Critics' Choice

A year-end recap of the albums that made it worthwhile to own a stereo in 1997

8. The Interpreters, Back in the U.S.S.A. (Freeworld) These guys pen punk pop so simplistic it's amazing no one else thought of it first.

9. The Dandy Warhols, Come Down (Capitol) "Not If You Were the Last Junkie on Earth" was plain stupid, almost the kind of antiheroin novelty song you'd expect Mike Love to write. The rest of this album sounded like a brilliant marriage of Syd Barrett and the Velvet Underground. Sure wish the single had been "I Love You," which repeats the title ad infinitum until you feel like you're being stalked.

10. The High Llamas, Hawaii (V2) To painstakingly re-create pastiches of Brian Wilson's incomplete masterpiece Smile takes brains and guts. So much so that the Beach Boys tried to enlist Sean O'Hagen to produce the next album and lead them out of Kokomo hell, but it's probably a better idea just to wait for the High Llamas' next one.

Honorable Mention or Best Reason to Look Forward to 1998: Lush Budget Present the Les Payne Product, a six-song EP on Aviator Records, due out in January. The advance tape hasn't left my car tape deck since November. And I don't leave my car until it's over.

Jabas Smith
1. Del Amitri, Some Other Sucker's Parade (A&M) The opening, hook-ripe loser-confessional "Not Where It's At" makes power-pop cliche superstition by virtue of song. And a good song will always be.

2. Martin Luther Lennon, Music for a World Without Limitations (Not Lame) It's a painful world if you're a songwriter who grew up aping the wrong recordings, and MLL's guaranteed pathetic fiscal return for its work attests to its Nick Gilder-20/20-Buzzcocks-Beatles-Badfinger-Big Star-Shoes-Raspberries album collections. And kudos to the Not Lame label for its dedication to The Pop Song.

3. Sugar High, My Star demos (unreleased) "My Star" will realize its deserving massive hit status, and the flatulent frauds who program radio shall have their shallow shekel-dictated insights schtupped. In a perfect world, perhaps.

4. Cheap Trick, Cheap Trick (Red Ant) Logical successor to Dream Police and, of course, a chart stiff of John Holmes magnitude. "Shelter" is the best song Harry Nillson never wrote, and "Say Goodbye" upholds the "Daddy's all right/Mommy's all right" honor while airwaves-free "Say Goodbye" is yet further proof that radio is but kiss-ass histrionics for morons.

5. Pollen, Peach Tree (Wind-Up) If Pollen's provenance was as unlikely as Pittsburgh, then its relocation to Tempe is even stranger. But history has taught us that lost boys make great recordings, and thundering power chords will win wretched punk-rock hearts every time. Like mine.

6. Redd Kross, Show World (Mercury) With a truckload helping of hack rock-journalistic self-congratulation befitting a music paper of lower form, I'll say my opinion means more than yours. Which means you should own this album.

7. Super Deluxe, via satellite (Revolution) Singable songs bottlenecking pop's past, born of TV-weaned insights and the glory of four perfectly placed chords. Now open up and say ahh!

8. Love Spit Love, Trysome Eatone (Maverick) Warholian rock star Richard Butler's Love Spit Love comes clean with a near-perfect pastiche of pop, topical pap and organized noise: From the obligatory Furs-ish guitar-bass-drum sucker punch of "Long Time Gone" to the almost baroque "Believe," the choruses soar, the verses throb, and each song is sturdy enough to stand on its own three feet.

9. The Pistoleros, Hang On to Nothing (Hollywood) A prerequisite to ace rock 'n' roll is chemistry as defined by the masters: Jagger/Richards, Lennon/McCartney, Tyler/Perry, Strummer/Jones, blah blah blah . . . And in barrio brothers Zubia, that tradition is as on as the soaring mariachi horns in this season's most heartbreaking three minutes: Doug Hopkins' musical epistle to his girlfriend penned shortly before his suicide, "My Guardian Angel." And that song, on this album, could bring a bit of needed credibility to the strip-mall-maligned Mill Avenue.

10. Piersons, Appleberry Wine (Epiphany) Exuberance over content is necessary for maxi-brat rock 'n' roll. Any idiotic, beer-swilling Hootie obsessive knows that, and Appleberry Wine is best served in a loud, drunken, prefuck environ.

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