This week the inmates are running the asylum. You'll remember that I asked people to Right This Blog! It's Friday. You made it to the end of the week. We made it. Taking us toward the weekend is Tim Machine. So, take it away Mr Machine...
Guest Blog: This rant, sorry, blog, is inspired by those lists you've seen in every music magazine from Rolling Stone to Mojo of the 100 Greatest Albums Ever! A lot of people get upset when someone like Coldplay or Nickelback makes the list but the thing that makes my blood boil is seeing the same old albums appear every time. One thing I want to make clear is that in most cases I am a fan of all of these artists and genuinely like these albums, I just don't believe they represent the best that these artists had to offer and certainly aren't the beginning and end of popular music as we know it.
So here are 10 good/average albums that I find hugely overrated and question their "classic" status.
THE BEACH BOYS - PET SOUNDS (1966) - A Beach Boys album in name only. Between the perfect pop of Summer Days & Summer Nights and the mad as a box of frogs genius that is SMiLE Brian Wilson put out a very good solo album. It's all a bit too Phil Spector-ish for me, which is understandable as he uses all the same session musicians. It's a very good album but I could name a hundred other albums over the last 50 years that are better.
THE BEATLES - SGT PEPPER (1967) - The greatest album of all time arguably has only one decent song. A Day in the Life is probably their finest moment on record but it still doesn't make up for the rest of the fluff on this record. It lacks all the energy and immediacy that made those earlier albums and singles so perfect. Most of the songs are pretty weak and just don't gel like Rubber Soul or Revolver. Arguably their most dated album, maybe you had to be there but I've never seen the appeal of this one.
THE VELVET UNDERGROUND - VELEVET UNDERGROUND & NICO (1967) - This is a pretty decent album, I'm not a huge fan of Lou Reed, and I personally believe John Cale and Nico were the biggest talents in this band but even I admit his songs on here are absolute classics but it all jars a bit. Tracks like Sunday Morning just don't sit with Black Angel's Death Song. Their finest moment, in my opinion, was the follow-up, White Light/White Heat, which is so dark, lo-fi and nasty that I don't think any indie band has ever topped it. As I say I like this album, good but not great and maybe all a bit too pretentious.
DAVID BOWIE - ZIGGY STARDUST (1972) - Bowie had a couple of stabs at being a pop star and this, like Let's Dance, is better than most of the other pop of the time but is not classic Bowie. The songs aren't a patch on Hunky Dory and not as interesting as Aladdin Sane. The Spiders From Mars are in superb form on Aladdin Sane and Pin Ups but just sound bored on this and the production is lousy too. A bit like Sgt Pepper, this probably sounded great if you were 15 years old in 1972 but waiting five years for the world to end is pretty much how I feel about this album.
PINK FLOYD - DARK SIDE OF THE MOON (1973) - I actually find this album a bit of a bore, lyrically and musically. The first half is OK where it's a bit more electronic and instrumental but the second half loses me, especially the finale which sounds like an outtake from The Beatles' Abbey Road (which narrowly missed this list). Great background music for those that like to think of Pink Floyd as some kind of intellectual art house experimental band when it's really just radio-friendly fodder for people who would never pick up a King Crimson album.
RAMONES - RAMONES (1976) - Allegedly this band invented punk. They certainly had the punk ethic going on; that anyone irrespective of talent could form a band and make an album. My old gran could have made a punk album that wouldn't be any better or worse than this. I'll admit I used to like this band and they made me laugh when I was about 15 but now I just find their songs so dumb. This may have been a template for Green Day and Fall Out Boy but thankfully other bands were listening to Patti Smith and The Stooges. Sorry, I just don't get this band.
THE CLASH - LONDON CALLING (1979) - How many times have you listened to the second disc? Exactly. I don't think any so called "classic album" has contained so much filler. Apart from the title track and Guns of Brixton I find little to get excited about on this album. I truly love The Clash and the main reason is that they transcended punk and were still doing amazing tracks like Ghetto Defendant right to the end. This is just pure pop; I probably class it as their American Idiot. I truly question anybody who ranks this in the Top Ten albums of all time and even worse is that it is often ranked as the Greatest Punk Album Of All Time.
THE STONE ROSES - THE STONE ROSES (1989) - Psychedelia in 1989? XTC did it a lot better than this and Killing Joke had been adding dance grooves to indie music for the last decade too. This album just plods, it feels as lazy as the band, some tracks sound like the old 12-inch remixes, they go on far too long for no good reason and track four off the album is simply track three played backwards. Seriously? And when they start ripping off Simon & Garfunkel I truly start to question this band's motives. It had some great singles but it doesn't really stand up as a classic.
NIRVANA - IN UTERO (1993) - If any album on this list deserves to be filed under The Emperor's New Clothes it's this one. I've seen its reputation grow and grow since Kurt's death and it's now seen as the definitive Nirvana album. This album was rushed and sounds rushed, it was Kurt giving two fingers to the world and especially his audience. He had sold out and he knew it and he really wasn't in a good place when they made this. Some tracks match the rawness of the first album and others the commercial sheen on Nevermind and it just doesn't work. It's still better than Unplugged, which was just bad and wrong.
JEFF BUCKLEY - GRACE (1994) - Hitting the high notes doesn't necessarily make you a great singer. A bit like Adele, all volume over feeling. Jeff Buckley managed to rip off John Cale's arrangement of Halleluiah losing all of its meaning and rendering it to the karaoke graveyard forever. The saddest thing of all is that his infinitely more talented father, who could make a primal scream sound like a rhapsody, is now pretty much forgotten. I think his formative years would have been better spent listening to his old man's albums than Led Zeppelin.
Am I just an old hipster that needs to lighten up? It just saddens me that we constantly have these huge multimillion-selling radio-friendly unit-shifters constantly rammed down our throat. These lists are often supposedly put together by "music industry professionals" whose music tastes apparently haven't progressed beyond 60/70s Classic Rock.
We're all different and thank goodness that we are - I'm sure if listed my Top 10 favourite albums you'd all shoot me down in flames, so maybe you think these albums are as good as it gets or maybe you have some sacred cows of your own?
You can also check out Off the Tracks for The Vinyl Countdown, reviews and other posts.