Critical 10: Double Albums
Awww, the infamous double album. If you had the good fortune to grow up in the '70s (and had stoner parents who bought lots of records), then there's a good chance you had at least one vinyl double album floating around your shag-carpeted living room. These records were awesome because they invariably came packaged in gatefold sleeve, which meant that not only did you get four sides of music to consume, you also got some nice foldout artwork to absorb and (if you were my dad and the record in question is Pink Floyd's The Wall) perhaps hang on the wall. Double albums are often a maligned species of release, mostly because they often represent an out of control ego (a la Smashing Pumpkins' Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness or any number of prog rock records of the late '70s) or a band who could have released one completely excellent album but -- presumably because no one could tell them otherwise and/or they wanted to make more money -- decided to release two mediocre ones instead (Guns N' Roses' Use Your Illusion Volumes 1 and 2 being a good example.) At their best, however, the greatest double albums showcase bands whose genuinely expansive creative vision just couldn't be contained on one LP (or in under 80 minutes on a single compact disc), though records that succeed on that scale -- The Beatles' White Album, Zeppelin's Physical Graffiti -- tend to be exceedingly rare birds. In an age where most people would rather cherry-pick individual songs out of the digital ether rather than buy a full album -- let alone a double album -- it's time to give a tip of the hat to those bands who really felt like they had something to say...and didn't mind taking up two entire albums at a time to say it.