Must Have CD's

by Scott Thill

Well, it's holiday time, which means you should probably just take out all the money you have in the bank right now and get it over with. That's just the way it is these days, so fall in line. The good news is that there are things you can buy for your loved ones that aren't an absolute waste of money. Here are three stocking-stuffing discs that will give you the biggest bang for your shrinking bucks:

The Beatles, The Beatles

Better known everywhere from hippie love nests to corporate boardrooms as The White Album, it nevertheless remains The Beatles' uncontested sonic triumph, a mash-up of styles, signatures and patterns that have heretofore been unmatched in their brilliance. Which is a freakin' long way of saying that the double album that made Manson go mental has yet to be topped by any band since. Sure, the parents played the more McCartney "Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da" and "Rocky Raccoon" to keep you in check when you were pushing teen, but it was everlasting smack-prints left by Lennon's "Dear Prudence," "Happiness is a Warm Gun" and "I'm So Tired" that made you sit up and take notice in high school and college.

Between the two of them, Lennon and McCartney have written more compelling narrative than Dickens, but even George and Ringo got in on the White Album act. Harrison's most moving Beatles work can be found in "Long, Long, Long" and "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" -- especially the Clapton solo -- but Ringo also earned his keep with the drunken "Don't Pass Me By" and his time-tight drum work on rockers like "Birthday" and "Glass Onion." From beginning to end, The White Album is a masterpiece and still one of the only albums actually worth the ridiculous money it costs to buy discs today.


Iggy and the Stooges, Raw Power

Sure, Fun House might be the more canonical work that the Detroit colossus produced in the early '70s, but dissent is what makes America worth defending after all these years, people. Plus, Iggy Pop and his cacophonous Stooges never got any louder than they did on Power's "Search and Destroy," the song that did as much to birth hard rock and heavy metal as anything that Black Sabbath released. But "Search and Destroy" was -- literally -- only the beginning of Raw Power's orgiastic bludgeoning: Creepy classics like "Gimme Danger" and the amazing "I Need Somebody" closed the deal for those who needed a bit more convincing. The good news about this disc is that Iggy and the Stooges' impact on contemporary music still hasn't received the attention it truly deserves -- perhaps even in 2004, when the band reunited after a decades-plus sabbatical. So you can probably score this one on the cheap, which won't matter in the end anyway. Whoever gets this gift will probably slip you a tip.


DJ Shadow, Preemptive Strike

Those of you who read this column might roll your eyes at another DJ Shadow plug, but don't blame me: It's his own damn fault for being so clever. And though I haven't featured Preemptive Strike yet doesn't mean that I forgot about it -- I was just pimping the new stuff for the news cycle's sake. But if you're asking me, I'd much rather hear Preemptive's multi-movement sound collage "What Does Your Soul Look Like?" than most of Endtroducing, the fan favorite. Another reason is the collection of ass-kicking tunes not found on any of his other full-length work. "High Noon" is a runaway train of frenetic drums, addictive synths and angular guitars heading straight into apocalypse, while the extended version of "Organ Donor" is a dance-floor staple which a breathtaking scratch solo that should've made it onto Endtroducing. Then there is "In/Flux," a conscientious interrogation of race and rights shot through with clipped poetry and genius syncopation that put Shadow on the map in the first place. Unlike his other releases, Preemptive Strike is a concept album of sorts, a journey that you can't take apart. It's a solid, riveting whole and will check the heads of any lucky relatives you buy it for this holiday season. Lucky bastards.

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© Melt Magazine 2004