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4. Everclear, So Much for the Afterglow (Capitol) "Everything to Everyone" was my favorite single this year, and "The hand you hold is the hand that holds you down" was my favorite line. Art Alexakis is a most-underrated songwriter, probably 'cause he once sidelined as a rock critic. Read into that what you will.

5. Blur, Blur (Virgin) Why Blur keeps being viewed as Avis to Oasis' Hertz is beyond comprehension. Oasis' recent idea of being creative is stretching slight songs out to seven minutes in an effort to weigh in with "Hey Jude" importance, but it always wound up sounding more like a waterlogged "Atlantis."

Blur simply throws the glove in Noel Gallagher's mug with "Beetlebum," and then shows those poseurs how to make inventive and highly melodic music for the '90s.

6. Beat Angels, Red Badge of Discourage (Epiphany) These cads cover twice the ground DeGeneration does at half the budget. Plus, they brought "snot" into pop vernacular, something the Sex Pistols didn't even do!

7. Trunk Federation, The Infamous Hamburger Transfer (Alias) When the Trunk Feds brought their elaborate stage show to L.A., some naysayer in the audience referred to it as "shtick rock." As if shtick was a bad thing. As if rock didn't need some mighty shtick shoved up its ass. Initially, some local fans were disappointed by this CD because they'd been used to hearing these songs with the arresting visuals. This is known in some quarters as "The MTV Problem." Careful repeated listening reveals it as a masterful album, brimming with dark and amusing songs about murder, mayhem and Jell-O.

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.

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