Can You Dig It?

(Illustration by Alex Fine)

20 Essential Rock Snob Artifacts Unearthed In 2005
1) Patti Smith Horses: 30th Anniversary Legacy Edition (Arista)
As the high priestess of punk, Smith revived the shamanistic notion that words could be strung like Christmas lights, and — when whipped around like whirling dervishes atop three-chord garage rock — could open the portal of the ecstatic.

2) Bruce Springsteen Born to Run: 30th Anniversary Three-Disc Set (Sony)
After two commercial duds, the suits demanded a hit or else. Written as a time-lapse snapshot of one long summer night in the teenage jungleland of Jersey — with all the urgency of a last chance power try.

3) Donovan Try for the Sun (Sony)
Deathless acid-folk from the land of peace, pot and microdot.

4) No Direction Home: Bob Dylan (Paramount)
Best thing on public television since Sesame Street.

5) Talking Heads Brick (Rhino/Wea)
All eight studio albums remixed to sound like Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. Just kidding.

6) Flaming Lips Fearless Freaks (Shout! Factory)
Unflinching home movie about a bunch of Okie space cadets who clicked their heels three times and wound up somewhere over the rainbow.

7) DJ Shadow Endtroducing … : Deluxe Edition (Island)
Alchemical turntablist clones groovy Frankensteins out of the recombinant DNA of semiprecious vinyl. Nine years later beat scientists are still trying to figure out how he made this monster mash.

8) Neutral Milk Hotel In the Aeroplane Over the Sea (Domino Reissue)
This is still the king of carrot flowers. Come back wherever you are.

9) Dig! (Palm Pictures)
The Dandy Warhols’ guitarist nails it when he predicts that in 10 years his band will likely be forgotten but people will still be buying Brian Jonestown Massacre albums.

10) Moanin’ at Midnight: The Life and Times of Howlin’ Wolf, by James Segrest and Mark Hoffman (Pantheon)
Documenting the hard-time-killing-floor life of the spookiest-voiced bluesman to crawl out of the Delta ooze and walk like a man in Chicago.

11) The Man Who Fell to Earth (Criterion)
Red-haired, lizard-eyed and cocaine-thin, David Bowie plays the titular extraterrestrial in Nicholas Roeg’s navel-gazing 1976 study of the metaphysics of alienation and ambiguity.

12) Dream Boogie: The Triumph of Sam Cooke, by Peter Guralnick (Little, Brown)
He sang like an angel and died like a pimp: naked, chasing a hooker and staring down the wrong end of a gun. He was only 33 when he went to oldies heaven.

13) Various Artists One Kiss Can Lead to Another: Girl Group Sounds Lost and Found (Rhino/Wea)
She’s goin’ to the chapel and she’s gonna get married and she’s gonna cut that bitch Sheila if she even looks at her man again.

14) Ramones Weird Tales of the Ramones (Rhino/Wea)
Their genius wasn’t that they really only had one song. It’s that you can listen to it 85 times in a row and never get tired of it.

15) Johnny Cash The Legend (Columbia)
Required listening for all good Americans.

16) Like A Rolling Stone: Bob Dylan At The Crossroads, by Greil Marcus (Public Affairs)
Only a profound windbag like Marcus could wring 283 pages of hardcover sociocultural exegesis out of a six and a half minute song.

17) Rock Snob Dictionary, by David Kamp and Steven Daly
Kamp and Daly finally turn their much-imitated (ahem) Vanity Fair piece into a book-length treatise perched halfway between self-serious insight and self-mocking smarm.

18) T. Rex Slider
Reissued along with ZINC ALLOY AND THE HIDDEN RIDERS OF TOMORROW, DANDY IN THE UNDERWORLD, and THE T. REX WAX CO. SINGLES A’s AND B’s 1972-77, this is the one that, all these years later, retains its hubcap diamond star halo from beginning to end.

19) Miles Davis The Cellar Door Sessions 1970 (Columbia Legacy)
When Miles started dressing his jazz and Dashikis and wah-wah pedals and let it all hang out.

20) Stooges Fun House (Elektra/Wea)
Thirty-six years old and this still makes Metallica sound like pussies.