words and phrases assembled from 13, 090 reviews by Robert Christgau and turned into a single review:
A born liar, showing all the imagination of an ATM in the process, a certain petty honesty and jerk-off humor, a man without a context, a pompous, overfed con artist, a preening panderer, mythologizing his rockin’ ‘50s with all the ignorant cynicism of a punk poser, a propulsive flagwaver attached to UNESCO lyrics about people all over the world joining hands, a simpleton, but also a genuine weirdo, a spoiled stud past his prime, so that while he was always sexy he wasn’t always seductive, a stinker, from Jesus-rock to studio jollity, a tedious ideologue with a hustle, a tough talker diddles teenpop’s love button. Act authentic for too long and it begins to sound like an act even if it isn’t.
“Adult” grit and phrasing, affluent spirituality cum cornball romanticism from a florid New Age keyb maestro, ain’t nobody gonna boogie to the moons of Saturn. Air-kiss soul, alienated patriotic, all clotted surrealism and Geddy Lee theatrics, all form and no conviction, except for the conviction that form is everything. All he proves is that when you dwell on suffering you get pompous. An archetypal indie whiner.
Are there really adults who find sustenance in folk-pop that blurs all distinctions between the lyrical and the moony? Arrogant and enervated all at once, arrogantly catchy, artificially ripened singing, which goes down like a store-bought banana daiquiri.
Ass man, schlockmeister, cosmic slimeball. Attracts admirers by means of a principled arrogance that has no relation to his actual talents or accomplishments. Attributes not present: wit, joy, jokes, hooks. Auteur, whatever that means. Cocaine slanger, catchy on jezebels and dull on world peace. Close observation is still Creative Writing. Compares himself to Picasso whilst suing black people who sample his hooks.
Double-hoohah, doubly coy, doubly tonic, down from 48 percent to 35 at amiannoying.com, doyen of depression, dramatic paradiddles and sculpted streams of molten garage guitar, draws his phony drawl so tight he sounds like a singing penis.
Even his haphazardness is getting predictable, even his unnecessarily ideological heterosexuality is more an expression of mood than a statement of policy, even in 1968 he had too much dinosaur in him. He’s a case study in the moral inadequacy of authenticity, he’s a pomo sociophobe of a familiar and tedious sort, he’s about as hip hop as Christian Marclay, or at best the Art Ensemble of Chicago, he’s big on locations, spends an entire song convincing her to do it in a chair, he’s convinced me that I’ll get off on a white R & B singer from Savile Row the same day I give up Jack Daniel’s for sherry and join the Dartmouth Club.
Expert on tenderoni, expert trivialization of murder, explores realms of vocal inexpressiveness undreamt by Stephin Merritt or the Handsome Family. Limp aural satire, literary malfeasance, logical successor to Shaun Cassidy.
Fizzle-prone chart charges, flute solo and a middle-aged man gasping in the throes of sexual excitation. For a dumb tribulations-of-a-rock-star epic, this isn’t bad.
Funnier than the Chipmunks, give him that. Furious negativist then, goofy nature mystic now, fusoid, fussy as Streisand, ugly as sin, touched with grace. Makes much more than most out of waving his dick, expanding his mind, makes music for stewardesses if ever there was such a thing, makes the sex life of an aging punk in an overgrown college town sound active, raunchy, and not without spiritual rewards, making callow belligerence seem an unmitigated virtue.
Generic American hunk, only whiter because he’s Canadian. Likable protest novelties, like an English Grand Funk gone disco, like Ian hunter or Roger Chapman though without their panache, like Kinky Friedman with a sense of humor, like most hereditary bohemians was brought up to think he’s better than normal people, like protest singers, novelty artists put too much strain on the words, like Star Wars or Windows 95, he unlocks the gate to a luxurious passivity. Limited sentiment in any case.
The motherfucker realizes that metalheads will throw money at you long after your hip cachet has gone the way of your hard-on. Minor popster, major wiseass, and great lost indie-rocker. Genius teensploitation, genuine Americana, gets chicken grease on a young thing’s pantyhose, gets sloppier and samier as his adolescence becomes more figurative. More dreck from your unfriendly doomsaying hitmaker, more entertaining than Anthony Braxton and Wallace Stevens put together.
Gosh, what a terrific idea—a concept album about a cocksure rock and roller who Cannot Love. Manipulative pseudocertainty, manly empathy and world-weary remorse of the big-rock balladeer, the mess a lesser talent would have barfed up years ago. The modernizations of sometime coproducer Dave Stewart mitigate the neoconservative aura somewhat. Has Indie Lifer stamped on its copyright notice.
Hayseed manqué, he chose metal over Vegas because Vegas wouldn’t have him. He denoodled. He even has jowls. Maybe he’s better off not aiming for masterpieces.
He grooves his overpaid pickup band, he tells Jeff Beck what to do, he writes love songs for every occasion, he hectors like a crank politician would hector if the politician were a rock singer, he makes with the free-love smarm, he may yet give a fuck, he pixilates his pseudosex with studio sensationalism, he reclaims his perpetually threatened manhood.
He shrivels into irrelevancy. I find his success very depressing. The work of a man who thinks he’s too big for music. The reactionary stratagems of one more crappy pop star. The rich are always with us.
He speeds up the schlock and, it still sounds like schlock, he still can’t resist ballads, a big mistake for a man who spells l-u-v like c-u-m.
New jack love man, he’s even more adenoidal than his worthy forebears, he’s the worst singer I’ve ever heard. Nastiest wimp since Ron Mael.
Label-changing ceremony, laid-back contagion, leftwing, hyperemotional, supercompetent persona, legacy beats, less experimental beatwise, lesser clichés, lesser horrors. Lets you know he has balls by singing as though someone is twisting them.
His amused, mildly funky self-involvement at its sharpest and sexiest, his breakthrough is a mutation, not a fruition, his child-voiced consort, his foil-wrapped condom turns out to be Chanukah gelt, his follow-up crossed PG-13 thug and subpar Luther Vandross, his imitation of Joe Cocker’s Ray Charles imitation is almost OK, his life in the bush of a fully-formed middle-class music scene. His PG rating isn’t scruples, it’s cowardice. Suffers from Jackson Browne’s syndrome. They’ve let him put some of his art therapy on the cover. Thinks up reasons why the planet should adjust to his mental reflexes.
Theoretical dandy, sounded hot, acted cold, ran out of riffs, sounds as if there’s more to a man’s life than the parlous fate of his latest erection, sounds like a strangling werewolf commercial, sounds like he should leave his therapist, not his group, sounds like Jello Biafra discovered the Stooges in 1977, sounds like Steve Miller bunny-hopping with Gary Lewis & the Playboys toward the Isle of Wimp. Stereo potato into overweight lover. Stevie Winwood is no longer the best Stevie Winwood in the world, this no-talent is masscult rock at its most brazen.
Takes the aimless vapidity of ambient another step toward total stasis, talk-sings like a demented trucker, drag racer, or metal animal tantrum set to music. Ten years of falling-down flakedom only a cultist could love or even appreciate.
His productivity isn’t exuberance, it’s greed, his purity is a candid affectation—a standard variation on late alt’s agoraphobic cultivation of ineptitude as a token of spiritual superiority, his record is a case study in the Europeanness of English heavy metal, his seducerama is in the manner of an aging matinee idol who isn’t quite as famous as he thinks he is. His short-lived “new-wave” bent surfaces. Sings as if he’s doing sitar impressions, sings like there’s a cattle prod at his scrotum.
Serves up his progress in modest and reliable doses, oversinging like Michael Bolton at a Perot rally, raps better than Rodney Dangerfield, and sings dull tunes landscaped with eerie licks, odd bridges, and a hyperactive rhythm section. Over-the-hill blowhards gotta stick together.
Song-doctored fabrications, songs are as pissed off as a millionaire can be, packs the voice of Merry Clayton into the body of Gertrude Stein. His wet croon, nuanced adenoids, historical anguish, histrionic understatement and vague specificity, hologram soul, homemade Beatles, hostile but not asocial. Pussy comes so easy now that he no longer bothers to hone his come-on. How little guitar gods know of the world.
Jocularly misogynist, now officially a menace, just a handsome dilettante enjoying his easy tunes and found beats, just another case of “substance” as novelty. No matter what your voice teachers tell you, wackiness is not something to modulate.
Populist intentions far outstrips the depth of his populist perceptions, poseur maudit, poster boy of the American Agony Association. One thing alt-rock produces in superfluity is nice guys, one thing’s sure—this is shitty background music. Oneness with nature under conditions of artificial gravity, one-sided masterpiece. Ooze is embraced. Rock bricolage, rock-or-die drums, romantic egoist of the old school, ruthlessly atypical young careerist.
Scarcely less pompous when servicing the marketplace than when expressing himself in the privacy of his own throwaways—schlock has roots, too. Sci-fi ecopessimism, self-congratulatory, self-consciously Artistic, self-consciously noncanonical market ploy. Wiggy abstraction of his self-regard. Whatever his significance, a cornball is a cornball is a cornball.
Sixties Schmixties, slacker version of the pretentious asshole, slightly salacious humanism, slogging toward stardom for so long he never noticed what happened to Shaun Cassidy. Slowly receding into alienated resignation, small but engrossing orgasms stretching into an infinite future, smarmy piece of sexist pseudosoul. Too-idealistic-for-this-world straight-edge avatar, smarter than Cat Stevens, sexier than Norman Vincent Peale. So R & B that for incomprehensibility’s sake he outsources some patois.
Sociopolitical inauthentic, solicitousness that’s strangely chilling, somehow sui generis and foreordained at the same time. Sometimes I think the little girls don’t understand a damn thing.
Vaguely anti-authoritarian, vaguely irritating pop exotics. Very few listeners actually enjoy songs in which snobbish dandies trot out their sexual egomania—actually seems to boast about how fast he can ejaculate.
Vocabulary of grunts, squeals, hiccups, moans, and asides is a vivid reminder that he’s grown up. Voices promise whipped-cream sex that’ll taste of mackerel in the morning. Wallowing in otiose thug fantasies and bathetic hater-hating, hiring big names who collect their checks and go, he is indeed hateful if not altogether devoid of musical ideas.
Weak-mindedness passing itself off as spirituality. Weird and tricky—you’ve been middle-aged and liberal since you were fifteen.