I've been forcing myself to listen to Bruce Springsteen's latest album, Working on a Dream. I keep hoping that my initial dismay will pass. So far, it's not working. Those of you who know me know that I love Bruce Springsteen. I would hop in the car with him and drive off down Thunder Road, pushing Mary out of the front seat if I had to. I would walk through Jungleland with him, braving the gang warfare. I would go through hell and back for Bruce Springsteen. But I will not listen to this new album another time. It's too painful.
And that made me wonder about the albums that you and I might consider as the most disappointing albums we've ever heard. To be a Disappointing Album is not the same thing as to be a Horrendously Bad Album. We expect some albums to be Horrendously Bad, and they are, and we don't really care. The entire Ratt catalog comes to mind, briefly. But Disappointing Albums elicit a special pain. We like the artists who create them, and we want to like the work they create, but for whatever reasons, we can't find it within ourselves to muster much, if any, enthusiasm for the misguided mess we hear.
Here are my candidates for Most Disappointing Albums. What are yours?
-- Bruce Springsteen -- Working on a Dream
Bruce tries to croon. Bad idea. Bruce sings about finding true love at the checkout counter of the supermarket. Stupid idea. Bruce tries to write an outlaw tale that sounds like something Weird Al Yankovic would come up with if he was writing a parody of an Ennio Morricone soundtrack. Mind-numbingly misguided idea.
The Sex Pistols – The Great Rock ‘n Roll Swindle
They put it right out there in the title, but still. The concentrated venom and rage of Never Mind the Bollocks … gave way to this? A disco medley of Sex Pistols “hits”? A French version of “Anarchy in the U.K.,” complete with accordion solo? Sid Vicious’ transcendently awful rendition of Sinatra’s “My Way”? It’s hard to exaggerate just how far that middle finger was extended to the fans. This is a band that had to break up. No one would have bought a third album.
Bob Dylan – Self Portrait/Dylan/Down in the Groove/Dylan and the Dead
It’s a four-way tie for the Voice of a Generation. Bob Dylan has left more unreleased masterpieces in the can than any other songwriter has written masterpieces. But periodically he feels the need to short circuit his magnificent career by releasing tediously uninspired performances of his own songs (see that album with The Dead) and addled covers of contemporary songwriters such as Joni Mitchell and Paul Simon and easy-listening pop classics (“Let It Be Me,” “A Fool Such as I”).
The Pogues – Peace and Love
The Pogues had set the bar so high with Rum, Sodomy, and the Lash and If I Should Fall From Grace With God that a letdown was inevitable. Still, when it came, the crash was mighty. Shane MacGowan seems distant and uninvolved, the other songwriters aren’t able to pick up the slack, and the playing seems lifeless and dispirited.
Fleetwood Mac – Fleetwood Mac/Rumours
I’m being blasphemous, I know. I don’t care. I think Lindsey Buckingham is a pretty good songwriter. And I can’t stand Stevie Nicks, the Embraceable Ewe, and I’ll probably never get over the direction Buckingham and Nicks steered my favorite band. Yeah, yeah, they sold 50 million records and made a bunch of classics. Not to my ears. I loved the obscure but entirely praiseworthy Danny Kirwan/Bob Welch band that preceded this one. Check out Future Games and Bare Trees and listen to the band when they were at their peak.