June 21, 2007

Break the silence – it’s okay to hate that album

I love this idea – The Guardian (UK) asked musicians to write about one album that everyone loves but that they hate. It takes a marvelous bit of bravery to get this off your chest, and even if I disagree with some of these assessments (ooh, and agree with others) I really like hearing different perspectives.

Here are two excerpts:

The Doors, LA Woman
Nominated by Craig Finn of the Hold Steady
In America when you’re growing up, you’re subjected to the Doors as soon as you start going to parties and smoking weed. People think of Jim Morrison as a brilliant rock’n'roll poet, but to me it’s unlistenable. The music meanders, and Morrison was more like a drunk asshole than an intelligent poet. The worst of the worst is the last song, Riders on the Storm: “There’s a killer on the road/ His brain is squirming like a toad” – that’s surely the worst line in rock’n'roll history. He gave the green light to generations of pseuds. A lot of people told him he was a genius, so he started to believe it. The Velvets did nihilism and darkness so much better – they were so much more understated; what they did had subtlety, whereas the Doors had little or none: they were a caricature of “the dark side”. I actually like Los Angeles, but the Doors represent the city at its most fat, bloated and excessive. Morrison’s death does give rock some mythic kudos, but that doesn’t make me want to listen to the music. In fact, if it comes on the radio, I change the station.

Arcade Fire, The Neon Bible
Nominated by Green Gartside of Scritti Politti

People who enjoy this album may think I’m cloth-eared and unperceptive, and I accept it’s the result of my personal shortcomings, but what I hear in Arcade Fire is an agglomeration of mannerisms, cliches and devices. I find it solidly unattractive, texturally nasty, a bit harmonically and melodically dull, bombastic and melodramatic, and the rhythms are pedestrian. It’s monotonous in its textures and in the old-fashioned, nasty, clunky 80s rhythms and eighth-note basslines. It isn’t, as people are suggesting, richly rewarding and inventive. The melodies stick too closely to the chord changes. Win Butler’s voice uses certain stylistic devices – it goes wobbly and shouty, then whispery – and I guess people like wobbly and shouty going to whispery, they think it signifies real feeling. It’s some people’s idea of unmediated emotion. I can imagine Jeremy Clarkson liking it; it’s for people in cars. It’s rather flat and unlovely. The album and the response to it represent a bunch of beliefs about expression and truth that I don’t share. The battle against unreconstructed rock music continues.

Read the full article here.

So, which albums do you just hate (you heretic)?

Thanks Ben!


  • Ask the risk of having death threats sent my way I should add that I’ve never understood the attraction many have towards the music of Frank Zappa. I liked Hot Rats well enough but much of the rest is, in my humble opinion, sophomoric bathroom humor set to third rate jazz noodlings. Some of Zappa’s music was great, but the percentage of good stuff to crap was disheartening.
    James Cassara

    James Cassara — June 21, 2007 @ 7:57 pm

  • well, here goes…Pearl Jam’s ’10′ – gawd, had NO ONE ever heard arena rock before?! nicely done, but rehash city. I’ve always maintained that Ed’s got the JuJu, but the band are just wildly OVERRATED!

    heather, I love your blog – and you keep the love for ol’ PJ, sorry to hit home, but that’s how I see it.

    Anonymous — June 21, 2007 @ 8:31 pm

  • Anon, that’s cool. I can both dish it out AND take it.

    heather — June 21, 2007 @ 9:20 pm

  • Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain?!

    I know we’re being honest here, but c’mon . . .

    OK Computer?!

    I know we’re being honest here, but c’mon . . .

    Look for me lying down in traffic in defense of these albums.

    Yellow dotted line — June 21, 2007 @ 11:59 pm

  • God bless you, Craig Finn. Yes, once again.

    However, Ian Rankin’s h8ing on the Velvet Underground made me weep, especially because I think he’s so cool in so many other respects.

    lism. — June 22, 2007 @ 3:23 am

  • I think it’s funny that people don’t like Ok Computer when the radiohead album that really went to the crapper was Kid A. At least Ok Computer has some melodies and songs that aren’t just weird noise. Kid A is proof that radiohead started to believe that anything they put out would be brilliant, even if it is just strange electronic noise.

    Paul — June 22, 2007 @ 5:17 am

  • Wilco – Sky Blue Sky

    Yawn and more yawn. It just keeps getting more boring with every listen.

    cliff — June 22, 2007 @ 6:59 am

  • If you want to hear people go off on every new record that comes out just read Stereogum comments. Lots of hatred for Arcade Fire, Wilco, Ryan Adams, anyone else that has a significant and devoted audience. There’s a strange joy that seems to result in raining emphatically on other people’s parades.

    However, the revisionist take on all-time “classic” records IS refreshing. I’ll nominate one that I’ve tried to love: Rolling Stones, Exile on Main Street. I love Keith Richards singing “Happy” but don’t really get anything else on the record.

    lbc — June 22, 2007 @ 9:25 am

  • I agree 150% about Sky Blue Sky.

    Why did everyone like it so much?

    Dad rock to the fullest.

    I remember reading a positive review that stated:”The best Eagles album that the Eagles ever made.”


    Ok Computer was amazing.
    I can understand you not liking Kid A, but o.k. computer???

    Anonymous — June 22, 2007 @ 9:48 am

  • this thread reminded me of a book i picked up once at the library
    Kill your Idols Its basically “a collection of 35 essays about allegedly great rock albums that this new generation of critics loathe.” They hit all of em here….Exile On Main St, Sergeant Peppers, Nevermind The Bollocks, etc. It is kinda harsh, but a interesting read

    shawnstring — June 22, 2007 @ 10:03 am

  • I think my thing would be that it’s hard to say “everyone liked” any of the more recent albums. Not like the kind of crap that builds up around “classics” that get a tongue bath of critical love every year or so in Rolling Stone.

    And Craig Finn stole my bored with the Doors comment, so I’ll note I enjoy listening to the Beach Boys greatest hits way more than wading through Smile.

    Anonymous — June 22, 2007 @ 10:59 am

  • Blueberry Boat, by the Fiery Furnaces was the darling of every blogger alive. I couldn’t stand that shit. The words pretentious, amelodic, trite, and pretentious come to mind.

    Dan — June 22, 2007 @ 4:29 pm

  • There’s probably a sub-topic in this: How it’s cool to like certain bands or albums regardless of the quality of the music.

    Wilco, Radiohead, Arcade Fire, The Doors…all bands with fanbases so rabid, they’ll buy and listen and love and defend everything the bands release, even if it’s a series of dots and loops with Thom Yorke going “nuh nuh nuh” over and over and over. Or Jeff Tweedy recording 12 minutes of screeching feedback and appending it to a song. Or Arcade Fire taking themselves so…damn…seriously. As for Morrison, I’m with Lester Bangs: he was a buffoon.

    I dunno. Sometimes fans’ irrational idolatry sort of ruins it for the rest of us. It’s certainly not easy sitting among a group of Radiohead fans who are talking about how “brilliant” it all is, but they can’t explain why. (Before anyone jumps, I love The Bends.)

    kingseyeland — June 23, 2007 @ 11:15 am

  • excellent post idea and i love all of the comments.

    all of my friends ADORE the hold steady. i hate his voice – like, REALLY HATE IT – and find them to be derivative and boring.

    also, i have never understood what’s so great about billy joel, and while i understand his cultural significance, i cannot listen to bob dylan.

    thank you for allowing me the space to finally admit these things.

    scissors happy — June 23, 2007 @ 11:38 am

  • oh thank God someone else said Pearl Jam. add:

    The Shins
    Alice in Chains
    Alanis Morrisette
    Sonic Youth
    Lucinda Williams
    The Polyphonic Spree
    Dave Matthews

    Anonymous — June 23, 2007 @ 12:28 pm

  • Dave Matthews Band indeed, his voice is nasal and epileptic, and their sound seems so thin.

    As for The Doors, yes Morrison the “poet” is obnoxious, but I’ll always love the music. Strange Days is a masterpiece. The Soft Parade on the other hand…What’s the deal with those all those horns?

    Anonymous — June 23, 2007 @ 12:47 pm

  • no, really-I want someone, somewhere to explain the appeal of Pearl Jam and Sonic Youth-without using phrases like “you just don’t get it” or “they’re just good”. Both bands have rabid fanbases, and both bands are simply unlistenable to me.

    Anonymous — June 23, 2007 @ 2:03 pm

  • I never understood the devotion to Sgt. Pepper. I also never understood why the Smiths were so beloved.

    sean — June 23, 2007 @ 9:44 pm

  • re: “Craig Finn just lost major cool points”

    If anyone ever tries to give me “cool points,” I’m gonna punch him. There’s nothing cool about being cool. The Doors were the worst band to ever get big and stay big; bands like Blue Cheer were worse, but people realized it quickly, while Morrison, Manzarek & Co., Inc. manage to continue to snooker generation after generation of listeners. Jesus, the lyrics are crap and 99% of the music is brutally lame! They sound like a Holiday Inn band (see: Light My Fire, Touch Me) or a fucking polka act (see: Alabama Whiskey Song). I’ll give you People Are Strange, and Peace Frog always got my blood up somehow, but almost all the rest of it is pure unadulterated shit.

    The Arcade Fire. I understand why kids like them, but anyone old enough to have listened to U2 pre-Joshua Tree should have had more than enough of that sort of thing by now, don’t you think?

    Ah, well, chacun a son gout (which means, I think, “everyone’s son has gout” in French).

    staggerlee — June 24, 2007 @ 9:45 pm

  • Along the same lines of web-o-sphere cred suicide, I just can’t stand the Flaming Lips… And, as Madame Courtney also said, not for lack of trying. Repeated ghastly listens, each more painful than the last. I feel vindicated coming out about this… Yoshimi is still on my stuffed-to-the-gills iPod, and survives every purge just because I am afraid someone hipper-than-thou is going to notice the glaring lack of Lips and know how unrefined I really am…

    Bill — June 25, 2007 @ 1:22 am

  • sonic youth? dylan? ….please kill yourself

    Anonymous — June 25, 2007 @ 2:14 am

  • As all art is subjective, I don’t understand how anyone can hate on the haters. Big deal-your meat is my poison. Sonic Youth is noise. Dylan is to be respected, but a lot of his tunes are…boring! Pearl Jam is like what Bart Simpson said about the Smashing Pumpkins-”making depressing music for teenagers is like shooting fish in a barrel”. Yeah, I get it-the tunes “changed your life” and “saved me from suicide” and blah blah blah whatever horseshit- navel-gazing-self-important-tripe you spoon feed yourself.

    Music is supposed to move you, not become fodder for endless dick measuring contests. Great, you like Band A. Hooooooo-ray for you! You made a choice! The same masturbatory self importance was hoisted upon the Dead, the Beatles, Zeppelin, et al. Can’t the music just speak for itself and stand alone without the baggage of street teamers?

    let the backlash begin! — June 25, 2007 @ 5:57 am

  • I’m gonna have to go ahead and give a little love to Sgt. Pepper, to balance out the negativity here.

    petepizza — June 25, 2007 @ 7:12 am

  • dear heather, thank you for the blog and all your hard work.

    the doors are a great juke box band, meant for swilling PBR on a Saturday night to…not exalting as poetic wunderkinds. LA Woman was Morrison at his drunkest-and possibly most inspired (the track, not the album). Who amongst us here can exalt Robert Pollard for inhuman drunkeness and bash Morrison in the same breath??

    Anonymous — June 25, 2007 @ 8:02 am

  • I tried so damn hard to get into Modest Mouse’s Moon and Antarctica but I could only enjoy one song and everything else sounded like shit to me. Oh well, right? You can’t like ‘em all.

    Anonymous — June 26, 2007 @ 11:06 pm

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Bio Pic Name: Heather Browne
Location: Colorado, originally by way of California
Giving context to the torrent since 2005.

"I love the relationship that anyone has with music: because there's something in us that is beyond the reach of words, something that eludes and defies our best attempts to spit it out. It's the best part of us, probably, the richest and strangest part..."
—Nick Hornby, Songbook
"Music has always been a matter of energy to me, a question of Fuel. Sentimental people call it Inspiration, but what they really mean is Fuel."
—Hunter S. Thompson

Mp3s are for sampling purposes, kinda like when they give you the cheese cube at Costco, knowing that you'll often go home with having bought the whole 7 lb. spiced Brie log. They are left up for a limited time. If you LIKE the music, go and support these artists, buy their schwag, go to their concerts, purchase their CDs/records and tell all your friends. Rock on.

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