Double Trouble

Eels still reel from one of history's best double albums, but history isn't so kind to others

With Eels in town for a no-strings-attached concert (or at least no string section), it's the perfect time to examine the art of the double album. Most two-disc sets should have half as many songs--or none at all--but Blinking Lights and Other Revelations was the rare twin platter that actually merited the format. What other double albums make the cut or cut the cheese? Hope you can spare 1,100 minutes for the answer.

Best:

Eels, Blinking Lights and Other Revelations: Seven years in the making, the 2005 album documents front man Mark "E" Everett's life shortly after the consecutive deaths of his parents and two sisters. Though there is some overlap, songs on the twilight-purple first disc come from a man struggling to find reasons to go on living, while sunrise-orange disc two reveals a wounded man accepting his lot in life and even finding things to smile about. Eels' brand of upbeat, everything-influenced pop--at times enhanced by strings, woodwinds and horns--is all over the map. But E doesn't favor any one style for either disc, just as sad lines find their way into joyous songs and vice versa. "Hey Man (Now You're Really Living)" asks, "Have you ever made love to a beautiful girl/Made you feel like it's not such a bad world?" Accented with sax and chimes, it'll make you bob your head with tears in your eyes.

OutKast, Speakerboxxx/The Love Below: Technically, this set is two great solo albums rather than a cohesive double disc, but with the rumored discord between Andre and Big Boi, we were lucky that these guys could agree long enough to release the best two-sided hip-hop party of the aughts.

Miles Davis, Bitches Brew: You don't have to get high to enjoy the whole thing. Really. I swear.

Robert Johnson, The Complete Recordings: The most brilliant (and depressing) fact in music history? That Johnson's entire recorded output fits on two CDs.

Wilco, Being There: This 76-minute dedication to '60s pop could have fit onto one CD, but with songs this good, I'd be willing to change CDs after every track.

Worst:

KISS, Alive!: The band that demonstrated how many fans will accept theatrics and makeup in lieu of good music should be rock 'n' roll's secret shame, not pop-culture icons.

Garth Brooks, Double Live: The Antichrist of Country serves up two pooh-pooh platters of the hollow, cynical showmanship he brought to the genre.

Peter Frampton, Frampton Comes Alive!: Weird statistics: Exposure to "Do You Feel Like We Do" costs the listener 0.087 IQ points per listen. The average American hears the song 29.8 times in his lifetime.

Alanis Morissette, Feast on Scraps: Alanis releases two discs of songs that weren't good enough to replace "Ironic" on the albums along with live versions of her going down in a theater. Really, no, you oughtn't.

Red Hot Chili Peppers, Stadium Arcadium: These guys were awesome when you were in junior high, right? Wrong. Revisit the Peppers and you'll realize their music hasn't declined; your taste in music just sucked when you were 13. If a tired Tom Petty rip-off is these has-beens' pick for a radio single, they've saved me 90 minutes of trouble.

 
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