In which I disparage pop music, then spend the rest of the post wallowing in it

So much of my past seems strange to me now. I don’t know if that’s because I’ve changed so much overall, or if it’s just the principal ramification of sobriety. Looking back, it’s laughable, and sad, how much of my young identity came from music. Pop music. And it is all pop music, you know. I don’t care if it’s your favorite unsigned indie band or black metal or Black Flag, it is all pop music.

I once gave musicians I liked the status of being the ultimate arbiters of what and who was worthy of my interest. It’s not their fault, they never asked to be put in such a position, but I wonder, aghast, at myself. Why would I use someone’s musical taste to form a basis of that person’s intelligence and worth? This seems especially off given that the majority of these bands, whose worship I made the benchmark for another’s “coolness,” were made up of ill-educated, unwashed, and utterly debauched people. And ultimately, is there anything less important in life than pop music? It never got me a job, or illuminated my understanding in any way or did anything for me of any measurable importance, except to give my non-essential and generally bad behavior a soundtrack to make it seem consequential and cool.

I have little use for the pop music industry anymore. Certainly, I no longer have any desire to turn over any of my personal power to it, be it my money, opinion, or time. Yet I found myself thinking this morning about various periods in my life and the music that corresponded to them. Which led me to thinking about particular albums. I tried to put together a list of five secular albums that stood the test of (my) time. Ones that I still think of as, if not of any particular historical or artistic import—and no pop music is, at least as albums that I still enjoy and believe are pretty darn good for what they are. That is, pop music.

1) Court and Spark, Joni Mitchell. I don’t ever see this losing its place at number one on my list. Every guy has had (or should have) a girlfriend a little like Joni. Simply a superb piece of vulnerability, longing and romance.

2) Rum, Sodomy, and the Lash: The Pogues. Shane an awesome force before the bottle and heroin ruined him.

3) The Globe, Big Audio Dynamite. A nearly flawless album. I don’t care how commercial it is. I don’t care how great you think The Clash were, especially in comparison. I love this album.

4) Houses of the Holy, Led Zeppelin. I could really put any Zep album in this list, except for Coda. I chose HoH because I love, love, love the awesome cheesy goodness of “No Quarter.”

5) Damned, Damned, Damned; The Damned. It’s hard to overestimate the influence The Damned had over all the punk, new wave, and PM bands that followed. They make Bowie and the Sex Pistols seem like Herman’s Hermits in comparison. I still believe that Mike Ness of Social Distortion picked up the inspiration for his entire sound from one tiny piece of one Damned track.

If you like these albums, great. If you think they suck fish heads, even better. There are far more important things in life.

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