Wednesday, 17 December 2014

10 Supposedly 'Great' Albums That Are Overrated

……well, in my opinion of course!!

This album got a lot of credit because it helped set new boundaries for music, allowing anyone from musical illiterates to young rock and pop star wannabees to pick up a guitar. The truth is, I think it's a pile of garbage from a bunch of foul-mouthed, manufactured, cacophonous airheads. Whether the punk movement was important is neither here nor there - the music on this album is very amateurish and the lyrics exhibit a vile and ill-educated worldview. The Clash's London Calling was pretty good: this is just unpleasant to me.

THRILLER - Michael Jackson
Often cited as the quintessential pop record, which revolutionised music for black artists and the music video, and still sounds as fresh today as it when it was released. But once we get beyond the three genuinely good songs - the title track, Billie Jean and Beat it (with a guitar solo to die for by Eddie Van Halen), and perhaps Wanna’ Be Startin’ Something (if you're feeling generous) we have an album of pretty mediocre songs, and in the case of The Girl Is Mine (what were you thinking of Paul McCartney?) and Baby Be Mine, absolute stinkers.

Ok, I don't mind the Nirvana sound, and the bone crunching anthems are good musically - but for me the qualities of this album have been hugely exaggerated. Maybe Kurt Cobain is just someone with whom I don't really connect, or to whom I don’t really relate. Perhaps you have to feel that connection and relation in order to love this album as much as many do. I think The Smashing Pumpkins were much better, and their album Adore is, for me, the high point of grunge, and one of the most underrated albums in the world.

IMAGINE - John Lennon
A whole host of stars were present here in the studio for the making of this album, including George Harrison, Klaus Voorman, Nicky Hopkins and producer Phil Spector. But apart from the excellent Jealous Guy, and the reasonably good How, I think the songs aren't really up to much. The perennially overplayed title track has got to be one of the most overrated songs ever, with puerile lyrics and sententious tone, with Crippled Inside and How Do You Sleep (both petulant attacks on Paul McCartney) being more or less as bad, and Oh Yoko being perhaps his worst song as a solo artist.

You know, I love REM - I think they are one of the best bands of the past 35 years. And this album is good, of course (REM don't really make bad albums) - just overrated in my view. Songs like the truly awful Radio Song, Shiny Happy People and Belong put this album down a few notches, and sit uncomfortably alongside classics like Losing My Religion, Country Feedback, Low and Near Wild Heaven. Not a bad album, for sure - just not quite the 90s classic many thought it was.

On a good day it's easy to think that Led Zeppelin were at their creative best here with this double album - a diverse collection of songs in what was a daring venture at this point in their career. But apart from Kashmir - one of their very best songs, with its mystical lyrics and brilliantly crafted string arrangements, the other songs don't really match the quality found on their first four albums. Still not a bad album by any means - but I think that the passing of time has edged this album into a more realistic appraisal of its qualities.

Quite why Oasis get the superlatives they do is beyond me. I think they made a few ok rock anthems (Live Forever, Wonderwall, Half The World Away, Champagne Supernova) but their once self-proclaimed status as 'Britain's best band' is surely one of the biggest jokes in rock. Even at their best they are only about half as good as they think they are, and not even up to the standard of other Britpop contemporaries like Pulp, Suede and Blur, (who were, to me, always musically and lyrically much more eclectic and interesting), let alone in their generation's rock pantheon with the likes of The Smiths, REM, Radiohead, Spiritualized and Belle & Sebastian.

THE HOLY BIBLE - Manic Street Preachers
I know these guys were poster boys for a generation of melancholic, angst-ridden teenagers back in the 1990s, with this being the album that struck the biggest chord, but this band and I are just not on the same wavelength. For this kind of thing, give me Nick Drake or Jeff Buckley or Jim Morrison any day. It might be me, but I just don't connect with these Manic Street Preachers at all. There are times when Richey Edwards' lyrics hit the mark - the posthumous Small Black Flowers That Grow In The Sky being one example - but generally I think there are more interesting and profound troubled souls out there. And as for Nicky Wire, I think he sees himself as one of the great socio-political voices of his generation, whereas personally, I see him as a pretentious pseudo-intellectual with nothing much of interest to say. Aptly, he was once quoted as saying "I do consider myself to be something of a pretentious wanker.", which at least shows he's a good judge of character.

IS THIS IT? - The Strokes
A friend copied this for me about ten years ago; I played it a few times, and never got what all the fuss was about. I think this kind of stuff has been done better before, with The Strokes being, to me, little more than a sub-standard regurgitation of superior rock bands like Velvet Underground, Iggy and the Stooges and Television.

THE STONE ROSES - The Stone Roses
Possibly a contentious inclusion this one, as I do think it's a very good album, with a seminal influence on the British pop scene, and the skilful combination of a sixties pop sound with funky acid rock. But apart from the excellent opening track I Wanna Be Adored, and the even better closing number I Am The Resurrection, I'd say the rest of the songs hardly add up to constitute the album's so-called 'classic' status.  

That's my view anyway. So to recap, this is not a blog post about bad albums – it’s a blog post about overrated albums – some of which are pretty good, just not (in my view) deserving of the absolute classic status they have been afforded.

One thing’s almost certain here, you probably won’t agree with my assessment; you might agree with some of it, but there’ll be albums above about which we disagree – and that’s only to be expected. The appraisal is only my personal one, based on how music connects or doesn’t connect with me.

To end, generally I don’t like to be negatively critical, so to make things more positive, next time I’ll list some albums I do highly appreciate.