Obsessions, Passions, Perversions

New Times music critics reveal their deepest, darkest record-buying secrets

9.The Great Heavy Metal Discographyby Martin C. Strong (Canongate Books). We rarely take in books, routinely suggesting Bookman's to folks who do bring in print material. This was an exception to that rule. Strong is the tireless compiler and author of a series of encyclopedialike volumes called The Great Rock Discography. They're exactly that -- comprehensive discographies (along with nuggets of bio info) of artists and bands, and they're invaluable reference tools if you're a writer or a collector. Strong has begun spinning off some genre-specific books, including one on psychedelic groups and this one. Whether you're into Slade, Sabbath, Giuffria or, ahem, Queensrÿche, all the record info you need, and more, is here.

10. Queensrÿche, "Scarborough Fair" single (EMI). Speaking of Queensrÿche . . . as this is the season for giving, what could be more appropriate than scoring a disc to give as a Christmas gift to a close friend? He's a huge Queensrÿche fan, and I'm not. I just can't stand these pretentious twats, their pseudo-prog conceptual dross about as inspired and enlightening as a drive to Picacho Peak. "Thinking man's metal?" Hah. More like hard rock for mullet heads who never "got" the far more sophisticated Hawkwind. At any rate, among Q-r collectors, this cover of the Simon & Garfunkel chestnut seems to be some sort of holy grail, at least judging by the whiny requests we get at the trade counter on a near-daily basis from the mouth-breathers who come in, their meth-head girlfriends a respectful three feet in tow, and paw through the stacks and stacks of used copies of Operation: Mindcryme before realizing for the fifth time this week that there ain't no copies of "Scarborough Fair" to be found. Drats! What's a hard-boiled rocker dude to do? So a copy did indeed get traded in -- it's a B-side of a promotional CD single whose A-side title I forget already (it got gift-wrapped and mailed off to the East Coast within 24 hours), and I believe the tune also appeared on a UK CD single at one point, too -- only the second one I've seen in seven years working the trade counter. It will make my friend ecstatic. Me, I already am flying high. After all, collecting music can and should be a communal experience. Share the wealth, I say. The karma'll be good for ya. Feel free to boost your karmic level at my store anytime.

Top 10 Records to Keep You Sane at 10,000 Feet

Behold! Tommy Keene's masterpiece, Based on Happy Times, power pop's holy grail of out-of-print CDs.
Behold! Tommy Keene's masterpiece, Based on Happy Times, power pop's holy grail of out-of-print CDs.

Liz Montalbano

Much as I hate to admit it, I'm afraid to fly on planes. I'm a product of heredity -- my mother hasn't been on a plane since her honeymoon in 1967, except for one trip she took to Bermuda with my father when I was in high school. (He later told me even shots of whiskey couldn't keep her from crying the entire way, and when Jack Daniel's can't knock out a woman who only drinks virgin piña coladas, if at all, you know there's something not quite right about that kind of fear.)

I never set foot on an airplane until I was 21, about the same time I realized that if I really wanted to go anywhere, I was going to have to fly sooner or later. Sheer will, however, can't obliterate genetic predisposition -- even though I've flown now more times than I can count, I still bite off every nail in the waiting room at the gate every time I'm about to board a plane, and once I'm on board, my palms sweat, my stomach drops to the floor and I stick my fingers in my ears and close my eyes from takeoff until the pilot signals that we've reached 10,000 feet.

Anyone obsessed with imminent death on a commercial airliner like I am knows that, statistically, most crashes occur during initial ascent and final descent. I figure once the plane I'm on clears 10,000 feet, I'm home free until at least initial descent. It's an irrational deduction, I know, but it keeps me from bursting into tears, grabbing a flight attendant by the genitals and screaming, "I don't want to die, get me off of this thing!" when he cruises by with the drink cart.

Ten thousand feet also is the magic altitude when it's safe to use "approved portable electronic devices," a list that includes portable CD players. If you hate flying, music can be an even better panacea than liquor. Not only does it keep you relatively sedated, but you also can't hear the plane's engines suddenly convulse in a death rattle with headphones on.

Since my day job had me traveling more than usual in 1999, I had to learn how to deal with frequent flying without freaking out. I've found salvation in a Discman. Here's a Top 10 list of CDs that kept me sane on planes this year, in no particular order.

1. Superchunk, Come Pick Me Up (Merge). Proof positive that you can teach an old dog new tricks. Though it might seem the definitive pioneers of indie rock have been writing the same batch of songs over and over -- enduring and catchy as they are -- on Come Pick Me Up, they prove that sometimes all you need is a little change in production to make everything new again. Behind the board, Jim O'Rourke (Gastr del Sol, Stereolab) uses space and room ambiance to give the record a wistful, airy and downright soulful aura -- complete with Mac experimenting with his Marvin Gaye impersonation -- that lends itself nicely to headphone listening.

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