Written by: Leif Gaslow
1. The Beach Boys–Still Cruisin’
Still Cruisin’ is what happens when Mike Love–and not Brian Wilson–helms The Beach Boys’ ship. It’s what happens when you want to re-release the schlocky hit single “Kokomo” and pad that release with five other songs from movie soundtracks, a cover, and only three originals. It’s what happens when that cover (“Wipe Out”) is a collaboration with The Fat Boys. That’s right–The Fat Boys. We don’t blame you for blocking it out…
2. The Police–Synchronicity
We can empathize with drummer Stewart Copeland, who said that around the time of Synchronicity, he and guitarist Andy Summers felt that they were the backing band for a pop star. And on the album cover, that pop star is shirtless next to a skeleton with a lightbulb on its head. Elsewhere, he’s depicted reading Carl Jung, as if to drive home the fact that Synchronicity is an IMPORTANT album that covers HEAVY themes. Effect without a cause? Sub-atomic laws? Scientific pause? That’s a long way from Roxanne and the red light. To use a literary reference that would make Sting proud, this record is much ado about nothing.
3. Metallica–Metallica (a.k.a. The Black Album)
Drummer Lars Ulrich once talked about how this album keeps his swimming pool heated. In Metallica’s jump to the mainstream, they lost sight of the epic songs and intricate structures that made their first four albums metal classics. They gained one Bob Rock, the Mötley Crüe producer who helped them trim the songs and dumb down the arrangements for consumption by the frat boy set. “Enter Sandman” indeed! The Black Album is a snoozer.
4. Pink Floyd–The Wall
Around the time of 1977’s Animals, Roger Waters thought he should replace David Gilmour as Pink Floyd’s lead vocalist. He reasoned that if he was writing the words, he should sing them, especially if they were so personal. Waters may be a great lyricist, but as The Wall proves, he’s certainly not a great singer. In fact, the other three members of the Floyd found Waters’ great concept album to be unlistenable when they listened to his demo. They were right. The finished album–with its icy production, Gilmour’s songwriting almost nonexistent (except on “Comfortably Numb,” “Run Like Hell,” and “Young Lust), and Waters’ lead vocals high in the mix–is a monument to Waters’ ego. We can kind of see why Johnny Rotten used to wear an “I Hate Pink Floyd” t-shirt around this time…
5. The Beatles–Beatles for Sale
Eight originals and six covers? Two Carl Perkins songs? “Mr. Moonlight”? The Beatles look as exhausted on the album cover as they sound…
6. Queen–Hot Space
Freddie Mercury should have known he was in trouble when both his lead guitarist and his drummer hated this banal blend of disco and rock that he thrust upon them.
This is the album where R.E.M. started sounding like they were imitating all the bands who were imitating them. A true sonic mess that found R.E.M. for the first time hopelessly out of sorts.
8.The Stone Roses–Second Coming
Madchester may have soared on Ecstasy, but the ‘Roses crashed on coke. The first album’s b-sides are superior to anything here.
9. U2–Achtung Baby
Dear Bono and The Edge: We like Depeche Mode, Sonic Youth, Massive Attack, Primal Scream, Nine Inch Nails, My Bloody Valentine, Krautrock, and Madchester just as much as you do. But you don’t see us recording (and releasing!) a stodgy hodgepodge of their ideas. Of course Adam and Larry were confused. We still are! A massive drop-off from the triumph of The Joshua Tree, which feels like it was recorded thirty years earlier by an entirely different band…
10. Wilco–A Ghost Is Born
Just because your band has created an all-out masterpiece like 2002’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot doesn’t make you a great lead guitarist. Why, oh why, Jeff Tweedy, did you decide to solo your ass off over a tired, Kraftwerk-esque synthesizer groove on “Spiders (Kidsmoke)”? Why did the song have to clock in at over 10 minutes? Why did you include the song on the record when you included a 15 minute-long “avant-garde” piece called “Less Than You Think” that you yourself said you “don’t want to listen to it every time [you] play through the album”? An unnecessary endurance test.