50: The White Stripes, The White Stripes. Is being listed at #50 on a Top 50 CDs list an insult? Should one be happy just to be on the list, or ticked off that you're not listed higher? Here's what I look for in a "top" or "great" CD: consistency. Like, there should be at least a few awesome songs, but the rest should be at least pretty good too. There's nothing I hate more than a CD with one or two great songs, and the rest are fillers! Gggrrr!
I don't know if the White Stripes have ever had a truly great CD. It seems like there's some pretty disposable numbers on every release. But man, have they had some great songs. And the trio that launches their debut album is as solid as any opening trio I can think of. The raw opening chords of the first song, "Jimmy the Exploder": as solid as any other opening chords I can think of. And Jack White is creating a hell of a career for himself. (Although, what's up with him and Meg? I still haven't figured out if they're really brother and sister, or ex-husband and wife.) On the basis of all that, this CD makes the list, narrowly squeezing out Elephant for the right to represent the White Stripes' brilliance.
49. Sparrow Orange, Hands and Knees Music. What is Sparrow Orange? When are they touring? What are the names of their songs? I can't answer any of these questions, because Sparrow Orange isn't even listed on my only source for information, Wikipedia. All I can tell you is, this is an amazing electronica album. I bought it on a whim (I'd heard one of the songs on DJ Riz's radio show), and almost brought it back after the first listen. But it kept growing on me ... and growing on me ... and growing on me. To the point where I couldn't imagine life without it.
I'm going to strive for diversity in my Top 50 list. I'm proud to have electronica represented. But this isn't a case of musical affirmative action - this CD belongs, even if you've never heard of it. I know there's going to be people who are upset that I have Sparrow Orange ranked, and not the Eagles. It just goes to show you: the sparrow really is mightier than the eagle ...
48. XTC, Skylarking. Ah yes, the 1980's finally makes an appearance. Reviled for bands like the Human League and Kajagoogoo, the 80's also had its share of great bands with less time in the spotlight because they weren't played ad nauseam on MTV. XTC was also handicapped by the severe stage fright of singer Andy Partridge, which limited them to being solely a studio band for most of their heyday, which was mainly the 80's. This album was known mainly for the single "Dear God," but it's consistently great throughout, and also sports one of my favorite album covers of all time. (Ah yes, album covers. Back in the days when the art really mattered ...)
And you know what? I am totally spent. I am already going to break one of my cardinal rules, and only publish 3 picks this time. Tough shit, people! Tough shit. Don't forget that other cardinal rule: I get the final say.