“This album ate its way into my brain…” That is the criterion, you could say, for the album choices in Marooned, a collection which segues from Stranded, both of which borrow from the theme of the BBC’s “Desert Island Discs,” said to be the longest-running music show on radio. It can be inferred that the editor of both books considered the BBC’s participants to be just a tad too twee and wanted to broaden the debate to include real-life music critics, the kind
who use four-letter words if they want to and get away with it because the publications they contribute to don’t have a problem with that.
“Desert Island Discs” began in 1942 and carried the stout-hearted Brits through the long war and beyond. Prime
ministers are always asked to guest the show, to give an idea of the usual run of luminary. The visitors tell the host what 8 pieces of music they’d like to be stranded with. Marooned takes a different tack. It focuses exclusively on albums. The album (sort of an out-moded term, but who has a better one?) connotes a large, often thematically linked musical trip, not just a single song and not necessarily just a single genre.
Those who weigh in for this project include bloggers, free-lancers and erstwhile scholars. Their claim to obscure notoriety is their passion for funky pop music. Well, not funky as in funk, but funky generic. Like, “propulsive, idiosyncratic minimalism” (Jeff Chang, about “The Meters”), or “no narrative arc, no moment of triumph, no end” (Daphne Carr on “Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space”), or Kandia Crazy Horse, extolling the multi-layered subtleties of “Manassas” : “it is old-timey, folk, pro-ambient, chillout, gospel, country and western, descarga, metal, raga, bluegrass, swing, R&B, and funk.” Wow. She really digs Stephen Stills, unabashedly calling him “my all-time favorite singer.” Apparently, Stephen Stills ate his way into her brain.
Whether any of these sophisticated wordsmiths would really want to spend years on a desert island with just one album is doubtful, but as a total product, Marooned is a tasty read for alert surveyors of the scene. As Greil Marcus comments in his Foreword, there is no longer an agreed-upon
lingua franca for pop music. In fact, some artists “have worked as if to erect barriers between themselves and any version of a so-conceived mass audience.” The result has been a new Babel, with new languages proliferating in the music scene requiring a new kind of listener and a new kind of translator. Marooned is a sort of textbook, written by people who would never admit to being part of writing a textbook. Marcus sees it this way: “This book is likely far more expensive than the $17 or so you may pay for it. If you don’t know the records celebrated here, you’ll want to.”