The always-well-spoken Tom Ewing of Freaky Trigger has a new addition to his Poptimist column in Pitchfork that ponders the psychology behind choosing one’s favorite album. I’ve always answered the same album since I was about seventeen: The Cure’s Pornography. I haven’t even questioned that answer in years (despite The Cureâ€™s self-sabotaging relevance in my life); it’s just been a pat response as long as I can remember. It became my favorite album because of its impact on me at that time in my life. It encompassed everything I wanted out of music when I was seventeen: It was bitter, angry, sad, scary, and uncompromisingly caustic. It was subversive aural rebellion incarnate, and I wore it on my sleeve. One famous review claimed it made Joy Divisionâ€™s Ian Curtis seem like a bundle of laughs by comparison. And that was saying a lot.
I’m not even sure how true it is to answer Pornography anymore. Iâ€™m more than twice the age I was when I discovered it, and I don’t know how to judge it by my seventeen-year-old-self’s standards. I do believe your favorite album is the one that hits you the hardest, makes you look at music differently, changes your perspective, etc. I don’t think it’s the best album of all time by any means. A favorite albums list I might compile would be a lot different than my best albums list. To some people that sounds crazy, but it makes perfect sense to me. For example, I know deep down that The Beatles’ Revolver is a better album than Pornography, but it’s not the one that affected me to my core at that important point in my life. As Ewing reveals through his own experience, choosing one’s favorite album is arbitrary and personal and completely subjective. No one can tell you you’re wrong. The only time Ewing makes me wince is when he accuses John Peel of shallowly holding allegiance to allegiance itself by proclaiming Captain Beefheartâ€™s Trout Mask Replica to be his favorite record until the day he died. I donâ€™t think it was stubbornness that fueled Peelâ€™s consistency; isnâ€™t it more likely that Trout Mask Replica had the biggest impact on him personally and no other album ever made him feel the same way?