Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Music from hell

As expected, the endless round of writing and delivering leaflets, knocking on doors etc. during election time is making it difficult to think of topics to post about.

By way of a diversion from politics I did notice that Q magazine this month includes its selection of the 50 worst albums of all time and came up with a pretty good list.

This prompts me to offer my own briefer list – five of the worst ‘classic’ albums. You’ll often find these in the CD collections of people over 35, but whatever you do don't suggest listening to them.

Crosby, Stills and Nash (self-titled)

The received wisdom is that while CSN became rather coke-addled, overweight and anachronistic from the 80s onwards, their debut album is still a masterpiece. But it isn’t! Nash wrote pretty tunes, but banal, half-witted lyrics. Crosby produced tuneless, ‘experimental’ songs with pretentious lyrics. And Stills is competent but workmanlike as a songwriter. Soaring harmonies mean nothing if the songs are no good.

Pink Floyd – Dark side of the moon
After the Live8 reunion their reputation is high right now, but Roger Waters is a clunking and obvious lyricist, lacking subtlety or grace:

New car, caviar, four star daydream,
Think I’ll buy me a football team.

The music overblown and pompous. All in all, lacks redeeming features.

Carly Simon – No secrets
Carly Simon doubtless saw herself somewhere in the Carole King/Joni Mitchell singer-songwriter mould. But although ‘You’re so vain’ is one of the great put-down songs, there is little else here to move, inspire or amuse. Lacks King’s crisp turn of phrase and strong tunes or Mitchell’s powerful insights into the human condition.

Bruce Springsteen – Born in the USA
The album that made Springsteen a household name, but achieved at the price of dumbing down and sacrificing all the things that made him an interesting songwriter. The title track might have been a powerful tale of mixed emotions, but the bombastic production turned it into a cynical attempt to have it both ways. Designer misery!

Queen – Greatest Hits
OK, a compilation, not an album proper, but it would be wrong not to include the worst band of all time. Their enduring popularity diminishes us all. Bohemian Rhapsody is often praised because of its ground-breaking structure and extreme length for a hit single, but it’s seven minutes of pure nonsense. The ironic, knowing, tone of all their work means it lacks any emotional power. The lyrics are cliche upon cliche - 'Friends will be friends' etc. Their uplifting ‘anthems’, ‘We will rock you’ et al. would have been the ideal accompaniment to Nuremberg rallies. And they played Sun City during the apartheid era.

The best we could have hoped was that they were so strongly identified with Freddie Mercury that his death meant the end of Queen. However, the recent reunion shows that even that was wishful thinking.


frvfvsdvdsv said...


Go and wash your mouth out!

Dark Side of the Moon is an incredible album, way ahead of it's time (check the release date). The lyrics you quote (from Money) are simply perfect for that particular piece (rhythmic, compelling) but not typical. Gilmours guitar work has matured and is masterful. This album is a real masterpiece, it still deservedly sells today, and has hardly dated at all. It's one of the essentials on my iPod.

cymrumark said...

Springsteen singing Born in the Usa acoustic style is very powerful and shows what might have been...

how goes the campaign?

Liberal Neil said...

I was going to disagree with you about mayors - despite your own missus having done a first rate job - but then I read this.

Musical taste is a funny thing. I know that I love a lot of the CDs in your collection.

BUT if I had to write a top ten of the most fantastic gigs I have ever been to Queen, Floyd and Springsteen would all be there.

Queen is just brilliant pop music and their first Greatest Hits album is singalong anthemic heaven.

Dark Side of the Moon was groundbreaking. You might pick holes in a few of the lyrics but few bands have had anyhting like the impact of the Floyd with that album.

Born in the USA - although far from Springsteen's best - was an impressive statement about blue shirt America in the 80s.

Can't claim to have listened to CSN or Carly Simon and I will concede that 'Friends Will Friends' is the worst kind of self-parody.

You'll be telling us you don't like bat Out of Hell by Meatloaf next ;-)

Hywel said...

You may have stopped me and Neil from speaking to you again :-)