You don't get to choose the albums you review - or should I say I don't. You do, because we're all reviewers now. But reviewing music for The Dominion Post is a case of some good albums, some bad ones. That's the way it is with music. It would be boring if it was all good. Horrific if it was all bad.
Sometimes it can be very hard work meeting the mercifully brief word-count for the reviews I write for the paper. A really bad album is one thing - especially if it's a name-artist or there has been hype or some legitimate reason to hope that the album might be good; you can go to town with everything you have to say, and more. But a dud album is just a dud album - uninspiring. And after you reach that conclusion you still have around 200 words to get down.
So here now are the five worst albums I've reviewed this year (so far). Be thankful you didn't have to hear any of these. Or maybe they're on your list of best albums of this year. Fair enough. One man's Six60 is another man's Sugar and all that...right?
So the question for today - I'll ask it now - what are the five worst albums you've heard/reviewed/purchased this year? A top five, if you will, of the worst albums you've been conned, one way or another, into giving ear-space (if not shelf-space, or iPod-room...)
Ew. Andy Grammer's debut self-titled album, Andy Grammer, sounds like that one time when you played a Maroon 5 album all the way through, beginning to end, because you were sure there was no one else around. Then you caught yourself wiggling a hip once or maybe even twice, so you had to shower immediately (once or maybe even twice). Andy Grammer's debut self-titled album, Andy Grammer, sounds like that time John Mayer released a record. You know, like every time he releases a record. It sounds, too, like that Bruno Mars guy. Andy Grammer has been on tour with Natasha Bedingfield! (That was meant to be more of a general term of abuse but it also happens to be the truth). Andy Grammer has been on tour with Colbie Cailat. Andy Grammer's debut self-titled album, Andy Grammer, is the work of a 28-year-old American pop hack. He sounds like Hanson. All three of them. Andy Grammer's debut self-titled album, Andy Grammer, sounds exactly like the debut self-titled album (Andy Grammer) by Andy Grammer. Ew.
DJ CXL is a Kiwi DJ and here he's called in his friends to collaborate - Scribe, PNC, Vince Harder, J. Williams, Erakah, Sabre from Nesian Mystik. Many of these artists have worked with CXL before; he's either been on the bill with them or met them elsewhere in the small pond. This album is a thought experiment conducted to see what happens when people with no feeling for music set their minds on a career in the music industry. Well, I'm not sure that was the intention of this record but it's all that I could take from it. The only other positive you can take from this is that I listened to it - so that you don't have to. Yes, that may be a cliché, predictable, lame - but if you think that then you will certainly want to consider this album for your collection. You will definitely find cliché, predictable and lame here. In abundance. Once again New Zealand hip-hop thumbs a ride down copycat lane; no attempts have been made here to take a new path. But maybe Edge radio listeners want a Kiwi mixtape without the annoying ad-breaks and just the annoying music.
THE BIG PINK
The 2009 debut from British indie duo The Big Pink (A Brief History of Love) had something special - most likely that was simply in the timing. Arriving at the right time, there was a mix of fuzzy pop gems that referenced The Cure and The Velvet Underground, synth-pop and garage-rock feels being combined for an album that was never going to win mainstream acceptance and was, frankly, never trying to. Unfortunately Future This simply thumbs a ride along the same highway; this time there are no catchy singles, nothing shines - it's all hiding in the shade. This is non-committal goth pop. Even the fuzzy crunch is gone. And really if you're looking for a watered-down version of The Cure these days you are better off sticking with The Cure, a band that should have retired a decade ago. This is the end of The Big Pink. They'll not trouble us anymore - so in that sense this is the band's future. And it's passed them by. Just like that. Completely unmemorable and unrewarding music has a habit of doing that.
THE FLAMING MUDCATS
Gave You What You Wanted
Thankfully this CD arrived just in time! You see I was just about to ask the question: where can I get some turgid, uninspired, unnecessary, bog-standard, basic, boring, bar-room blues knockoffs? But I didn't need to ask - because Auckland's The Flaming Mudcats gave me what I wanted. Their album, Gave You What You Wanted, is just right for those warm, nearly-summer evenings when you've got the doors open and you want the rest of the valley to hear some punishingly mundane cod-blues riffing. With Big City Mama and Gimme What You Got and Mudcat Boogie and Double D's and New Technology Blues and other classics from the mean streets of Remuera, this is the perfect gift for the man (or woman) who truly has nothing (provided they do of course have a CD player). Expectations must be low because this really is a drag. Gave You What You Wanted takes its name from an Ike Turner song. And in a shocking case of ideas above their station the band makes that link themselves in liner notes so painfully earnest that you can understand where and how the time was wasted when they should have been improving the material.
The world was doing just fine. I mean there was that global recession thing that just won't go away - doesn't matter how much new money you print up to throw at it! And there have been a series of earthquakes, tsunamis, floods and storms around the world, seemingly more devastating as global warming is either the culprit or just some wishy-washy idea the government would have you believe so that the chem-trails can continue. And there was that shocker where a New Zealand arts funding body decided that a phony reality TV show filmed in Australia and depicting New Zealand's indigenous people as money-hungry party-animals with the bottom rung conquered on the ladder of literacy would do fine when it came to promoting a "documentary" that promotes Maori culture. So there were those things. But the world was still here - at least. So from that point of view things were okay. And then The Cranberries had to blow it and end 11 years of silence (ah, that sweet, sweet silence) and return with more of Delores' vocal strychnine and another round of pedestrian pub-rock prancing. The Cranberries sound has not improved - which is to say it has not changed at all.
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