Commentary

Music from A to Z, using the delete key

Updated: February 24, 2009, 10:35 AM ET
By Paul Shirley | Special to ESPN.com

A few weeks ago, my computer told me it was running out of hard drive space. Or rather, an icon popped up that read "Low Disc Space." It would have been much more fun if my computer had actually told me it was running out of room, then followed with an electric shock, a slap to the face and a sarcastic robotic voice that said, "Seriously? You filled up 100 GB?"

[+] EnlargeBjork
Gullaume Baptiste/AFP/Getty ImagesBjork, you kooky little Icelandic pixie, you get to stay.
The main contributor to my laptop's data constipation was music. I've not been particularly discriminatory when it comes to what stays on my hard drive. Now I'm paying the price. Those years of keeping an entire Who album just because I might someday want to listen to "Pinball Wizard" are coming back to haunt me.

The only answer was a major housecleaning. Or drive cleaning, I suppose. At the start of my project, iTunes listed my collection at 12,272 songs, the equivalent of 101.5 days' worth of music, taking up 53.22 GB of space. I wrote none of that to brag; I'm sure millions of people have much, much more music on their hard drives. I noted those numbers only as a starting point. Which means I should have an end point, as well. A post-purge goal. If I don't, I'm sure I'll be too easy on myself, then, a year from now when the new Tool album comes out, I won't have space. (That's speculation. I have no inside information regarding Tool.)

The goal: free up 20 GB of space. I want this down to 33 GB by the time I'm done. Keep in mind that I'm not going to delete this music -- it's going to an external hard drive. But, although I say that, I know some of it will be gone forever. I'll be able to justify sending Apex Theory to the information gulag, but I don't know that I'll ever rescue them. For some of the artists in my grab bag o' music, this will be a sad day.

As I begin, I will add this disclaimer: I know I'm going to piss off someone. The Ass Ponys are probably your favorite band, and when I tell you that I've given them multiple chances but I just can't get into them, you're going to get upset. Sorry. Believe me, it is not my intention to trivialize these bands' hard work. I've probably dismissed many musicians because my first listen of their work coincided with the day I thought a girl would call and she didn't. And just because I don't like something doesn't mean it's not good. I am hardly qualified as an expert tastemaker. So don't take this too seriously. And remember, they're not going away forever.

I suppose I might as well start where anyone in my shoes would … with Adema. I don't really know how Adema got on here. Wait, found it -- I've heard this song called "Giving In" before. I think these might be the guys fronted by the brother of Jonathan Davis of Korn fame. And now that I listen to it, I kind of want to keep it. Hell. This is what I'm talking about. The album has exactly zero listens and I'm finding ways to justify its trashy, nu-metal existence. But I'm going to be firm. It's my first cut.

Next to go are The Academy Is …, Airiel and the second Alanis Morissette album, along with the memory of the $12 I used to buy it.

Goodbye, Alien Ant Farm (not the one with the cover of "Smooth Criminal"), the All-American Rejects and American Hi-Fi.

Arrested Development? Obviously, they get to stay because they're awesome. (The band. Although the show is awesome, as well.)

[+] EnlargeB.B. King
Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty ImagesEver have a momennt that just calls out for a B.B. King song?
I'm at the B's, and I'm presented with my first quandary. I have a lot of B.B. King on my computer. I respect B.B. King, and I know I should like him. But I can't think of a scenario in which I'll think, "This moment won't be the same unless I hear B.B. King." I'm sorry for my lack of taste. But I have to be firm. OK, OK, I'll keep one album. The "B.B. King Anthology" seems like the logical choice.

Jesus, I have a lot of Beastie Boys. Don't worry, it all stays. There's just a lot here.

I want to delete Beirut, but that weird Gypsy-sounding dude and I have had a few meaningful moments. Stays.

Argh, tough stretch, as applied to my goal. Bjork, Black Crowes, Black Keys, Black Kids, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Black Strobe. They all have to stay in. It's not looking good.

Another dilemma. I see five Blur albums. It's all great music, but I can't remember the last time I thought I needed to hear three hours of Blur. The album "13" has to stay. I can't imagine cutting "Blur" the album, just because of "Beetlebum." Grudgingly, "Parklife" and "The Great Escape" are exiting the building. I just alienated my entire Brit readership. I'll make you a deal, limeys. If I miss those two albums, they'll be here in my trusty external hard drive. I'll put them right back on.

Oh, Bush. Why couldn't you have been better? (The Gavin Rossdale outfit, not the one from Texas.) Obviously, "Sixteen Stone" makes the cut. So, what I mean to say is: Why couldn't you have put out more than one good album? "The Science of Things" hits the road.

Calla is a wonderful band. Saw them live once and was transfixed. But four albums is too many. "Scavengers" gets sent packing.

The Constantines? Who the hell are the Constantines, and how did they get on my computer?

Creed -- "My Own Prison." Oh, how my brothers and I lusted for this album when I was a teenager. We had no idea … just how awesome it is. Sure, the guy's a jackass. But this will never get deleted. I don't care how many comments are made telling me about my bad taste in music.

Three Cypress Hill albums? That seems a bit much. I can't imagine what provoked me to buy "Live at the Fillmore" for six euros on a Barcelona side street. "Black Sunday" stays.

[+] EnlargeGavin Rossdale
Jeff Gross/Getty ImagesIt's been all downhill musically for Gavin Rossdale and Bush since "Sixteen Stone."
There's this band called Destroyer, right. Everyone loves them, but the singer's voice makes me want to lose my hearing permanently. I hate saying that because I'm sure he's talented. But because this is my hard disc real estate, he's going to the external.

Don Henley, you've had your day in the sun.

I think Eek-A-Mouse is probably better than I give him/them credit for being, but it reminds me of a girl who broke up with me on a New Year's morning, so it's leaving.

Sorry, Richard Patrick from Filter. You should obscure your lyrics a little better. "Title of Record" gets to stay, but that other one, yikes.

The Flaming Lips Paradox: Everyone says a band is great, so you listen. You like them a lot. But you can't seem to make yourself listen to them as much as you should. See also Grandaddy, Badly Drawn Boy and Elbow.

(However, you can't bring yourself to remove them from your laptop.)

Franz Joseph Haydn: You stay, even though I never listen to you. This scene needs someone culturally significant.

I come upon the Gin Blossoms and am reminded how great "New Miserable Experience" is.

I come upon "Grinderman" and am reminded of how not great, completely overrated and badly done that album is.

Idiot Pilot: one of the best bands you've never heard of. Buy "Strange We Should Meet Here" immediately.

Institute: Gavin Rossdale rears his pretty head once again. To the box with you, Gavin.

The girl who introduced me to Mudvayne also introduced me to the John Butler Trio. Mudvayne will be liked by almost no one reading this; the JBT will be liked by almost everyone. I probably missed the boat with that girl. Mr. Butler stays forever.

Damn you, John Coltrane. I know I'm supposed to like you, but my too-small brain just can't handle jazz. Sorry, but you're being purgatoried. I think I hear Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'" every time I go to a bar. I almost want to delete their "Greatest Hits" out of spite, but then I remember "Lights."

[+] EnlargeNickelback
Frank Micelotta/Getty ImagesPaul Shirley doesn't have a problem with Nickelback. Got a problem with that?
A lot of people really like Keane. I am not one of them. Off they go.

Album from 2008 that is growing on me: Ladytron, "Velocifero." All my Ladytron stays.

Liars get to stick around only because the guys in Interpol like them so much. Liars should know, though, that they're on strict parole. I'm sure they're worried.

I saw the band Live on television a few days ago. Soon after, I had a discussion with my parents about rock acts that can keep it going even into their twilight years. Live will not be one of those acts. Off goes the album that is not "Throwing Copper."

Local H: Simple, basic, fun. They should put out an album every year. In fact, part of my motivation for a clear-out is based on my finding out that Local H put out a CD last year. I didn't have space for it, which is inexcusable.

The Long Blondes, "Longview" and "Longwave" can all gargle my bathwater.

I rooted for Marilyn Manson for so long. I loved watching him on "Fahrenheit 9/11" and I've air-guitared to "I Don't Like the Drugs" and "Beautiful People" in many a foreign apartment. But the non-singles are non-good. Still, have to keep "Antichrist Superstar" and "Mechanical Animals." "Holy Wood" bites the dust.

Halfway through the M's, and my goal is looking increasingly daunting. I'm still at 45 GB. The goal was 33.

I'm not even supposed to like Megadeth, but I want to. Unfortunately, unless you already had a meth habit in 1986, I don't think you're capable of liking Megadeth. Sorry, Dave Mustaine.

Reminder (or first notice): Mike Doughty is good, whether inside Soul Coughing or out.

Mississippi John Hurt: B.B. King Phenomenon.

This is going to annoy someone: Pre-2000 Modest Mouse is nearly unlistenable. Away with "Lonesome Crowded West."

On the other hand, anything released post-12 A.D. by Mogwai -- always listenable.

In my admittedly un-definitive collection of music, Muddy Waters' "Folk Singer" is the best album for sex.

Sebastian Bach
Dana Frank/Ovoworks/Ovoworks/Time Life Pictures/Getty ImagesSkid Row must go, but "18 and Life" deserves another listen.
Ah, my favorite musical letter: N.

Nada Surf, The National, Naughty By Nature, Neil Diamond, Neil Young, New Order, New Pornographers, Nickelback. Yes, that's right, Nickelback. I have no problem with Nickelback, which we'll come back to at a later date. Nine Inch Nails, Nirvana

The Nixons, Nonpoint … oops. Those need to go.

Note to self: Listen to more Pinback.

I'm an album guy. I don't like to have singles on my computer. But "Pets" by Porno for Pyros is too good, and the rest of the record is too bad.

Queens of the Stone Age fit the Flaming Lips Paradox. Everything by them stays.

I'm getting soft. The Rapture stick around only because my brother Dan constantly champions them.

I'm going to make a comment now. If you're like most music listeners, you'll write me off after I make this comment. I rather like the band Seether. However, their last album is not very good. Off it goes.

I'm fairly confident that I do not need to have an entire Skid Row album. I do, however, need to listen to "18 and Life" right now.

Had fate not intervened, I would be deleting "Zeitgeist" by the Smashing Pumpkins. But my iPod's shuffle feature sent the song "Bring the Light" my way a few days ago. I liked it. It is quite possible that I only liked it because when "Zeitgeist" popped up on the display, I assumed I wouldn't like it, and thus, liked it only relative to what I expected. Whatever. In a colossal surprise, "Zeitgeist" gets to stay.

THE PORTABLE PAUL SHIRLEY


Paul's basketball adventures are now in paperback.

Soundtrack of our Lives -- Flaming Lips Paradox. I guess I'll keep them. I think I'm getting tired.

The same girl who broke up with me on that dreadful New Year's convinced me to put Starsailor back on my computer after I had deleted them once. Now they're gone for good. Unless my current girlfriend wants them to go back on. I'm such a pushover.

I think my life has moved past its Taproot phase.

Oh, how I wanted to like Thursday. (The band. The day is great. Friday's coming; "The Office" is on …)

I have two Train albums? That number needs to get about two smaller.

Don't worry, VAST, I will never delete you.

Why is !!! last in iTunes' alphabetization scheme? No wonder I never listen to them.

I've reached the end. The results are in, and they're not good. I have 40.99 GB left. The final tally might not show it, but I think I did my best. I might not have the space for which I had hoped, but I'll have enough to shepherd in the next generation of bands whose presence on my laptop might be fleeting. In fact, I've already started -- I'm importing Jason Isbell as I write this. I can only hope that, in a year, he'll have impressed me enough to stay for a while. Or at least that he'll make it a difficult decision.

Paul Shirley has played for 13 pro basketball teams, including three NBA teams -- the Chicago Bulls, Atlanta Hawks and Phoenix Suns. He can be found at myspace.com/paulshirley and at mysocalledcareer@gmail.com. His book "Can I Keep My Jersey?" -- which is now available in paperback -- can be found here. With his brother, he co-hosts an online radio show, "Off Topic with Matt and Paul Shirley."

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