Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Most Disappointing Albums

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.


Anonymous said...

So you can send me the Springsteen album. You have single handedly kept me from buying it, though I did enjoy is Super Bowl halftime performance. I do want to hear it but now I don't want to buy it, so send me your copy. Otherwise most disappointing for me:

The last 3 R.E.M. albums previous to Accelerate: Around The World, Up, Reveal. Just felt they lost their way. It almost seem like when Bill Berry quit the drum kit, they lost something of their soul.

If I think of more I will send em in....

Hiram said...

I've heard a lot of bad critical press for Bruce's latest, but that doesn't seem to keep it from getting airplay. I never really got into his music, personally. Does make me wonder what defines a good album, as I'm releasing one myself shortly. If you're interested in taking a listen, I'd appreciate some feedback. Hopefully it won't make this list next year.

anchors said...

WOAD is definitely a huge disappointment as was his half-time cheesefest.

I'd also include Wilco's "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot", U2's "How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb", The (International) Noise Conspriacy's "Armed Love", Manic Street Preachers' "Know Your Enemy", and The Stone Roses "Second Coming".

Grant Wentzel said...

Scotter - good call on "Second Coming." It's not a bad album, and it was nice to John Squire start to find his own groove (he wrote a lot of the stuff on there) but it just wasn't what we wanted, especially after the wait and the grandiose "I Am The Resurrection" referencing title.

Andy - take it easy on "Dylan and the Dead"! It was just another live Dead recording, but the vocals were actually a little better on this one! Jerry's been covering Dylan tunes forever, so it was sort of inevitable that they'd try it together sometime. It's like a dance between high-school sweethearts at the 20-year reunion. Cute for those in the know, but lost on everyone else. No harm done, either way.