Regardless, folks like Frank Zappa, Sun Ra, Lou Reed, Prince, John Cale and the like were all examined, listened to and found to be more than qualified. There's a lot of music out there, and I'm not so sure I want to spend my life preparing to discuss the complete works of Rod Stewart on my deathbed. So here they are: five more of the most intimidating discographies in music.
6. THE RESIDENTS
I’m going to be honest in saying that simply writing this blurb about The Residents taught me more than I ever knew about them before. What little I’ve heard of their intentionally obscure and prolific body of work sounds like either one of two things: a rock opera about Tiny Tim being raped by Ween as composed by Van Dyke Parks, or the original motion picture soundtrack to a Martian snuff film. Despite having come up with such a detailed and accurate description and skimming through a dozen or so records on Spotify, I’m still not even sure if I like it — most especially not enough to listen to 60+ albums' worth. And even were I even to make it through those, there are still 20-30 singles and EPs left in addition to several live albums, and at least 25 DVDs and CD-ROMs to ingest before I can truly call this a triumph.
The Easy Route: The Residents Commercial Album at least sounds about like as easy a listen as you’re going to get.
7. R. STEVIE MOORE
Perhaps the most frightening thing about learning that semi-local legend R. Stevie Moore has 400 or so home-recorded, self-released cassettes and CD-Rs in his 40-year-old catalog is that they are home-recorded, self-released on cassette and CD-R. That means the record industry you think you hate so much is no longer here to protect you from what may or may not be listenable.
The good news is that I can’t seem to find nearly that many available to the casual listener without some serious-ass digging. Granted, that still leaves several dozen pun-loving, full-length collections of classic pop, rampant experimentalism, spoken-word excursions and left-field idiosyncrasies to potentially fill the rest of your days on earth.
The Easy Route: Start with 1977’s Hits and Misses. It’s really good. Move on from there as you feel comfortable.
8. GUIDED BY VOICES
There are essentially two kinds of GBV fans. One type revels in the sheer bulk of their output and the priceless rare gems contained within their infinite stream of singles, EPs and the like. An hour-long conversation with any of these geeks will tell “type two” everything he or she needs to know. Type two likely already has Bee Thousand and Alien Lanes on their iPod. They probably already know Do the Collapse isn’t that great even though it has “Teenage FBI” on it, and they know all the words to “Motor Away” even though they’re not sure which record it’s on. That said, asking them to skim through the muddy King Shit and Golden Boys or later, lesser works like Half-Smiles of the Decomposed may be asking a little much. By and large, it’s the crude recording quality of their early work as well as the scattered quality of their one-off short-players that keep most from digging too deeply.
The Easy Route: Hardcore UFOs Box Set
9. BRIAN ENO
Most of us have heard Roxy Music’s Country Life, Eno’s Here Come the Warm Jets and Another Green World, and for most of us, that’s plenty of Eno, as they are all phenomenal records and they sound pretty much nothing like the rest of his discography. A little over a year ago, I was battling a nasty spell of insomnia and spent a week playing selections from the remainder of the self-described “non-musician’s” exhausting catalog, which is comprised mostly of ambient, experimental, instrumental works composed with experimental methods for imaginary films, airports, civic recovery centers and art installations (some real, some imagined).
There are about 30 of these, of which my subconscious absorbed maybe five. I don’t have that much trouble sleeping anymore, I don’t even have a stereo anymore, and I don’t think I can afford the heroin habit that it might take to get through the other 25+.
The Easy Route: Play this stuff while you’re sleeping for some really experimental dreams.
10. WILL OLDHAM
I’m not going to sit here and split hairs with you over what records were released under Palace, Palace Brothers, Palace Music, Palace Songs, Palace Boners, Bonnie “Prince” Billy, etc., etc., etc. It’s all Will Oldham, either by himself or with a backing band, and there’s a whole shitload of it. All of this adds up to one long, confusing, heartfelt, 50+ discography of rootsy, folky stuff that dabbles occasionally in country and electronica and blogs like Pitchfork can’t seem to find any other word for besides “haunting.”
I just spent about two hours sifting through it all on Spotify and YouTube, and I feel about the same as if I had just watched Jim Jarmusch’s existential Western Dead Man. Oldham is by all means a talented performer, but if you’re in no mood to contemplate your own mortality for days on end, I’d take on this body of work on in reasonable doses.
The Easy Route: Grand Royal Records released a compilation called At Home With the Groovebox where they gave a lot of cool bands like Pavement, Sonic Youth, Cibo Matto, Bis, etc., a Roland MC-505 and had them record a song with it. This is the first time I heard Oldham’s "Prince Palace Music," and it’s my favorite song of his.