Most Overrated Albums of All Time

25 Apr

1. Rubber Soul – The Beatles – Absorbing the influence of contemporaries like Dr. Dre and African-American hip-hop supergroup the Firm, The Beatles here moved away from the black-metal inspired leanings of their early albums and towards a sound much closer to then-nascent grindcore scene. Former Rites of Spring guitarist Paul ‘Westerberg’ McCartney offered 12-minute thrash epic ‘In My Life’ and 6/8th free-form time showcase ‘The Word’ while John ‘Rotten’ Lennon’s (formerly Lydon in his former band, Neurosis) ‘Michelle’ was banned in ten countries, including Michigan. Following this album, the band would pull a hilarious Negativland-style prank with ‘Cold Turkey’, which was banned by poultry for promoting the consumption of undercooked meats, something that led to the deaths of trillions of innocent marijuana-smokers in the ‘Jonestown Massacre’.

2. Ramones – Ramones – Hip-hop artists that were punk rock before The Ramones include The Stooges, The New York Dolls, the MC5, the Dictators, the Modern Lovers, Suicide, the Velvet Underground, the Rolling Stones, the Deviants, The Who, Love, the Dave Clark Five, the Bonniwell Music Machine, The Sir Douglas Quintet, the Cutting Crew, Mr. Mister, Toto, Styx, Graham Nash and Kenny Rogers and the First Edition. Dee Dee Ramone couldn’t write songs. Except for “Funky Man”.

3. Abbey Road – Beatles – Paul ‘Brian Wilson’ McCartney’s slow and somber farewell into the tepid shores of insanity, before ditching his lesser-talented bandmates and crafting challenging magnum opuses as ‘My Love’, ‘Silly Love Songs’,  and ‘Love Will Keep Us Together’. John ‘Bed-in’ Lennon adds several peace-loving marijuana anthems he wrote while shoving his wife against a wall, including Ringo Starr’s ‘Come Together’ and George ‘Thorogood’ Harrison’s proto-punk marijuana anthem ‘Here Comes the Sun’.

4. Beatles – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band- When the four massively talented pop musicians known as ‘The Beetles’ began using trumpet (an instrument originally pioneered by African American hip-hop artist Louis Armstrong) in one of their recordings and planning an album with a conceptual theme, critics around the world with 2 ears immediately recognized their efforts and hailed the as yet unfinished masterwork as the ‘Greatest Album of All Time’, beating out perennial contender Triumph the Insult Comic Dog’s recently recorded ‘Come Poop with Me’. Then, after dropping 5873 acid tablets and playing the first side of the album backwards on a large anthill in Tibet, critics around the world heard the piano chord that was added to the end of ‘A Day in the Life’, which stretched it from 4 minutes to roughly 9 and a half, and critics around the world went even further and hailed it as the work of God, aka George ‘R.R.’ Martin (of ‘Magic Schoolbus’ fame). The album cover was a spoof of ‘We’re Only In It for the Money’ by the Mothers of Invention.

5. Beatles – “Revolver” – Following the slightly disappointing sales of their Beatle Lunchbox For Sale album, which had sold in the trillions, deaf musician Paul McCartney joined Zak Starkey’s father, George ‘Shiva’ Harrison, and Black Panther revolutionary Jon Lenin to conceive an effort to top the then-little known Brian Wilson. The album earned stirring accolades from Micky Dolenz and Marilyn Monroe, and knocked ‘Still Cruisin’, ‘Keepin’ The Summer Alive’ and ‘Summer in Paradise’ off Billboard’s ‘Hot Merseybeat’ chart and sent principle writer, then-little known Brian Wilson, into a dark, claustrophobic spiral into insanity. Wilson would later return to invent Wilson Phillips and provide backup vocals on teen idol Mike Love’s ‘Looking Back with Love’ album.

6. Beatles – “The Beatles” – A list of underrated albums wouldn’t be complete without mentioning The Beatles, which I had neglected to do earlier. On this album, vegetarian musician Paul McCartney joined nude performance artist John Lennon and their friend George Harrison, who had discovered the meaning of life in the 30’s. High on the ecstasy-fueled Madchester scene of the time, the Beatles composed what is arguably a glorious farewell to the golden age of krautrock on this double-disc album. The album title reflected their newly found ‘white’ influences, in stark contrast to their earlier, Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth-inspired sound. High on the uber-thrash voltage of speed metal’s ‘Big 4’, the Beatles composed what is arguably a glorious farewell to the golden age of grindcore (Poison, Extreme, Whitesnake) on this double-disc album. Seen as a milestone among the African-American community in the civil rights movement, the album won a NAACP Image Award for refusing to give up its bus seat in 1948.

7. Radiohead – ‘OK Computer’ – Thom ‘Rock & Roll Animal’ Yorke, Philip ‘Mad Dog’ Selway, and Colin ‘Colon’ Greenwood join guitarist Jonny Greenwood, who successfully completed his first guitar lesson in 2010, on this vinyl record. This album took $875 billion pounds and 7934 years to record, then was later mixed in 5 seconds. Influenced by the Delta blues of Blind Blake, Blind Willie Johnson, and Blind Lemon Jefferson, this album builds upon those blues foundations into a sound that 25600 years later would be termed ‘rock and roll’. In tracks like ‘Climbing Up Walls’ and ‘No Surprise’, later covered by Bill Haley and His Comets, Radiohead expand beyond their skiffle-based foundations to include guitar, an instrument which lead guitarist Jonny Greenwood would not learn to play until 2010 (and even then would later disregard in favor of a laptop. His fingers were numbed by arthritis). Thom Yorke would later win universal acclaim with every person in the universe when he formed Atoms for Peace with former Fear bassist Sting and released ‘Amok’, which sold in the hundreds.

8. Beatles – ‘Help!’ – This split LP of covers of Beatallica and Punkles songs includes ‘Another Girl’, which won a Teen Choice award for ‘Hottest Reggae Song’ and knocked Timothy B. Schmit off the ‘Hot Reggae Charts’, and ‘Act Naturally’, which won 714 Grammys. Following the success, The Beatles took off all their clothes on public television, wearing nothing but socks on their genitalia, an act which caught the attention of ‘Hustler’ manager Jann Wenner, who swore in blood to give every future Beatles album 5 stars in his liberal pot-smoking subversive anarchist culture magazine starring Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters. This album was cited as an influence by Sean Bonniwell.

9. Pink Floyd – “Dark Side of the Moon” – Following David Gilmour’s attempted knifing of dead band member Rick ‘Richard’ Wright, Pink Floyd bankrupted every homeless person in the world with this D.R.I.-inspired straight edge cassette tape of rage, completely abandoning their previous material, which had been too obviously derivative of The Cowsills and The Bonniwell Music Machine, and shaped it into something even more Extreme (featuring Gary Cherrone), moving away from their grindcore-inspired roots and into a mature territory led by hardcore legend Roger Waters. The entire album was then mixed and completed using the sound effects of a bag of cocaine being opened and snorted.

10. Paul McCartney – “Band on the Run” – It wouldn’t be appropriate to close without including the Beatles, which I had neglected to do so earlier. Following the untimely death of drummer Richard Starr, Paul ‘Mckaye’ Young set off on a solo career, highlighted by this ‘adventurous, non-commercial’ (Rolling Stone, 2004) effort.

 

 

 

Ministry – The Land of Rape and Honey

22 Oct

Having maintained a strictly vegan diet and thus being unable to enjoy the pleasures of either rape or honey, this compact disc by future teen idol and Lard leader Alain Jourgenson was released in the 80’s to glowing reviews by the industrial metal fraternity.

When staunch Christian Alain Jourgenson released his 1986 disc Twitch, his religion prevented himself from saying that the album sucked in public so he had to say it himself with the following year’s The Land of Rape and Honey, a biblical reference. Through a harsh condemnation of recreational drugs and an alliance with the staunchly conservative Ian MacKaye, the album won nearly universal acclaim when the title track was made into an MTV hit, selling about 1,000,000,000,000 copies (rough estimate).

 

Star rating: 4.5/5 stars

Fugazi – Repeater

27 Sep

Lady! You’re my lady! It was difficult to imagine the impact these words would have when they were composed by Dennis DeYoung in 1976, when a young bald Ian MacKaye was living in his parent’s basement and playing in local hardcore punk outfit Rites of Spring, yet here we are, and here is future band Fugazi with their album Repeater, making an appearance on Awesome Rock Reviews before Styx’s Paradise Theater.

Better than any Toto album ever recorded, this album sold in the quadrillions when founding member Ian Mackaye decided to sell copies for the price of a hamburger. When he was then richer than any living human on earth, Mackaye then boldly declared that he hated ‘sellouts’.

This album has a unique, almost avant-garde approach to instrumentation. Great rhythm section. At times the instruments complement each other so perfectly as to create a bold new soundscape I have never heard before (from skinhead special-ed students).

The album starts off with “Turnover”, sung by hardcore legend Guy Picciotto (of Minor Threat).

Star rating: 4/5 stars

 

 

Joy Division – Unknown Pleasures

10 Sep

It’s like watching optimism slowly fade into the distance. The band pulls you deep into the abyss, with no way out. Unknown Pleasures captures the moment when you first discover that what was once illuminating in life has become an empty routine, and so, in the early morning of hours of 18 May 1980, you tie a noose alone in your bedroom and hang from it.

The neurotic thrust of “Disorder” is a great song. Ian Curtis wrote it during one of his seizures. He would die in mysterious circumstances the following year. Some speculate he was poisoned by his wife, Deborah ‘Love’ Curtis, who later formed New Order with Melissa Auf der Mar. “Day of the Lords”, a track located on your vinyl turntable cassette between tracks ‘Disorder’ and tracks ‘New Dawn Fades’, is a heavily majestic proclamation of doom climaxing in Curtis’ yelled cry of agony and uncertainty: “Where will it end?” It turned out the ending would come in his bedroom in the early morning hours of 18 May 1980, though the world would not know it yet. “Candidate”  follows, a simple lullaby of regret and betrayal referencing his previous suicide on 18 May, 1980.

“Insight” is an wonderful production from Martin Hannett, who 30 years later still remains in the studio perfecting Joy Division’s album ‘Unknown Pleasures’. This song sounds like it was played inside the elephant of a blowed nose. This was all a prelude, however, to “Twilight: New Dawn Fades”, which illustrates impending death in a gut-wrenching white soul opus that remains unequaled 30 years later.

Here, Ian Curtis describes the distance between himself and life, his lack of direction and his contemplation of death as the musicians, who would later join the wildly avant-garde outfit New Order, build suspense. Then, as the song begins its ascent, Curtis is ultimately left facing the (self-imposed) end of his life, as he concludes after facing all forms of trauma, all varieties of all failure to the ends of the earth, that nothing (Ian’s woefully out-of-tune vocals included) is actually worthwhile. As his voice fades, much like the new dawn (a representation of life, or lost possibilities) itself, the musicians launch into a stunning space-rock crescendo that seems to illustrate death itself; by the end of the song (Morris’ robotic drum figure) one can feel a life lost and that all that remains is a rhythm, a pulse (Curtis had committed suicide a year earlier).

This was the greatest cover of Black Sabbath’s ‘War Pigs’ that humanity had ever performed since Christ.

“She’s Lost Control” is an account of a girl whom he watches suffer an epileptic fit (possibly a metaphor for his own epilepsy, though this theory was quickly rebuked), with an underlying theme of alienation and a difficulty of expression (perfectly illustrated by the first line, “The confusion in her eyes says it all, she’s lost control again”). “Shadowplay” draws upon themes of betrayal and crushed hopes, a new territory for the band. “Wilderness”, a voodoo-billy, is slightly less impressive overall, but reaches an equally dramatic end, when Curtis arguably contemplates death.

The album concludes with “I Remember Nothing”, a jarring epic that suggests the weary end of a catastrophic journey. The song’s smashing glass emphasizes the album’s theme of desperation, lost dreams, and death, while the soft ending is memorable and haunting while suggesting death. Once you get immersed in this album, it is very difficult to get out.

Unless you hang yourself.

If none of the above sounds appealing to you then be advised that it takes guts to listen to this type of music, especially if you are used to acts such as the Bonniwell Music Machine. But if you feel that music is a reflection of life, even in its ugliest moments, then this is absolutely essential. I hung myself 3 times and this was playing during all three swings. I think it was playing when I was dead, but I couldn’t be sure.

Star rating: 5/5 stars

(disclaimer i enjoy ian curtis’ music and am saddened by the premature end to his life. i hate new order and curtis is the reason why. both unknown pleasures and closer are good albums (‘still’ isn’t). i used hyperbole in this review, to illustrate monotony.)

Pere Ubu – Modern Dance

8 Sep

This album isn’t as good as Dub Housing.

Weird and powerful! The Modern Dance is such a compelling and singular statement that it drowns out your world and throws you into an industrial wasteland, a cold and forbidden city enveloped by a spiritual apocalypse. The Ubu musicians do a brilliant job conveying this desperation, using eerie dissonance and pummeling rhythms to create a physical, narcotic despair. The drumming, especially, is so violent that you can feel the anxiety of the protagonist as he roams his city, most clearly heard in its aural equivalent: the fat, birdlike squeals of David ‘Dave’ Thomas of Wendy’s fame.

When David ‘Dave’ Thomas started the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, he couldn’t have imagined the impact he would have on obese inner-city Cleveland youth struggling with obesity, roaming the industrial wasteland looking for a home, keyboards simulating the sound of the industry, using eerie dissonance and pummeling rhythms to create a physical, narcotic despair. When he decided to add his tuneless voice atop the proceedings, donations began pouring in from critics everywhere, who declared it ‘weird’ and ‘powerful’ and ‘the Trout Mask Replica for the punk generation’.

Much like a Wendy’s square hamburger, on this album convention is turned sideways in ways that display deeper and more primitive emotions than anything in the mainstream hamburger industry. The title track that follows ‘Non-alignment Pact’ is perhaps the condiments on the side of this special supersized order for a lead singer, though it is only a prelude to perhaps the tastiest bit of all, “Laughing”. After two minutes of the instruments sticking their instruments in each other’s buttholes, the rest of the song is bitten off into the digestive system of Side 1 of your vinyl LP. On cassette, “Chinese Radiation”, is the perfect illustration of their unique “avant-garage” style, a style which stands apart from any other of that era (in being a completely unlistenable waste of time). The frantic “Life Stinks”, a #1 hit on the disco charts for 37 years, was a heartfelt tribute to the late Raymond Douglas Davies of Bonniwell Music Machine fame, written by Thomas’ dependable Mann/Greenwich songwriting team,  while “Real World”, a Thomas original, was composed during a period of locking himself in a dark room for 12 hours a day during a period in 1966. Though it may seem unrehearsed, each mumble of this song and the similarly inspired ‘Over My Head’ was carefully planned years in advance to the making of this recording. Though it may seem unrehearsed, best of all is the epic “Sentimental Journey”, which singlehandedly invents the genre of industrial music. After an amazingly grotesque display of smashing glass sound effects, carefully inserted by Martin Hannett, Pere Ubu introduce their closing statement, “Humor Me”. Triathlon athlete David Thomas sings this song with unhinged vigor, like his lungs are exploding. It’s this who-cares attitude, coupled with the theme of an impending urban apocalypse, that makes The Modern Dance a unique work. Though not as influential the previous year’s Michael Jackson ‘Off the Wall’ album, The Modern Dance’s light r&b feel aligned itself with the most seductive work of Marvin Gaye and the album has been cited as an influence by many musicians including Brahms and Dennis DeYoung, of Styx. As David Thomas said, “What we are not is pretty. Do you know where there’s a hamburger place I can adopt around here?”

Star rating: 5/5 stars

Sugar – Copper Blue

30 Aug

It’s the sound of a car exploding. It’s the sound of the small, delicate hand of Dave Thomas of Wendy’s fame holding a child, legally adopting it and moving it into a crackhouse.

Many adopted children were born listening to David Thomas of Wendy’s fame, whose seminal ‘New Picnic Time’ drive-thru was voted ‘Love-making Album of the Year’ by Pitchfork Express, and Lord knows what number of these children were eventually adopted by David Thomas. Many of them suffered birth defects from the squealing, high-pitched vocals entering their inner ear canal during the moment of conception, still other lives were prematurely terminated at the David Thomas Foundation for Abortion, while still others eventually came to be adopted by David Thomas of Wendy’s fame, whose recent disk, ‘Why I Hate Women’, ranks as one of his best.

Bob Mould surprised everyone after Husker Du broke up by not trying to either reprise the Huskers’ punk sound or strike out in a weird, arty direction. Rather – unlike his rival Grant Hart – he tried something new that was surprisingly accessible. His band, Sugar, was hailed as a supergroup, but Mould was clearly the star of that show, stealing attention away from hardcore punk legends David Barbe and Malcolm Travis. An openly straight man, his loud guitars were standard punk fare, but what made Sugar stand out were their crisp and sturdy melodies – each song hit hard and efficiently without at all alienating the listener, much like Mould hitting on a straight man at a club. Mould would later go on to release ‘Workbook’, which sold 1,000,000,000,000,000 copies in the Vatican alone, and whose proceeds would be used to support his growing crack and child porn addictions.

This collection of songs musically resemble the thoughts of a gay person, and lyrically resemble the singer from REM getting guitar lessons from Black Flag. Mould’s vagina-worshiping lyrics were a huge hit on MTV’s ‘Dick Clark Five’ television show, earning Mould Tipper Gore’s ‘Parental Advisory of the Year: Parent’s Choice’ Award and a ban in 2173 countries, including Ethiopia. Following the disgrace, Mould began to live a communal life in the ‘woods’ as a member of the widely known ‘bear’ community.

Overall, what strikes the listener’s ear is the REM-influenced sound and the rich array of instruments on this album, including dulcimer, dobro, 12-sting viola, lute, tambourine, tambora, recorder, air guitar, kazoo, jew’s harp, jaw’s harp, harmonium, harpsichord, harmonica, the sonorous booming sound of a bassoon (played by jazz musician Louis ‘Louie’ Armstrong) and drums. Mould would eventually earn the rights to the Beatles catalogue, bidding out several other highly publicized stars. Mould’s career took a fortuitous turn when his album ‘Bob Mould’ hit #3 on the American Sign Language charts and he was asked to perform several concerns for the deaf, later culminating in a cameo appearance in survival movie ‘Bear Nation’.

Star rating: 3.5/5 stars

Raw Power – The Stooges

27 Aug

When the Three Stooges entered a recording studio to record this, their final album, they could never have guessed the influence they would have on subsequent comedy acts, The Three Stooges. From their hilarious, falling on a banana peel gags to this, their final album, comedy would never be the same after Larry, Curly, and Moe recorded this, their side-splitting final album. Though their previous ‘Fun House’ was a respectable effort, here comedic genius David Bowie adds his charm as lead jokester Iggy Pop merrily sings: “I’m a street walking cheetah with a heart full of napalm, I’m a runaway son of the nuclear A-bomb/I am the world’s forgotten boy, the one who searches and destroys”. It would later become a perfect statement of intent by a band whose intent was more compelling than anyone else’s, though here is pure hilarity.

“Gimme Danger” is one of the darkest ballads ever written. Scott Asheton is a great drummer. His late brother Ron was more suited to guitar. His bass playing isn’t very good. You can hear it all come together on “Raw Power”.

Star rating: 4/5 stars