Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Chuck Eddy: Stairway To Hell: The 500 Best Heavy Metal Albums In The Universe

Any list that attempts to define some sort of cultural canon, be it AFI's "100 Greatest American Movies" or the Modern Library's "100 Greatest English-Language Novels," is bound to inspire contention. Some lists, in fact, are simply meant to spark debate and foster discussion through intentionally controversial inclusions and omissions. But Chuck Eddy's hilarious, wickedly malicious book Stairway To Hell is so obviously goofy that it's just as likely to incite laughing fits as fist-fights. Eddy is a rock critic firmly in the vein of Robert Christgau, and his occasionally incomprehensible wordplay and cute alliterations sometimes get the better of him. But this new edition of his 1991 book, with an updated list of the "100 Best Heavy Metal Albums Of The '90s" is essential for any metalhead smart enough to realize the sheer inanity of his or her chosen genre. What makes Stairway To Hell such argument fodder is Eddy's extremely broad definition of heavy metal, which includes such dubiously metal acts as Funkadelic, Sonic Youth, Miles Davis, Cheap Trick, Hüsker Dü, Jimi Hendrix, ZZ Top, and just about any other remotely "loud-guitar" group. Of course, Eddy includes such obvious metal bands as Metallica and Slayer, but readers may be surprised how low they're ranked. Eddy is shameless in compiling his list: Headbangers without a sense of humor may scoff at the number of entries allotted to poodle-rockers like Poison, Cinderella, Bon Jovi, and Kix—which lands three albums in the top 50—let alone the author's earnest, but not serious, tone. What makes Eddy so much fun is his insistence on egalitarian review: To Eddy, Led Zeppelin, The Stooges, Last Exit, and Run D.M.C. are all to be judged by the same wonderfully vague standards, which he admittedly has trouble illustrating in the foreword. So don't look for any logic behind Eddy's decision to rank Teena Marie and The Jimmy Castor Bunch well over, say, Master Of Puppets. Or Eddy's decision to claim Rancid's Let's Go as the Numero Uno of this decade, over the far more obvious Nevermind. Or even Eddy's decision to define both Rancid and Nirvana as metal at all. Just drop on your favorite Sabbath platter (his is Sabotage), kick up your feet, and let the battle of wills begin.