Alright, it’s confession time, people. The following is a very frank and painful list of a very specific type of album — those albums you have always loved and will always love, and yet, despite owning the album on cd, on your computer, and on your iPod (or your Zune, if you’re the CEO of Zune), you just never listen to them.
This is my own personal list of cds that fall into this dubious category, as well as my best attempt to make sense of this unique, baffling, but nonetheless inevitable phenomenon. Albums are ordered from 10 to 1 based on a combined “How much I love the album” multiplied by a factor of “How surprised am I that I never really listen to it anymore.” Here goes:
10. Guns N’ Roses – Appetite For Destruction
I’ll still name drop this sucker in a discussion of all-time best debut albums (right after They’re All Gonna Laugh At You, of course), and the credit it receives for ending hair metal as a means of viable unironic entertainment is well-deserved, but I’ll always personally remember Appetite as the tape that my brother used to slip me behind my mother’s back that had F-words on it. How is it, then, that I never even thought to upload this seminal, nostalgic favorite to my most recent iPod? I blame sh*tty karaoke.
9. Dead Kennedys – Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables
Ahh, the Dead Kennedys. Another band whose discovery made me again reassured that I was right and that everyone who was listening to everything else was wrong and a douchebag. The Kennedys are great for a laugh, their satire still holds up today, and their super-fast and crazy style more than separates their legacy from the rest of the crowded 80s punk field. You know what I’ve found they’re not so great for, though? Blasting in your car in the year 2008.
8. Pink Floyd – Animals
The Pink Floyd Progression: Discover Dark Side of the Moon. Discover The Wall. Listen to both constantly and talk about how great they are. Discover Wish You Were Here. Constantly talk about how much better Wish You Were Here is than Dark Side and The Wall. Grow tired of waiting through the first five minutes of “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” and stop listening to Wish You Were Here. Rediscover how great Dark Side and The Wall are. Grow tired of Dark Side and The Wall. Discover Meddle, Atom Heart Mother, and Animals. Constantly talk about how underrated Animals is. Ten years pass. You opinion hasn’t changed, but for some reason, you don’t know where your Animals cd went.
7. The Jesus And Mary Chain – Psychocandy
Ah, the classic guilt trip: An album which has undoubtedly influenced a dozen other bands that I love has to be great, right? The noise, the roughness, the distance of the vocals, the really, really subtle drug references — I’ve listened to this album so much and with such a narrow bent on loving it that I can no longer tell if its current multi-year hiatus on my cd shelf is more emblematic of my own changing tastes, or just having other stuff to listen to, or possibly that I never truly, deeply loved the record to begin with, but was just “using it,” so to speak. Wait, that sounded wrong. I didn’t “use” it. What I meant to say was, I literally had sexual intercourse with this compact disc a bunch of times.
6. The Stone Roses – The Stone Roses
The absolute pinnacle of highly-produced, ultra-melodic Britpop occupied one of the three slots in my luxurious three-disc changer literally throughout my entire freshman year of college, alongside Revolver and a succession of my music major roommate’s jazz cds. Is it possible that listening to something so highly-produced and ultra-melodic for nine straight months could burn out even the most ardent fan? I believe Bridge Over Troubled Water would answer that question with a resounding, harmonized “Yes.”
5. Led Zeppelin – IV
“Stairway to Heaven” falls into that bizarre category of things like “The Wizard of Oz” and “The Godfather” where when something so prominent has been digested and parodied for decades, when you go back and watch or listen to the original, it simply doesn’t seem real. When Dorothy actually says “I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore,” you want to shout out, “I can’t believe she just used that old, predictable line!” It’s the same way with Zep IV; when you hear a band earnestly singing those lyrics off of dormroom walls, or that guitar solo, or even that opening “Rock and Roll” drumbeat from the Cadillac commercials, it’s impossible to concentrate on the music anymore. Thank God we still have those Who albums. Kind of.
4. Talking Heads – Remain In Light
The supposed greatest studio album from one of my co-favorite bands should figure to pop up on the ol’ iPod pretty often, but once you get hooked on the ample supply of Talking Heads live material, it’s very hard to readjust your ears to the busier, Eno-ized studio tunes. When you’ve got all your music on one tiny hard drive, it’s very easy to think to yourself, I could listen to the line “Goes on, and the heat goes on” for fifteen minutes, or I could just click to the dynamite live versions of “Pulled Up,” “Big Country,” or “Making Flippy Floppy”? Not as difficult a choice as it should be.
3. Joy Division – Closer
Joy Division’s ascent to dorm-poster martyrdom has forced us — in more ways than even some of the most decorated acts of the past couple decades — to almost accept their music as a given. Their dark, distant pop has been dissected and celebrated to the point where I instinctually feel like I have no need to actually listen to the music anymore; as much as I genuinely do enjoy being reminded of how directly they’ve influenced two subsequent generations of music, for some reason, that fact never stops my finger as I iPod-wheel my way right past the J’s. Sorry, Jamiroquai.
2. Sonic Youth – Daydream Nation
In my bitchier, overly-philosophical days (college), I would have argued that the six and seven minute songs and meandering white noise on this 530-minute Sonic Youth epic represent the wandering conscience of the directionless, disaffected young adult, to whom the concept of a “Teenage Riot” sounds more like a clever idea than anything to actually act upon. I suppose this could be true, even if I want to retroactively slap myself for tying up party conversations to declare this brilliant argument, but guess what? Nottttt usually in the mood to listen to a collection of six and seven minute songs and meandering white noise too often these days…
1. The Clash – London Calling
I have no negative words to say about the album that single-handedly rendered my pre-sophomore year of high school cd collection obselete, but us Clash fans share a not-so-secret secret: we all listen to The Clash and Give ‘Em Enough Rope a lot more often than London Calling. As Entertainment Weekly’s Glutton correctly points out, rock journalists and Greatest Albums lists have simply accepted that London Calling represents the band’s indesputable peak, regardless of how it’s aged versus the rest of the band’s capable backlog. The reasons for this are twofold — One, it’s easier for journalists to write about London Calling than the self-titled album, because they can talk about how “adeptly” the band “channels punk energy into ska and reggae,” etc, etc, and Two, Clash fans have realized that London Calling is our best hope for getting the band rightfully recognized on those lists, so we willingly oblige. It’s like picking the political candidate that you feel has the best chance to win instead of the one you believe in the most, only in this case, the political candidate is really angry at all political candidates.
Your turn, people. Albums you love but for whatever reason never listen to anymore — leave them in the comments.