A guide on keeping up with what's best and fresh in pop music on a record budget of $25 a month.
Guns N' Roses' "Appetite for Destruction" (Geffen)--The heavy metal/hard rock world is so overrun with recycled entries that it has taken outsiders a while to realize Guns N' Roses may be the best band of its type since Aerosmith.
The Mekons' "So Good It Hurts" (Twin/Tone)--These Brits add to their sounds and battery of ideas every time they come across a sound (punk to country) or an idea (most of them socially conscious) that seems to be worth passing on, a topical flexibility that makes the group's music a living definition of folk-rock.
Camper Van Beethoven's "Our Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart" (Virgin)--These Californians are also good enough at shifting their music and themes that you could think of them as a sort of American Mekons (without the politics).
The Sugarcubes' "Life's Too Good" (Elektra)--An album of the year contender, this debut LP by an arty and adventurous Icelandic band mixes high-energy, post-punk textures with imaginative songs.
Patti Smith's "Dream of Life" (Arista)--Smith returns from a nine-year sabbatical--devoted to marriage, motherhood and study--with an album that lacks the supercharged energy of her best '70s works, but which still asserts an uplifting, poetic edge.
Brian Wilson's "Brian Wilson" (Sire/Reprise)--His voice is rougher and his lyrics tentative, but the vision remains.
Public Enemy's "It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back" (Def Jam)--Chuck D, the main Enemy, isn't afraid of being labeled an extremist, and it's that fearless bite--or game plan--that helps infuse his black-consciousness raps with the anger and assault of punk pioneers like the Sex Pistols and Clash.
The Primitives' "Lovely" (RCA)--Mixing the pop exuberance of Blondie and the Bangles with occasional traces of Jesus and Mary Chain guitar buzz, this British band make some of the cheeriest pop in years.
"A Vision Shared/A Tribute to Woody Guthrie and Leadbelly" (Columbia)--Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger, Bruce Springsteen, et al. salute two of America's most valuable writers