My CDs, My Self

Until a few years ago, I arranged my CDs in their high-capacity zip-up cases semi-alphabetically, which was a huge pain in the ass. It was ridiculous to re-alphabetize several hundred of them every year, and the High Fidelity-type nerd in me liked the autobiographical aspect of leaving them in the order I bought them.

I needed a way to track the CDs, though, lest I waste 15 minutes flipping through my cases trying to find that Rapeman CD. So I assigned each CD case a letter, numbered each page, then put the info into a simple Filemaker database. Rapeman? D17. Yes, it's incredibly nerdy, but it works really well.

In my organizational bliss, I didn't realize until later that the data revealed more than where to find that Butter 08 album (A9). When I recently sorted the 922 CDs by artist name, the results painted a relatively accurate portrait of me.

The most CDs I own by one artist is 14, by the long-running thinking man's pop-punk band,
J Church. Frontman Lance Hahn writes music at a pace that would leave Robert Pollard winded. J Church's supremacy didn't surprise me, but the runners-up did. Coming in second, with 13, is Superchunk. The North Carolina-based indie band is definitely one of my all-time favorites–particularly their work from No Pocky For Kitty through Indoor Living–but I didn't realize I had so many of their CDs.

Others in the 10+ club: Rocket From The Crypt (11) and Face To Face (10). Just behind them were Fugazi and Government Issue (9); Hüsker Dü, Jimmy Eat World, Sleater-Kinney, and Wilco (8); Avail, Bob Mould, Guided By Voices, Jawbreaker, and Robbie Fulks (7); Death Cab For Cutie, Horace Pinker, Johnny Cash, Pixies, R.E.M., Samiam, and Yo La Tengo (6); then At The Drive-In, Converge, Dinosaur Jr., Hey Mercedes, Jawbox, NOFX, Sugar, The Replacements, The White Stripes, Uncle Tupelo, and Versus (5).

Those numbers don't tell the whole story. I may have more CDs by R.E.M. than Jawbox, but Jawbox only released four albums. (The fifth was a singles/rarities collection.) Each was amazing, and I listen to them constantly–but I can't tell you the last time I listened to R.E.M. I have five NOFX CDs, the last one purchased more than a decade ago. I loved the SoCal pop-punk heavyweights as a teenager, but I never listen to them now. I have a whopping 10 Face To Face CDs, but they were also a favorite from my teen years. Although I still enjoy them, my Jawbreaker and Hüsker Dü CDs see a lot more action.

The numbers also don't reflect how much I like hip-hop or classic Motown. As a kid, Public Enemy (3) was one of my favorites. I've been trying to convince my bandmates to cover The Four Tops' "Bernadette." Even though I only have a few CDs by Digable Planets and A Tribe Called Quest, they receive a lot of play. Ditto for my albums by contemporary artists like Diverse (who's only released one), Common (1), and Jurassic 5 (2).

What's not in the database says just as much as what is. Zero from Led Zeppelin, the Beach Boys, and Kiss. One by the Beatles (Abbey Road). Rolling Stones? Two (greatest hits). Bob Dylan? Two, which I purchased this month.

I recently revisited some Beatles albums, but I have yet to experience some kind of fanatical epiphany. Personally, I resent how much they're shoved down my throat and placed on a pedestal as THE BEST BAND THAT EVER WALKED THE FUCKING EARTH. I appreciate what they were and how much they influenced people whose music I love–but when I hear "I Want To Hold Your Hand" on the radio, I can't change the station quickly enough.

The same goes for the Beach Boys. I particularly loathe the "Surfin' USA" whitebread schlock they peddled back in the day, but the reverence surrounding Pet Sounds remains lost on me, as does the cult of Brian Wilson.

Led Zeppelin I grew up hating. I attended an all-male college-prep high school, which was like being conscripted into a fraternity, and many of my fellow students loved Zeppelin. For a young punk rocker, Led Zeppelin epitomized bloated cock rock, but my attitude toward them has thawed considerably since I was 16. I still despise Kiss with every fiber of my being, though, and plan to piss on Gene Simmons' grave.

The final analysis? The numbers indicate that I prefer guitar rock, particularly punk, post-punk, and indie rock. I'm suspicious (and occasionally resentful) of music's revered icons. The numbers, however, fail to account for my longtime love of hip-hop and my recent fondness for classic country and alt-country (which would be heresy to my 16-year-old self).

What about you, intrepid A.V. Club readers? Who rules your collection, and what does that say about you? Spill it.