44. Weezer, Weezer. When they released their debut album in 1994, the members of Weezer probably had little idea that they'd spend the rest of their careers trying to match its huge success. But with songs like "Buddy Holly" and "Say It Ain't So," they should have known that something big might happen. Not every song on here works - "Surf Wax America" was a pretty bad idea, especially right in the middle of the CD - but others work in an understated, remarkable way (I'm thinking of "The World Has Turned and Left Me Here" and "Only in Dreams.") Rivers Cuomo, the frontman, has since spent a lot of time studying classical music and releasing some critically-acclaimed solo albums. Maybe something else that no one saw coming...
43. Live, Throwing Copper. Everett True, a former music critic for The Stranger, once called Live "the worst band in America." Since Everett True was the most egregious of a long series of narcissistic d-bags who've written for The Stranger (I'm not referring to either of you, Dan Savage and David Schmader), this was a high compliment. Live was kind of a study in contradictions, emerging from little York PA with a Buddhist singer (Ed Kowalczyk) who wrote hard-rocking pop tunes with unabashedly philosophical overtones. ("Lightning Crashes" is the only song I've ever heard that includes the word "placenta.") Throwing Copper has a lot in common with Weezer: also released in 1994, early in the band's career, never quite matched by later releases (a bar set too high?), with its share of big hits but also some lesser-known gems like "Top," "Iris" and "Pillar of Davidson." It concludes improbably with the unlisted "Horse," one of the loveliest country ditties you'll ever hear.
More than a few people have scoffed at Live and their success, including (I suspect) some Mad City readers. Just keep in mind, people, that you're putting yourself in the same camp as Everett True! And is that really where you want to be?
42. Young Marble Giants, Colossal Youth. Who were these Young Marble Giants? Where'd they come from? Where'd they disappear to? It's an even greater mystery than Sparrow Orange. All we know is that they were a trio of young Welshpeople that recorded this album (their only LP) over 3 days back in 1979. And then ... they split up. Leaving us with this captivating, timeless work, built on the Moxham brothers' spare instrumentation (no drummer!) and Alison Statton's untrained voice. Half the songs are instrumental, little bursts of ingenuity that might go well with random sequences in some Wes Anderson movie. There's been plenty of lo-fi acts over the years, but none of them sound like YMG.