Thanks to Joshua, who pointed out the list.
Move over, Rolling Stone Magazine and VH1. Everybody knows that there's a holy, unassailable canon of popular music. But the National Recording Registry, everybody's favorite archivists, has just upped the ante by publishing its new list of the audio recordings deemed most worthy of saving for posterity. Associated with the U.S. Library of Congress, the National Recording Registry selects recordings that "are culturally, historically or aesthetically important, and/or inform or reflect life in the United States" (editor's note: and apparently the UK since it includes The Beatles, but we'll wink and look the other way on that one). The only new recording this year? Sonic Youth's 1998 album Daydream Nation, which joins Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five's "The Message," Public Enemy's Fear of a Black Planet, and Nirvana's Nevermind as the only popular music from the past 25 years that has been added to the list.
So let me kvetch. Sonic Youth? As one of the four most significant recordings of the past 25 years? Why not, oh, The Psychedelic Furs or Kylie Minogue or someone else equally ridiculous? Look, Sonic Youth is a good band and Daydream Nation is a good album. But when you're compiling what appears to be an attempt to formulate the ultimate list of audio artifacts for future generations, or the aliens, or whoever is supposed to enjoy this stuff, don't you have an obligation to consider overall cultural impact, innovation, musical genius -- *something* that suggests some overarching critical importance beyond "a pretty good post-punk album"? It's not like Sonic Youth were the first to do what they do (or anywhere close to the first), that they carved out a whole new musical genre, or that they had a massive impact on the culture. So ... what is it? I don't get it.
And sorry, but if you're compiling a list for the aliens, you ought to be able to get the names of the songs right. What are the Venutians going to think? That should be "Whipping Post," not "Tied to the Whipping Post," as it's identified in the blurb on the 1971 album The Allman Brothers at Fillmore East. Check the album cover, ye most distinguished archivists. Unless the goal is to confuse the aliens. But Orson Welles' 1938 broadcast of War of the Worlds should already have that angle covered.