Monday, June 30, 2008

Lists Suck!


Why do I torture myself with “lists”? I almost never agree with them, and more often than not I get mad as Hell at them. So why do I do it, why do I continue to search out these lists and devour every entry until I’m exhausted, spent and frustrated? Is it because I’m hoping the list will validate my musical tastes? Well, honestly, yeah a little. Less so now than 20 years ago, I can tell you that. 20 years ago I used to pour over every new issue of the New Musical Express and Melody Maker magazine (paying exorbitant import prices, too!), focusing on the ‘new releases” review section to find that special new band. In hindsight, this was not a good idea. I bought my fair share of clunkers by believing every glowing review by the British music press. The Farm, for example. And Carter USM (short for, “Unstoppable Sex Machine”). I did find some good ones, of course, but using the British music press to find good albums is a lot like sales prospecting. It’s all in the numbers. The amount of sales is directly proportionate to the amount of cold calls you make. In this case, my closing ratio was about 20%. Eight clunkers out of 10, but two real gems. Not bad, considering.
That was back in the days before MP3’s and computers, though. Nowadays I read reviews, do my homework on the band then preview the album on iTunes. If it suits my fancy I’ll download the sucker. Now my closing ratio has gone and done a full 180, with 8 out of ten album purchases being pretty decent.
Friend referrals, though, remain the best source for uncovering great artists. If you can find them, friends that share your tastes can be a very valuable asset. They’re like having the best stock broker in the world; someone who’s genuinely excited and interested in your musical welfare. They get a hot tip and you’re the first one they call, the first one to benefit from their insider knowledge. And, with every spot-on recommendation, you become richer. Musically speaking, of course.

And now, with about a zillion really good music blogs out there in cyberspace, the possibility of being exposed to great albums and bands is even better, and more frequent. Alas, there's also a danger of overexposure as well. You get too much good music all at once and there’s a danger that you’ll miss something. You download it to your iPod, give it a cursory listen, then download another two (or six!) and with over 12,000 songs and 1,100 albums there’s a distinct possibility it’ll be months before you hear another track off of that one. And God forbid you get caught in the old “Ipod shuffle” trap, like I have recently. You really miss the whole album-as-an-artistic-statement thing.
Anyway, what was I saying before I started to rant? Right, rock lists. Well, the fine folks over at Pitchfork sat down in a room that no doubt smelt of tacos and wet Cheetos and debated over what they felt were the top 100 albums of the 1990’s. There are no other music critics that piss me off more than the geeks over at Pitchfork, and the thing that really irks me is that they’re mostly bang on, albeit with a little more sarcasm than I like. But, dammit, they usually are right. Usually.

Except for this list.

Out of the 100 listed I agreed with about 1/3rd, possibly ½. They obviously had they’re favorites, and the multiple entries for single artists were maddening. That coupled with the fact that they had way too many rap and hip-hop artists listed were almost enough to make me throw my Doc Martins through my computer monitor.

But hey, I don’t have to agree. That’s the beauty of lists. And if they can convince me to try one single album I haven’t heard, and that one single album becomes a favorite for years to come, then it’s worth it.

Here’s the list, if you’re interested.

1 comment:

Any major dude with half a heart said...

"And now, with about a zillion really good music blogs out there in cyberspace, the possibility of being exposed to great albums and bands is even better, and more frequent. Alas, there's also a danger of overexposure as well."

Very true. And the sheer breadth of choice can be overwhelming, so that I have a couple of albums that serve as default choices for times when I just can't decide what I'm in the mood for.

Quite different to the days when I'd play an album to death before I could afford to buy the next.