Fun With Lists!
It should be obvious to anyone who has ever read this blog that I love lists. Best albums by year, by genre, by band (ranked), etc. I like to bitch about other people’s lists and choices, love to complain about what they missed and why they ranked such a crappy album so high. I get red in the face, that little vein on the side of my neck starts to pulsate and I love every minute of it. I have 2 main targets: Pitchfork.com and Rolling Stone Magazine. Rolling Stone is an easy target as they, like the bands they champion, haven’t been relevant as a source for new music discoveries for at least 4 decades. Pitchfork, on the other hand, can be quite relevant, at times, but arguing over their decimal point rating system seems like an exercise in futility, at best. It seems to me that they just try too hard to find the hippest new bands to champion, kind of like what the British rags do. And, like the NME/Melody Maker/Sounds were (as 2 out of the 3 are now defunct) they are more often than not proved wrong by the passage of time.
Back to lists. A friend of mine, Canadian Dave, sent me a copy of Gary Mulholland’s list book entitled “This Is Uncool”: The 500 Greatest Singles Since Punk and Disco” a few years back, and it’s one of those books that you can keep going back to and find something a little different to inspire that particular weeks music rotation. The list is chronological, by year, and each New Year is accompanied by a few paragraphs on what went on, historically speaking, during that year to put the following songs in context. He also interjects some personal anecdotes in there as well which personalizes the whole thing and to keep the proceedings from becoming sterile.
He states that, and I’m paraphrasing, that “people who cite the albums as their favorites in a particular band’s discography (as opposed to ‘greatest hits’) either work at a record store or are just deluding themselves.” I, of course, think that’s a pile of doggie doo-doo. Never mind the guy went on to publish an album oriented version of his singles book; that argument doesn’t hold water for a number of reasons. What are albums if not a collection of SINGLE songs, anyway? And why are the ‘deep cuts’ within an album often times the favorites of music fans around the globe? He misses the point of being a true music fan, in my opinion. That is to say that the deepest, lasting pleasures music can give are the one’s that last decades, and they ain’t based on the ‘popular cuts’ off an album. Singles are like short stories, or an episode of your favorite TV show; fleeting moments that give you pleasure and immediate satisfaction but grow annoying over time and don’t warrant repeat visits. A good album is like a good movie, and is most satisfactory when its pleasures reveal themselves over time. You must invest time. Think of anything worthwhile and long lasting in your life and I’ll bet it’s something you worked real hard at to achieve. Right?
Hit singles have their place, but they’re fleeting things, an important piece of the pie but a piece of the pie nonetheless. They are the fruitcakes of the music industry, tasty at first but not very satisfactory and sometimes damn repellant upon future tastings.
Yes, ever since the advent of the CD and the longer time allowed by that particular format artists have seemed to have the need to fill it at the expense of overall quality, for the most part. Every album is now a double album, and that’s not always a good thing. But I’ll take one of those over a few overplayed singles any day of the week.
See? I told you lists were fun!