Obsessions, Passions, Perversions 2000

Music critics reveal their deepest, darkest record-buying secrets in New Times' annual poll

It seems fitting that as the curtain comes down on 2000, we should reflect on our personal obsessions. In the same year that saw musical fetishism come out of the proverbial closet -- thanks in large part to the big-screen adaptation of High Fidelity -- a celebration of those odd material addictions that possess even the most sane among us seems in order.

For some folks, their particular mania might be collecting Pez dispensers or cookie jars, but whatever the vice, we all have our embarrassing quirks and peccadilloes. For us, it's music-related materials: CDs, tapes, vinyl, videos. That's why we've again decided to reveal a little more of ourselves and sate your ravenous appetite for year-end (or beginning, as it were) polls with this, our second annual Top 10 Personal Obsessions list.

You'll find that some of us are drawn to the illicit appeal of the "unauthorized" or "bootleg" disc, while others find a lure in the exotic nature of imports. A few are more addicted to the quest itself -- whether that journey takes us to suburban record retailers or moldy smelling thrift shops. And then, of course, there are those who specialize in collecting stuff that most rational thinking humans wouldn't be caught dead listening to or watching. In any case, the next few pages should offer a startling insight deep into our souls and record collections.

"What else can you do if you're an import junkie?": A 12-disc singles box from Ireland's Undertones was one of 2000's great overseas releases.
"What else can you do if you're an import junkie?": A 12-disc singles box from Ireland's Undertones was one of 2000's great overseas releases.
Carrying a healthy import price tag, Teenage Fanclub says Howdy! with its first release in three years.
Carrying a healthy import price tag, Teenage Fanclub says Howdy! with its first release in three years.

Top 10 Imports
Bob Mehr

For a grossly underpaid and overworked writer, collecting import CDs can be a real financial burden. Frankly, the average cocaine habit is less costly than a monthly binge of Australian singles and Japanese remasters. At least coke addicts have detox and rehab to help get themselves clean. The only people import junkies can turn to for support are other similarly deluded fools, the kind of people who think the world might end if they don't get the U.K. reissue of the original mix of To Hell With the Boys as soon as it hits the streets.

With single CDs running anywhere from 20 to 50 dollars a pop (and multiplying exponentially for double, triple and boxed sets), you could easily plunk down the bulk of your disposable income -- not to mention most of your rent and food money -- trying to keep up with the latest overseas releases.

The odd thing is no one's ever offered up a reasonable explanation for why imports cost so much. The bit about tariffs, taxes and shipping costs somehow rings false. Personally, I think it's part of an international conspiracy between Bertelsmann, Sony and Universal to deplete my savings, but, hey, that's just a theory.

1. The Undertones, The Singles Box Set (Castle Music) Exhibit A in the case to have my credit cards taken away from me. This handsomely packaged, magnificently detailed and completely overpriced collection (from Ireland's answer to the Ramones) is composed entirely of tracks that I already own in at least one, if not multiple versions! This 12-disc box features all the Undertones' singles and B-sides remastered in individual sleeves with the original artwork restored in mini-45 format. Frankly, the versions of "Teenage Kicks" and "Jimmy Jimmy" found here don't sound any better or worse than the "remastered" ones that Rykodisc put out in the early '90s, or those that appeared on last year's less elaborate Castle Music double-disc comp True Confessions: Singles = A's + Bs. But, hey, at 75 dollars it seemed like such a bargain. Somebody, please help me.

2. Small Faces, Nice (NMC Music Ltd.) A great two-CD multimedia package of arguably the greatest Mod group of them all. Trumpeting itself as the first official Small Faces live audio and video release, the material -- billed as "originally recorded in experimental colour" -- comes from five separate German TV and stage appearances circa 1966-68. Watching Messrs. Marriott, Lane, McLagan and Jones decked out in full Carnaby Street regalia performing classics like "Itchycoo Park," "Tin Soldier" and "Here Comes the Nice" is worth every penny of the relatively modest $20 price tag. The accompanying 50-page booklet includes lengthy interviews with all the Small Faces and testimonials from three generations of U.K. rockers influenced by the band.

3. The Posies, At Least At Last (Not Lame Archives) Though technically not an import, this four-CD boxed set of odds 'n' sods from the Seattle power poppers -- released by Fort Collins, Colorado-based imprint Not Lame -- was marked and priced as one, because of a wrangle with the distributor. Since breaking up two years ago, the Posies have proved to be an unbelievably prolific outfit, releasing a live album from their farewell tour (Alive Before the Iceberg), a greatest-hits collection (Dream All Day), an acoustic concert set (In Case You Didn't Feel Like Plugging In) and now this multidisc gathering of "Demos, Live Recordings and What Not 1987 to 1998." At Least At Last again illustrates the almost comical excess inherent in this sort of fetishistic buying behavior. I mean, does anyone really need an a cappella outtake of the intro to "Spite and Malice," a live rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner" recorded at Seattle's Kingdome or Muzak versions of "Golden Blunders" or "Suddenly Mary"? Apparently so, judging by the $72 receipt tacked up on my wall.

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