11:45 a.m. - September 11, 2006
Well, I thought I’d take a different tack this time.
In the world of art and media, things get hyped and inevitably, some are disappointments. We all know about the frustration felt when a new TV show, or movie, or book, or CD fails to live up to expectation.
I have become a victim of the hype machine as well – reading reviews and hearing buzz about albums and artists that fall flat to my ears when I listen to them.
Also, there are times when an artist releases an album that is a follow up to a great triumph, and everyone in the world is expecting a lot from it. Sometimes, those records are out and out dogs, and those are terribly disappointing.
I’m not talking about albums where a band just puts out a mediocre album after a great one, like Judas Priest’s Turbo, nor if a band is trying some new direction and bold statement and it falls flat with good intentions. Nope, I’m talking about out and out failures, here. These are albums that don’t live up to the hype – and just fell flat.
So here is a list of 10 albums released during my lifetime (and yes, I’m old, and yes, I’m going back a long way) that were terrible disappointments either to me personally or to the public (and I have validated those disappointments).
In no particular order, here they are:
Audioslave - Audioslave. Oh, this could have been great. Soundgarden released two classic albums and another set of pretty strong records, and Chris Cornell is an absolute nails vocalist with a great sense of what a song really needs, vocally. Rage Against The Machine were a kick ass band that released some good albums with great songs. One hoped that with Cornell on board, guiding the band, that Audioslave would be more varied and diverse than RATM, and still rock hard, while providing the aural kick of Soundgarden.
It didn’t happen. For some reason, this album never gelled with me. The RATM faction seemed toned down and muted, like they were afraid to step on Cornell’s toes. Cornell, who released a solo album that was a few thousand yards removed from Soundgarden, never got untracked either. The songwriting wasn’t as good as it was with Soundgarden, either.
That may be because Soundgarden collaborated on a lot of the work and all of the members wrote and contributed a lot of songs on each album.
They’ve released two albums since then, but they haven’t sizzled either. On paper, it looks like this should be a great band, but it’s not happening in my ears.
The Final Cut - Pink Floyd. Everyone (OK, most everyone I hung with) in high school was eagerly anticipating this follow up to The Wall, as that album was the be-all-and-end-all for a while. MTV showed three videos from the album as world premieres and I know almost everyone was watching.
Upon hearing the record, I went, “well that’s boring and awful”. Only “Not Now John” had any kick for me, any spark, ANYTHING. The rest of it was just Roger Waters droning on and on and on and on and on….
In retrospect, The Wall wasn’t really THAT great, either.
Kilroy Was Here - Styx. Styx were fairly dependable back in my day. They could always be counted on for albums with some interesting songs, even though a lot of them had filler and were concept albums that lost focus. Still, everyone liked SOME songs by Styx and they really were pretty good hit makers.
The problem was that Dennis DeYoung thought they should be serious, and Paradise Theater was a concept album that was decent, he wanted to go for the gusto with the new one. So he created THIS craptacular piece of fiction, about a society where man is replaced by machine (stop me if you have heard that before). The minute I heard “Mr. Roboto” I knew this would be a turkey. I mean, REALLY now…
The Stone Roses - The Stone Roses. Oh, the hype machine was cranked out for this one, and I fell for it hook, line and sinker. This is more of a personal disappointment, since a lot of critics loved the record and many still do.
I saw videos on MTV for “Fools Gold” and “I Am The Resurrection” and I was intrigued by the sound. I bought the album, and really liked “She Bangs The Drums”.
But the rest of it? For me, it was flat and boring and just sat there. Thankfully, I scavenged off the good tracks for my iPod and FINALLY got someone to buy it back from me.
Parklife - Blur. I saw “Girls & Boys” on MTV and really dug the album, and I heard a lot of great things about it. Again, the hype was strong, but I never got this one. I tried, I really tried, but I couldn’t see what was so great about it.
It was a bland pop record with one great song. I believed the hype, boyyyyy, and well, I sold it back.
Smiley Smile - The Beach Boys. Of course, I was a wee wee wee one when this came out, so this is more of a historical disappointment than a personal one, but upon listening, I can see where the furor over the album came out.
Everyone was sold on the fact that Smile by the Beach Boys would be the best thing EVER. And “Heroes And Villans” would top “Good Vibrations” as an epic single. But Brian Wilson went nuts, and never finished the record, costing everyone a boatload of money to boot. The record company needed product, or there would be hell to pay, so the rest of the Beach Boys, along with some help from Brian, did what they could.
They salvaged some tracks, recorded some others, and tacked on “Good Vibrations”. The version of “Heroes And Villans” is muted and not what it really could have been, based on the alternate cuts that have been released. The versions of “Wonderful” and “Wind Chimes” are criminally short of what the actual Smileversions were.
For the most part, the Beach Boys sound totally stoned out of their gourd. All you need to hear is “She’s Going Bald” or “Groovy Pad” to realize that they were totally out of their heads on pot and perhaps other things. There’s some decent stuff here, but it’s basically a train wreck.
Cut The Crap - The Clash. Joe Strummer fired Mick Jones, Topper Headon went back on the horse, and recruited some young punks to take their places. Jones went off to form Big Audio Dynamite, which had some decent moments.
The album Strummer came up with was galling. As much as it tried, it didn’t sound like the Clash, at all. It was formulaic and bland, not edgy, exciting and new. Feh.
MACHINA / The Machines of God - The Smashing Pumpkins. Billy Corgan’s ego really got in his way, big time. I always felt that Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness should have been cut down to one good disc of material. Adore was a decent effort at a new sound that didn’t totally click, but they were trying so I give them (him?) credit.
But for the last Pumpkins record, Corgan really doesn’t hold back on his pretension nor his zest for perfection. Everything sound flat and dull, and Corgan really tries to cram too much into too little. Unfortunately, Corgan really never has found his way, and the ‘new’ version of the Pumpkins will have basically just sidemen that will do what he wants, adding nothing to the dramatic tension that colored the band’s early work.
McCartney - Paul McCartney. The first few solo albums made by the Beatles were vanity projects, basically. This one, released with the announcement that the Beatles were no more, was the first REAL solo album by a Beatle.
Or was it? Sure, McCartney played all of the stuff himself, except when Linda sang along (and boy, you can tell when she does), and sure there is music on here. But there’s only a couple of decent songs, and most of the stuff is half baked ideas that aren’t songs, really, they’re more like song loaf or song tots. It’s too bad “Maybe I’m Amazed” is stuck on this album, because it deserves better company than “Man We Was Lonely” or “Momma Miss America”, for sure.
Seven And The Ragged Tiger - Duran Duran. Oh, I was young and naïve. I thought they had promise.
Well, you can’t tell me that Rio isn’t an excellent album, and you must admit that “Girls On Film” and “Is There Something I Should Know” are great songs, so hopes were high for their third album.
They lost me the first minute I heard “Union Of The Snake”. Then there was “New Moon On Monday”, and the worst of all, “The Reflex”. Moose got the album for Christmas, and his reaction to it was “Dude, you don’t want to listen to it…”
Later, my first real serious love was a big Duran Duran freak, so I was subjected to this, and the Arcadia album, and all kinds of things. She later became a hippie art child, so I guess that’s an improvement.
Well, there you have it – 10 albums that disappointed me and / or the public, in some way, shape or form. Sure, I may be full of it, and you can tell me so, but nothing is worse than the feeling of getting a record and having it just let you down. It’s worse than dating, I think.