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15 Overrated Albums

24 March 2007


U2—Joshua Tree
If you weren’t following music when this came out two decades ago, you may not fully appreciate the extent to which this was a blockbuster. It was simply huge. I can appreciate that some of the songs have etched themselves into our collective consciousness (namely the first three songs). But today this record seems portentous, plodding and self-important. To its credit, just four years later U2 released the excellent Achtung Baby.


SONIC YOUTH—Daydream Nation
Widely hailed as a “great album,” it falls short in my book. I like it but can easily think of countless others that are better but receive far less attention. Such as what? See my previous entry titled 15 Underrated Albums.


MOBY—Play
For the most part, this would work fine as background music at a coffee shop or a trendy brunch spot. It’s decent and occasionally pleasing. But considering all the hype….


THE VERVE—Urban Hymns
It’s good but A Storm in Heaven has more atmosphere and conveys a truly distinctive mood.


ANTONY AND THE JOHNSONS—I am a Bird Now
Antony Johnson’s warbling voice is haunting, distinct, and filled with genuine longing. But did this album really deserve to win the 2005 Mercury Prize?


VAN MORRISON—Astral Weeks
I tried but don’t see why this is considered a great among greats. What am I missing?


THE STROKES—Is This It
Considering the hoopla that surrounded this, my first thought was that it should have been called Is This It?. Yes, the record has swagger, but relative to the attention it received, it’s overrated.


ARCTIC MONKEYS—Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not
It’s a funny state of affairs when good material that has been done so many times over previously is seen as being a huge deal. Give credit where it’s due, but please, a sense of proportion!


THE DOORS—Strange Days
The Doors were very good, but I never considered them great. ARTHUR LEE of LOVE, an L.A. contemporary, had far more talent than JIM MORRISON, but as is often the case, quality doesn’t always equate commercial success. (See this interesting bit about Morrison’s social legacy.)


BECK—Odelay
Go to a flea market and you’ll see tattered records, dented plastic baby toys, rusty lawnmowers, cheap jewelry and Atari 2600 video games. That seems to be part of Beck’s appeal. He throws everything into the mix. The problem is that many people don’t critically examine what’s beneath the easily discernible exterior. So upon first listening they hear what sounds innovative and eclectic. The problem is it’s not.


GEORGE WINSTON—December
This seems to be universally adored but it never truly moved me. I’ll stick with SERGEI RACHMANINOV from January through, yes, December.


NIRVANA—Nevermind
Although the record was enormously popular when it was released in 1991 (and I liked it from the start), KURT COBAIN’s tragic death, fairly or not, ensured that the album and the band’s place in musical history/pop culture were sealed. Nevermind is a bit like a Slurpee. It’s sweet, refreshing and tastes great going down. But then a little later you’re hungry and left with too many empty calories. (Note: The opening to “Come as You Are” rips off “Life Goes On” by THE DAMNED.)

BLUR—Think Tank
I was in a Budapest record store two years ago when suddenly over the in-store speakers I heard a beat accompanied by a twisted Donald Duck-esque voice repeating “Crazy Beat. Crazy can you dig it?” Then plodding guitars and ragged vocals entered. What an awful mess, I thought. Then the heinous Donald Duck voice returned. I had no idea who this band was but remember being offended on a visceral level. It turns out the song was “Crazy Beat” from Think Tank. I don’t remember when I learned that Blur was culpable, but needless to say it was glaringly obvious that GRAHAM COXON’s departure from the group was a massive blow to Blur’s credibility. I also realize that Think Tank is not generally considered great but still, I thought it worth mentioning since it pulls in an average rating of four stars on Amazon.com. If you want to hear the group in peak form, go to Park Life or Modern Life is Rubbish.

GUNS N’ ROSES—Appetite for Destruction
Screeching vocals and pedestrian lyrics should not have made for a blockbuster.

JOHANN PACHELBEL—Canon in D Major
Perhaps Pac-Man can’t be blamed for this. After all, he composed this some 350 years ago. Still, at wedding after wedding we repeatedly hear this song. It’s admittedly beautiful, but overexposure has killed the charm for me. If you don’t remember the song, check out this highly entertaining YouTube clip by the talented comedian/musician ROB PARAVONIAN.

 

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