Pitchfork: Castoffs and Cutouts: The Top 50 Most Common Used CDs
10.0: Essential
9.5-9.9: Spectacular
9.0-9.4: Amazing
8.5-8.9: Exceptional
8.0-8.4: Strong
7.5-7.9: Very good
7.0-7.4: Not brilliant, but nice enough
6.0-6.9: Has its moments, but isn't strong
5.0-5.9: Mediocre; not good, but not awful
4.0-4.9: Just below average; bad outweighs good by just a little bit
3.0-3.9: Definitely below average, but a few redeeming qualities
2.0-2.9: Heard worse, but still pretty bad
1.0-1.9: Awful; not a single pleasant track
0.0-0.9: Breaks new ground for terrible

by Chris Ott

10: Ned's Atomic Dustbin: God Fodder
Say it with me: "Kill! Your! Television!" Jesus Jones, what a joke. I don't know how anyone took these twats seriously, but it really happened. With their cherubic, retarded lead singer flopping around like a muppet on fire, Ned Atomic Dustbin's shook their long-on-top dos to the prevailing beat-- namely shoegaze. A pinch of Swervedriver, a touch of Ride, the cheesy Peavey distortion of a thousand bad L.A. bands and some timely looks? International superstardom was a lock. If only John Penney were as dead sexy as Jesus Jones' Mike Edwards, Ned's might have had a shot.

Actually, they just needed a follow-up single, because although "Grey Cell Green" is crack to every college freshman that hears it at some party or on some friend's mixtape, it's hardly enough to secure this album a place in the permanent collection when the beer money grim reaper comes calling a year later. There's actually a band named Grebo now, after the embarrassingly short-lived, overeager "genre" the Brit press coined to discuss Ned's, Carter USM, EMF, The KLF and Pop Will Eat Itself. This year Ned's sank to their inevitable low, releasing the awfully titled Terminally Groovy greatest hits disc. There are plenty of reasons to be nostalgic for the early 90s; these guys aren't one of them.

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9: Belly: Star
Tanya Donnelly would have led the Throwing Muses to some form of MTV/90210 glory, but she wanted it all to herself. Either that, or Kristin Hersh was an unbearable downer (she did come out as "bi-polar," if you believe in that sort of thing). On the Muses' perfect Real Ramona, Donnelly's gift for cuddly-with-claws pop came to the fore on "Not Too Soon", which shone like a star on that otherwise fairly heavy LP, and went on to top the college charts. Having toyed with lightweight, simple tunes in the supposedly one-off Breeders (she was a founding member and co-wrote/performed Pod), Donnelly pulled out of Throwing Muses in 1991 and pulled off one of the better indie-to-mainstream crossovers during the pond-hopping 90s.

"Feed the Tree" was tailor-made for the Dawson's Creek set before there was one, a perfect summertime anthem for an alt-rock generation weaned on R.E.M. and not a little bored with angry twenty-something boys in flannel. With her pirate's white blouse, witchy smirk and a teetering mound of blonde curls, she was too cute to click past, though she definitely pushed those buttons too hard on the wincing "Gepetto". But it was bassist Gail Greenwood-- not the seemingly impatient Donnelly-- who disemboweled Belly, turning 1995's King into a plodding grunge-lite mess with her embarrassing rock star poses (she went on to join L7; nice one, Gail). The 2002 best-of Sweet Ride includes Belly's best material (and more), and although the cover absolutely sucks for a band blessed by Vaughn Oliver's work, it serves its purpose for a short-lived alterna-pop band, and pretty much guarantees Star will remain in dusty bins for the rest of eternity.

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8: Radiohead: Pablo Honey
Critics salivate at the mere mention of this record, the only obvious chink in Radiohead's otherwise flawless armor. It's such an easy target, though: you're talking about young guys up in Oxford listening to Ride, Britpop and Nirvana, dreaming of being rock stars in the classic sense. Their ingrained self-doubt and ensuing education allowed them to grow out of this embarrassing beginning, and you have to envy their collective balls in dealing with their antiques: they've actually allowed a DVD release of 7 Television Commercials, which compiles early videos where Yorke has laughable Cobain hair, preens for the camera and gets wheeled around in a shopping cart like a child.

Still, "Creep" ain't on there: this is stuff the band just will not touch, and it's understandable when you hear laddish nonsense like "How Do You?" and "Stop Whispering" (which sounds a bit like the #7 entry on this list). Whether you're still a sucker for "Creep" or cringe when you hear the first few notes, Pablo Honey is an unlistenably underdeveloped guitar record. It's uncomfortably obvious how little music these guys had been exposed to; most of these basic rock songs-- "Ripcord" and "Anyone Can Play Guitar"-- are juvenile, jealous ditties about the Britpop royalty they envy, though "Prove Yourself" is possibly worse, a suicide pervention pamphlet that incants "I'm better off dead." Definitely not, even if I thought so at the time.

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7: La's: La's
Every year or two since this record came out in 1990, some sappy, stupid movie will use "There She Goes", prompting another 10,000 people to buy it and sell it back the same week. Some horseshit girl-singer band covered the song a few years back to siphon some cash off its enduring popularity-- I think it was Sixpence None the Richer, and I hope they're not.

"There She Goes" fell from the sky and landed on Liverpudlian singer Lee Mavers' front steps: the guy is absolutely filthy disgusting rich off this two-minute pop song, one of the catchiest since his hometown heroes broke up. Still, The La's is a predictably jittery collection of Dylan/Beatles/Byrds folk-rock, and probably not worth $15 unless you buy the line that rock and roll clichés are a "triumphant resurrection" or whatever.

There's some direly hokey nonsense on this extremely referential record, which, incidentally, Mavers all but disavowed: he hated Steve Lillywhite's production and kept telling the press it wasn't "finished." It was obvious from the start that The La's had no chance of following up their biggest hit, but with "Feelin'", "Timeless Melody", their botched first single "Way Out" and the officially timeless "There She Goes", The La's is absolutely worth picking up second-hand.

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6: Various Artists: Born to Choose / No Alternative
Personally, I was surprised it took so long for record labels to issue these idiot's guides to alt-rock, but it was a fait accompli, as by 1994, Soul Asylum had already queered the whole thing, making it obvious how little you could really get away with. A PSA for runaways? What is this, 1983? "Black Gold"? Who let the fucking Georgia Satellites back on the radio?

Padded with live cuts and an appalling collaboration between Natalie Merchant and Michael Stipe, Born to Choose was definitely the weaker of these two ubiquitous comps, which both began crowding used bins nationwide as fund managers realized Nirvana's "The Laundry Song" (aka "Verse Chorus Verse") was basically a piece of shit and Pavement's "Greenlander"-- the only reason to own Born to Choose-- recently wound up on the deluxe reissue of Slanted & Enchanted.

No Alternative, on the other hand, is worth used bin cash, featuring an un-fucking-believable live version of the Beastie Boys' Licensed to Ill classic "The New Style" done in Paul's Boutique fashion. There's also live version of The Breeders' "Iris", one of the only great Smashing Pumpkins songs ("Glynis"), the aforementioned Nirvana cut, and what could be Buffalo Tom's finest hour, "For All to See". You've also got Uncle Tupelo's version of the Creedence classic "Effigy", and Pavement's R.E.M. tribute "Unseen Power of the Picket Fence", which I could give a shit about, but apparently some fans think it's tee-hee hilarious when Malkmus blurts, "'Time After Time' was my least favorite song!"

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