Top 100: Omissions and Rebuttals

So as you know by now, the current issue of Spin details the 100 greatest albums of the past twenty years, from the mag’s birth in 1985 to now (click here to read). So far, the feedback (click here to read) has been split pretty evenly, with half of the world calling us geniuses for throwing props to OK Computer, and the other half of humanity calling us all variations of bad names because we didn’t include their favorite record by their favorite band. Some of these arguments are valid. Some are less so. I will address some of them.

Red Hot Chili Peppers: This was a big bone of contention in the office, and I fall on the side of being outraged that we didn’t include either Blood Sugar Sex Magik or Californication. Were it my list, I would have gone with the latter, but the argument for BSSM is pretty obvious, considering that while the Peppers didn’t invent rap rock or even bring it to the mainstream first, they did prove that thugs can age gracefully without losing their edge (which is why Californication, filled to the brim with ballads and heartache, is the better album). Also, the Peppers are a testament to the power of the concept of a band: Anthony Kiedis is not a very good singer, Flea is an accomplished but wonky bass player, and John Frusciante’s solo albums suck, but together as a unit, the Peppers are damn near indestructible.

Tool: On the other hand, I’m not sure that I can get behind this request. I understand that I’m inviting the ire of the legions of very protective, very defensive Tool fans who will accuse me of being unable to “get” their favorite group, and I’m fine with that, because quite frankly, I don’t get Tool at all. I really don’t get what people see in Tool — they’re not especially hard and more often than not appear to lapse into ridiculous atmospherics. In fact, it seems like the band is notorious for just about everything except their albums: They’re famous for Maynard James Keenan’s fake breasts and Kabuki make-up, they’re famous for their insane videos, they’re famous for being a killer live act, and they’re famous for wanting to be wholly anonymous (ironic, isn’t it?). But I don’t think any of Tool’s albums — least especially 2001’s Lateralus, which seems to be album everyone thinks we should have included — have had anything more than a vague impact on the alternative musical landscape as a whole. If anything, it made metal bands more boring and pretentious and arty, and if I wanted that, I’d crack my King Crimson box set.

Pearl Jam: Of course, Ten was included on the list, but there is a general sense of outrage about 1) how low it is on the list (#93) and 2) how Vs. is the superior album anyway. I’m in a tough place here because I am actually a big Pearl Jam fan, but in a way that makes it very much seem like I hate the band completely. But while I agree that Vs. is the marginally better album, I think I’m okay with Pearl Jam appearing as low as they are. My reasoning is two-fold. First, almost all of Pearl Jam’s albums have aged incredibly poorly. If you listen to Ten today, it absolutely sounds like it was made in 1991, whereas albums like Nevermind or Siamese Dream sound like they could have been made today. Plus, I simply cannot forgive everything that Eddie Vedder has done to alienate me over the past decade. Eddie’s self-righteousness and self-importance immediately make all those old Pearl Jam songs infinitely worse, even if he didn’t share the same intentions while he was recording them. I hate Pearl Jam in the 21st century for the same reasons I hate U2 in the 21st century (whereas I was perfectly fine with them both back in the 1900s).

Alice In Chains: I am siding with the Alice Nation on this particular omission, and I will say that I lobbied hard for Dirt to be included on the list. But alas, it was not meant to be, but it should have been, as Dirt remains one of the most visceral and haunting hard music albums ever created. Plus, it’s all about heroin, and there weren’t nearly enough heroin albums on the list, and considering how important heroin has been to music (and to Spin), that’s quite an oversight. AIC never made another album as great as this, but then again, neither did anybody else.

There will be more tomorrow, but there’s something else A-D needs to get off his chest. To the cats who are wondering where stuff like Paul Simon’s Graceland and Bob Dylan’s Love and Theft are: I love those albums, but have you ever even read Spin?


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