In everyone's record collection there are junk-food albums, the ones that you feel bad for consuming but coat your ears with happy, because you have been conditioned by everyone else to either hate them or disown them. But when push comes to shove on that media player or stereo, the junk-food albums win out.
This is just a partial list of the albums that Craig's Hlist comes back to, years and years after, for some sort of sustenance. These aren't albums that will make a hip person's top ten. Hell, they may not even make CHL's desert island top ten, but they are our own treasures.
We promise we like the "better" albums in each of these artists canons, but these comfort food items are here to stay in our collections.
Metallica, Load: Look, all Metallica is good. There is even one or two tracks on St. Anger that we can get behind. We have a link Load for reasons that go beyond any sort of fandom though. In the summer of 1996 before the eighth grade year, CHL and his dad set about to start lifting weights together so CHL could bulk up for what was about to be a short football career.
This was really one of the few things we could do together at this point in CHL's development without killing each other, the other being repeated viewings of Revenge of the Nerds. During our sessions in the high school gym, Load was constantly on the tape deck as the high school, so it became ingrained in our heads, and still to this day has great memories attached to it. Meathead jock memories, but they are CHL's memories nonetheless. It's not a great Metallica album, but it's a great rock album.
KISS, Dynasty: Once we were talking to a buddy about lesser albums that have no call in getting exalted, but contrarian assholes like ourselves enjoy for some strange reason. He said "You're probably one of those jerk-offs that likes disco-era Kiss, huh?" to which we emphatically agreed. Yeah, if liking "Dirty Livin'" and "I Was Made For Loving You" is the stuff of jerk-offs, CHL is biggest jerk-off that ever jerked off.
Aerosmith, Nine Lives: Nine Lives was probably the first Aerosmith album we remember actually following from the studio to the store shelves, a job now which is something akin to how a meteorologist watches a front come towards their viewing area. It's commonplace. We pored over Entertainment Weekly, Rolling Stone, anything we could get our hands in 1996 and 1997 to find our music news at this point.
It's not a sloppy Aerosmith album. No, that title is reserved for it's follow-up, 2001's Just Push Play, which is bitch-awful and stands as the last all-new Aero album recorded. Nine Lives may be the band's last great album, seeing how dysfunctional and different they have grown the past 15 years. It does get bogged down by hokey Eastern imagery that seems more like chic bandwagoneering than actual spiritual interest, but you can hear the band firing on all cylinders and in the pocket. "The Farm" sounds pretty damn cool coming out of an old Sony Discman on the school bus too.
Red Hot Chili Peppers, By the Way: CHL has never shot up heroin or been addicted the smack, but we know all too well the pain and helplessness that Anthony Kiedis sings about in his songs, because we hate to love the past 16 years of his band's catalog. We hate the funk crap and the slap bass, but dear God we get sucked into things like One Hot Minute, Californication, and By The Way like a bad soap opera.
To us, the most egregious is the latter, their 2002 summer album that came loaded with schmaltz and plenty of Kiedis lisping, and we bought it the morning it came out. Half of it is cringey, like "Cabron" and "Throw Away Your Television". Do you realize it's 16 tracks long? We hate organizing our album collection because each time we find By The Way we listen to it. Twice.
Live, Secret Samadhi: Live is sadly another band that we love outwardly but secretly loathe. We only saw them once, about two years ago at the House of Blues, and we were irked because it didn't jive with our 1997 fantasies.
CHL bought Secret Samadhi in eighth grade after the band was the musical guest on Chevy Chase's Saturday Night Live appearance to promote National Lampoon's Vegas Vacation. You remember the "Cow Man" sketch? Samadhi wasn't as lush as the band's previous chart smash Throwing Copper, trading that in for ominous tones and morose lyrics. See? We already have thought about this album too much.
U2, Pop: Some people call it Poop, CHL calls it magic. It's not the best U2 album, but it's our favorite U2 album, and that's all that matters. We have done the whole catalog up and down, but this is the one we get connected to. "Miami" is a wicked slow burn too. It could be worse. You could have just read 300 words about How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb, right?
The Bee Gees, Saturday Night Fever Soundtrack: Blame hours alone at home with a turntable and the less-hip side of the parents record collection, away from the Doors, Stones, and Dr. Hook. Disco producers rule CHL's shit. They were all pop geniuses, even if it was monotonous and shallow, they knew their way with a hook. It also contains the six best Bee Gees songs that aren't "I Started A Joke."
Rob Zombie, Hellbilly Deluxe: What's not to like about this cartoon-y jazz? The lyrics on Zombie's solo debut are all about devils, girls, cars, and eating flesh or something. It's not even really metal the more we listen to it. It's like aural first drafts for a million unmade Zombie movies he has yet to make. The first four songs on this album are beautiful and stupid and we are playing it back for the second time as CHL types this.
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Neil Young, Trans: We can't think of two things that don't belong together as much as Kraftwerk-inflected sounds and Neil Young. Somehow this works, and if you hate this but love Of Montreal, you need to go back to music appreciation class. The daring aspect of someone like Young electrifying everything still blows our mind, no matter what you think of the results.
Jim Morrison, An American Prayer: A bloated bearded drunk, getting high in a studio, reading his poetry, for himself and his own ego. For a devoted Jim fanatic, it's a goldmine. For people who hate the Doors and the Morrison personality, you will melt down into a popcorn bowl. For CHL, who is pretty interested in the Morrison myths, it's a fun exercise.