We're starting to emerge out of the smoky morass at the bottom of the list, where albums can jump on and off as my punitive whims dictate, and into more solid territory. I look at this grouping and see albums so overplayed that the CD lasers left molten grooves in the disks. Very exciting...
#90 - Big Star - #1 Record/Radio City
I was a late-comer to Big Star. I knew of Alex Chilton because the Replacements named a song after him, but that's about it. I think I picked it up on a whim while rummaging through used CD bins at Cheapos, buried behind 50 copies of Last Splash and Extreme II: Pornograffiti. But the album is full of all the promise pop music holds: joy, faith, pain, potency. It's a stunner. Favorite Song = "My Life is Right"
#89 - Joe Jackson - Look Sharp!
All the bouncing, rockin' melodies mask how angry this album is, but I love how sarcastic--even caustic--Jackson's observations are. He writes like someone who's annoyed at the world and can't figure out why everyone else isn't as annoyed as he is. Did I mention it rocks? Favorite Song = "Pretty Girls"
#88 - Jurassic 5 - Quality Control
I'm not a big fan of rap. I respect, even admire, Public Enemy and Tupac and Eminem and all the rhyming politics and insights into urban life. Most of the time, though, it just sounds like macho posturing over a beat, which is as appealing and distinctive to me as all-night road construction. But when I first heard "The Influence" I stopped in my tracks and said, "What IS that? I must have it!" J5 are all R&B grooves and postive attitude tightly wound around brilliant lyrics tossed back and forth like a hot potato. A great party-platter. Favorite Song = "The Influence"
#87 - Franz Ferdinand - Franz Ferdinand
I'm a sucker for this sort of music. Fast, loud, melodic, with tons of hooks and a hint of disco. 'Nuff said? Favorite Song = "40 Ft."
#86 - Rancid - ...And Out Come the Wolves
When Rancid came to town in 1996, I bought two tickets to their show at First Ave. None of my friends wanted to go (because they're pussies) so I sold one ticket at the door and went inside by myself. I spent the next three hours regressing from a 26 year-old professional in financial services to a mosh-pit junkie, jumping on people's heads and shoving them into speakers while joyfully letting them do the same to me. All sweat and spit and yelps and "oi! oi! oi!" One of the five best times I've ever had. Favorite Song = "Lock, Step, & Gone"
#85 - Natalie Merchant - Tigerlily
This is my go-to Sunday morning disk. Nothing seems to go better with relaxing on the couch with a cup of coffee and the Times than Natalie Merchant. Maybe that's not the most resounding endorsement ever, but if you have a hard time thinking of anything else you'd rather listen to once a week for one of your favorite rituals that's got to say something. Favorite Song = "Carnival"
#84 - Cheap Trick - Heaven Tonight
The only band I've ever seen twice in the same week (300 miles apart). I filled my pockets with guitar picks with Rick Neilson's goateed visage on them. When I was a kid I liked them because half the band looked like rock stars and the other half looked like dorks, and rediscovered them after a local radio station played all of "At Budokan" one Saturday night. I still listen to a lot of their early stuff, but this is the most consistent and enjoyable. Favorite Song = "How Are You?"
#83 - Prince & the Revolution - Purple Rain
Have you ever seen Prince? He's like 3' 2".
When he was the Biggest Rock Star in the Universe (not by height) I resisted liking him. I'm like that. I did the same thing to Madonna and Michael Jackson. And what was up with all the girls? Apollonia, Vanity, Wendy, Lisa, Lady Elaine, Madame, etc., etc.? I couldn't keep track. So I blocked it out. Then, a couple years later, I popped the cassette back in. "When Doves Cry" was a masterpiece, but the songs between the hits, like "Computer Blue" and "Baby I'm a Star" knocked me out. Now go purify yourself in the waters of Lake Minnetonka.... Favorite Song = "When Doves Cry"
#82 - Phish - Junta
A fun, groovy disk. "Fee" is one of my favorite songs of all time, and it's as weird and idiosynchratic as anything you'll ever hear. Plus, you can listen to it at home without the stench of patchouli. Favorite Song = "Fee"
#81 - Son Volt - Trace
Ah, now we're getting somewhere. 1995 was a good year for music. Dark Americana rediscovered. Jay Farrar can get a little whiny, but on these songs it's tempered and actually enhances the sense of loneliness and melancholy. I'd want this on cassette in my glove compartment if I was driving a '68 Mustang across the Nevada desert at midnight. I hope I never have to drive across Nevada at midnight, but you get my drift, right? Favorite Song = "Tear-Stained Eye"
Feeling nostalgic for the beginning of the list? Here's #100-91.