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Re: Favorite critical head-scratchers

Favorite critical head-scratchers
July 07, 2005 01:28PM
I hope you all enjoyed the thread about artists who deserve a critical bashing. To me, it was like watching people use high-powered rifles with scopes and laser sighting to hunt dairy cows. I mean, sheesh ... Sting? The Eagles? Talk about easy targets. (I did enjoy Paganizer's fill-in-the-blanks post.)

New thread (or, at least, one I haven't seen here lately):

Lester Bangs (r.i.p.) once compared The Who's *Happy Jack* to The Count Five's *Psychotic Reaction*. He claimed to have bought both albums during the same trip to the record store, some time in the late '60s. The Who, at that time, already was viewed as one of the true giants of rock & roll, while The Count Five was regarded as a derivative one-hit wonder, if they were regarded at all. Bangs, however, viewed them differently, out of his personal tastes:

"I may not have played *Happy Jack* five times since I bought it, though I never got rid of it (those Class Albums will always reveal their essential worth to you someday, you reason; perhaps you yourself must become worthy of them), but I'm gonna kick out the jams with *Psychotic Reaction* till I die."

Your own personal opinion, please: What album(s) have received volumes of critical praise, and have even come to be regarded as unimpeachable classics, but still leave *you* wondering what all the fuss is about?

Reno mentioned Lucinda Williams' *Car Wheels on a Gravel Road* in the recent bashing thread. There's a prime example of a critical darling album. (And Reno's a critic, so he ought to know.) Anyone else?

Post Edited (07-07-05 10:31)
Re: Favorite critical head-scratchers
July 07, 2005 02:06PM
Great thread. . .

*Jeff Buckley (you name it)

*Every Radiohead album after "The Bends"

*Every Dylan album before "Highway 61..."

*Broooooce "Born to Run"

*Byrds "Sweetheart of the Radio"

*Beach Boys "Surf's Up
Re: Favorite critical head-scratchers
July 07, 2005 02:14PM

The first three Uncle Tupelo albums.
Re: Favorite critical head-scratchers
July 08, 2005 10:15AM
*Every Dylan album before "Highway 61..."

Maybe it's just because i'm old and have a bit of a folk background, but i listen to those records all the time and have never felt the slightest tinge of disappointment or over-ratedness in any of them.
Re: Favorite critical head-scratchers
July 27, 2005 03:18PM
A) Belle and Sebastian: WTF? To my ears it is twee and fay. A lost soundtrack to Romper Room.

cool smiley Eminem: My instinct is to keep this angry little man and his dysfunctional rants at arms length

C) Mick Jagger, Goddess in the Doorway album: I am a huge Stones fan and can find at least one or two songs that I find listenable on even the '90's records. However, Goddess was a pedestrian effort, adequate at best. Jann Wenner's 5 Star All Time Classic, drool fest in Rolling Stone was a sad, sad embarrassment.

D) Coldplay: I have nothing against this band and they have had some lovely singles but they aren't really capable of rocking. I don't quite get The Next Big Thing adulation.

E) Elvis Costello's "ART" records: I need North, Julliette Letters, etc. like I need a hole in the head. Pump it up!

F) Frank Zappa: I don't get it. However, in my gut, I suspect that one day the light will come on and I will become obsessed.

G) U2 Zooropa: The world needed many things in 1993, it did not require another techno band

H) Korn and the legion of Korn-like bands: I don't get it

This rant could go on and on but I leave you with one thought:

As someone who admires early punk rock and got to participate in the grunge era (at least peripherally) I find the American media / youth culture obsession with "Bling" really distasteful. Katie Couric or whoever jiving with some rapper of the moment about his "Bling" fits right in with my conviction that America is deep into the Bread and Circuses phase of the decline of the empire.

Re: Favorite critical head-scratchers
July 27, 2005 07:17PM
Decline of the empire: any small town with a giant Wal-Mart.

Korn; if you don't get it then either you're female or past puberty. These bands all use the extra octave-down E-string. The 'male teenage angst' string. It's all about that and bandwagoning . And how 'bout the dude ('heady'? 'fishy'? 'grungy'?) in Korn who jumped ship as a born-again xtian?

Definitely with you on Belle and Sebastian.
Also in the fey dept.: Fiery Furnaces. WTF?

Post Edited (09-18-12 16:16)
Re: Favorite critical head-scratchers
July 08, 2005 04:25PM
I'm with you on:
The Larry Sanders Show (the blueprint for cable)
Dick Van Dyke (the original blueprint)
curb yr enthusiasm (the new blueprint)
Green Acres (the blueprint #2)
Cheers :sad smileypossibly the most annoying, 'cheerless' characters of all time - not a funny or entertainig show in the bunch - taxi was it's blueprint and was better)
Fawlty Towers:: (add a cockney "ello guvnor" and Americans drool. Brits know as much about Sitcoms as the French know about R & cool smiley

BTW - now we're truly becoming the typical Net Board. Next up:
"You Suck!"
"No, you suck!"

Re: Favorite critical head-scratchers
July 08, 2005 06:11PM
That's true. We are veering off from our more high-minded discussion and I, too, find this very disturbing. In fact, I submit that...Omigod! They have photos of Katie in a wedding dress!

Re: Favorite critical head-scratchers
July 07, 2005 02:55PM




abbey road

patsy cline

sonic youth (post daydream)

bb king
Re: Favorite critical head-scratchers
July 07, 2005 04:36PM
anything by Husker Du after "Flip Your Wig"
Re: Favorite critical head-scratchers
July 07, 2005 06:42PM
Beck - if his funky albums had been released by, say, PM Dawn (not really that big of a stretch), no one would have given a damn and they would've sank without a trace. No one has ever given much of a damn about his folk albums.

Tortoise - I'm yawning right now

Eminem - labelled a genius by legions of people terrified of appearing unhip if they were to admit they couldn't see what all the fuss was about

Anything Malkmus related post-Slanted & Enchanted

Why do people feel the need to tear down McCartney in order to build up Lennon? I suspect because pissed off and dead at 40 is perceived to be a much cooler state of being than cheerful and alive at 60. But aside from Plastic Ono Band and his guitar work on Yoko's albums, solo John never recorded anything as remotely kick-ass as "Jet," "Band on the Run" or "Uncle Albert." Hell, when George died, there was quite a bit of talk that he was greater than McCartney, too. If Ringo expires before Paul does, I'm sure even HE will be praised as a more authentic artist than silly old McCartney. Leave Paul alone. The guy wrote "Hey Jude," for crying out loud. It's not his fault that he's a nice guy who had the bad judgement to live to see retirement age. And yeah, okay, he's written his fair share of lame songs, but still, he's one of the all-time greats and shouldn't be disrespected just because it's cooler to like the "dark and troubled" rebel. "Imagine" and most of Double Fantasy were every bit as sappy as anything McCartney ever wrote. (And I'm not trying to tear down Lennon here - he wrote "And Your Bird Can Sing" and "Tomorrow Never Knows," after all. Just irritated that people kick Paul around so much.)

On the flip side: Have never understood why Gary Numan was so universally hated by critics. Seems like they all just decided one day that he sucked and that was that. Same way with Slowdive when they were still around - critics hated them, then they broke up and everyone was like "Wow. They were such a great band."

Re: Favorite critical head-scratchers
July 07, 2005 07:32PM
Problems w/Eminem

6.A name that is a cute way of saying "M & M" (hip-hop mandate).
5. He's an imbecile; lyrically, emotionally, and philosophically.
4. His promotions are base and rudimentary
3. His rallying cry - a fist in the air leading teens to the trailer park
2. There's an inherent dichotomy in his platform and his actions.


Most artists would use the doubling effect on one track and move on. Does he think it's some kind of trademark? Use your real unsynthesized voice for just one freakin' album! Damn it's annoying. Stay tuned for his duet with Rob Thomas or Dave Matthews with anti--semitic lyric and then Rob Thomas or Dave Matthews issues an apology claiming they didn't fully understand the lyric.

Post Edited (09-18-12 16:14)
Re: Favorite critical head-scratchers
July 07, 2005 05:47PM
just a few>
Captain Beefheart - Trout Mask Replica
REM - any after Reckoning
U2 - any after October
Gang of 4 - Entertainment
Flying Saucer Attack - any
Blonde Redhead - any
Dismemberment Plan - Emergency
Dandy Warhols
Pavement - Westing
Beach Boys - Pet Sounds (though I'll give it props for the craftmanship)
Beta Band - any after 3 eps
Nirvana - any
Beatles - any after White Album side 1
Mission of Burma
The Residents
Legendary Pink Dots
Beck - Odelay
Wilco - Yankee hotel
Bonny Prince Billy/palace whatever et al - Not exactly country, not exactly indie, therefore awesome? That formula sure makes critics wet.
Hole - at the time people argued whether it was a Cobain project. Pretty obvious now, isn't it?
Velvet Revolver (the obvious name sums them up)
Audioslave (interchangeable with Velvet Revolver)

NP: Built to Spill - Ancient Melodies

Post Edited (07-07-05 16:49)
Re: Favorite critical head-scratchers
July 07, 2005 07:34PM
My own nominees for highly praised albums that I just don't get:

The Beach Boys - Pet Sounds (Nice, but hardly worth the critical rapture it seems to evoke.)

Radiohead - Kid A (Since when is the creation of nebulous sound a more evolved musical pursuit than actual songwriting?)

R.E.M. - Out of Time (This one sure had the critics drooling upon its release, but half the songs here sound as if the band never bothered to finish writing them. From what I've seen, most critics have revised their considerations of this one.)

Wilco - Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (Another example of more effort going into the production than the songwriting. As for the album's much-ballyhooed rejection by Reprise and acceptance by another division of Warner ... does anyone else here suspect a PR setup?)

Hole - Live Through This (With or without all the controversy that surrounds Courtney, her late husband, and whatever artistic relationship they might have had, this one just doesn't do it for me.)

Full props to Reno, for his comments regarding Beck, Eminem, the former Beatles and Gary Numan. I'm sure Numan's body of work will receive a massive critical re-appraisal after the man dies. (Numan, that is, not Reno.)
Re: Favorite critical head-scratchers
July 07, 2005 09:47PM
Geesh, I kinda like Eminem, just a little though (ducks, runs for cover)......I definitely agree on Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. I find that record to be impenetrable, "Serious Artist Syndrome" stuff ......let's see, Trouser Press calls "Automatic For The People" a masterpiece, and if they mean a "masterpiece of sleep inducing incredibly depressing songs that will make you want to stuff your head in an oven" then I guess we agree.

Re: Favorite critical head-scratchers
July 07, 2005 10:23PM
In 1999 Spin magazine did a feature on 'The 90 Best Albums of The 90s'. There were many very worthy platters on there, some which I didn't know of but now own. But lurking on that list were TLC and Lauren Hill!
And of all the Nick Cave albums of the 90s the only one they included was The Boatman's Call.
I know what every single one of you is thinking right now 'serves you right for reading Spin!'
I'm just a bit of a sucker for those Best ____ of the ____ type things which is most likely why I am here.
Re: Favorite critical head-scratchers
July 07, 2005 10:49PM
the pixies, sonic youth, grateful dead, 70's prog rock, the everybody loves raymond tv show (cheers or mash it ain't) , 90's jam bands, pavement, dinosaur jr, bb king, 70's blues/rock and southern rock in general, the cure, nine inch nails, blah blah blah
Re: Favorite critical head-scratchers
July 08, 2005 01:29AM
As long as we're branching out into sitcoms, Seinfeld is the most overrated show in recent history - it had some classic episodes but just as many that are completely unwatchable and embarrassingly unfunny. Newsradio was by far the most consistently hilarious sitcom of the '90s. (And Steve, I hope you're talking about the Henry Blake/Trapper John/Frank Burns era of MASH.)

And what the hell was the point of Forrest Gump and how did it win the best picture Oscar?
Re: Favorite critical head-scratchers
July 08, 2005 02:21AM
You got it B rad. Seinfeld...It's ok, but I just can't see hanging out with any of them. I mean the type of characters on that show are people that I have either tried hard to avoid or they have avoided me, ya know? Cheers was great.
Re: Favorite critical head-scratchers
July 08, 2005 02:23AM
coz hollywood/critics love retard/cripple movies--miracle worker, Rocky, g grape, eugene and D, slingblade, Trapp Fam, kill bill, gump, hoffman as autistic, pacino as blind: the list is endless.

top 10 sitcoms:

The Larry Sanders Show
Dick Van Dyke
The Office
curb yr enthusiasm
Green Acres
news radio
fawlty towers

worst famous sitcoms:


will and grace
everybody loves raymond
Bev Hill
G Island

Post Edited (07-08-05 09:02)
Re: Favorite critical head-scratchers
July 08, 2005 02:57AM
I couldn't believe all the hype about "Everybody Loves Raymond" going off the air. I think I watched a grand total of five minutes of that show once and was so bored that I certainly didn't find myself loving Raymond.
Re: Favorite critical head-scratchers
July 10, 2005 02:53AM
i certainly loved raymond's wife!!! but never bothered to watch the danged show...
Re: Favorite critical head-scratchers
July 08, 2005 01:26PM
two days ago in a book and record store i saw a kid 15-17 maybe, wearing a Pantera shirt running around the store, completely stoked, jumping up and down because he found a copy of "Freewheelin" his Mom and Dad were beaming! Transcendental man.

Post Edited (07-08-05 10:29)
Re: Favorite critical head-scratchers
July 08, 2005 02:09PM
Pretty cool!

I was at happy hour with my co-workers a couple weeks ago, and one guy brought his two teenage daughters. He and I started talking about music, until he caught his older daughter (15) rolling her eyes at us.

When he asked her what the problem was, she just said she was tired of hearing him talk about "old guy music." She said she liked music too, but just stuff from "HER generation."

"Like what?" I asked her. "Name some names."

She thought a second and said, "Like, the Red Hot Chili Peppers."
Re: Favorite critical head-scratchers
August 02, 2005 01:13PM
OK, I have to laugh when someone said the Grateful Dead were a critical favorite. I'm guessing that maybe you're kind of young.

Basically, when the Dead were becoming one of the most popular live acts in the world (early 80s), they were, to the critics, about as popular as dogshit on your shoe. The mainstream press (Rolling Stone, etc) denigrated them as if they were a disease (check out the RS Record Guides from that period or anything ever written by Dave Marsh, even if it's ostensibly about some other band), and while I don't recall them ever being mentioned in TP, they certainly weren't popular in the "punk/new wave" crowd either.

Regardless of what you think of their music, they were not critical favorites by any stretch of the imagination. Of course, once the Dead started making buckets of money (late 80s) the rock critics reflexively started fawning over them, but prior to that (when they were building their following up to that point), admitting that you liked the Dead meant bucking the "mainstream cool" as well as the "alternative cool" conventional wisdom. Just an F.Y.I.

My favorite critical head-scratcher is anything by REM after "Document". They were one of the most interesting (and influential) bands out there until Buck and Stipe started considering themselves serious artists.
Re: Favorite critical head-scratchers
August 02, 2005 06:22PM

Post Edited (09-18-12 16:21)
Re: Favorite critical head-scratchers
August 05, 2005 04:48PM
The Jesus & Mary Chain.
I've given this band three chances, when they first made waves, later when a good friend kept praising them, and most recently when I got a used copy of Psychocandy on a whim. I listened to it a couple of times in the car. And. It. Just. Didn't. Do. Anything. For. Me.

Re: Favorite critical head-scratchers
August 18, 2005 02:00PM
For me, J&MC have always been a singles / album tracks band. I have never fallen in love with a whole album. Just off the top of my head, these songs are as good as good as any power pop tunes ever recorded:

Happy When it Rains
Blues From a Gun
Head On
Far Gone and Out
Between Planets
Half Way to Crazy

The list goes on
Re: Favorite critical head-scratchers
July 09, 2005 01:15PM
Wow. Have to catch up to TV Shows and music. Books next? Let's just stick with the big ones.

Obviously, anything Springsteen recorded -- except the title of track of Born in the USA -- after Nebraska.

Although most critics dump on him already, I feel Billy Joel needs more of it. Remember those accusations of Rolling Stone altering the vote boxes on their first "Greatest 100 Singles of All Time" list? The one Joel and Foreigner both wound up on? Jann Wenner must die. Joel is a musical fraud -- a man who disguised himself as a working class singer without any real aspirations to help the working class. " 'ey Billy! I 'ear you're introducin' ballet to the masses! Bleeagggh!"

Rolling Stones after Exile.

The Doors. What the f**k is up with the adoration for this band? Lounge music for people who think art is anything that has the word "F**k" in it. Note to them: The two sentences above are not art.

Now, I like Nevermind, but feel it is highly overrated. In Utero was the way the band was heading, and even if they didn't get there, it looked like a more interesting ride. It sure started well.

Eventually, a great singles collection will come out of Eminem's work, but his albums are too varied for the sort of critical praise he gets.

Everybody Loves Raymond got press because the press gave it attention. It was just a sitcom with some good actors. Why does stuff like this and Friends get any attention when the new series of Doctor Who can't even get a distributor over here? And Cheers jumped the shark after Diane left. And when is someone going to destroy SNL? It lost any reason for existence long ago. And when is Jay Leno going to commit suicide on the air, as Bill Hicks said he should? And when is the Bill Hicks entry going to appear in Trouser Press?

Wound up now. Listening to Russian bootleg Beatles CD's for comfort. Cheap and better sounding.
Re: Favorite critical head-scratchers
July 16, 2005 03:04AM
I dunno about Billy J. (humming "we didn't start the fire") on second thought, He sucks!
Doors? "Light my fire", " L.A Woman" oh yes, there's more. Kinda great.
Everybody loves Rayomd/his wife? Nah, plastique woman.
Emmie M- 100% right, strickly A side
Russian Beatle bootlegs? Lucky lucky you.
Stones? Some girls single handidly was responsible for YUPPIES.
Springsteen-good for backyard barbeques in Indiana circa "86 only
Nevermind remains an essential document of art, power and purpose.
Question what albums received volumes of critical praise...etc?
Answer Frampton Comes Alive
Re: Favorite critical head-scratchers
August 05, 2005 08:32PM

Post Edited (08-05-05 17:56)
Re: Favorite critical head-scratchers
August 07, 2005 07:33PM
according to many friends of mine, the greatest rnr band in history is the who. to me, the band members appear to try to out play eachother.
jimi hendrix - i like crosstown traffic and little wing but that is about it. bands who imitate his guitar prowess are not usually appealing to me, either, for instance, stevie ray vaughn.
Re: Favorite critical head-scratchers
August 08, 2005 07:35PM
Right, there didn't seem to be a real band unity in the 'oo. The thing about Hendrix was that his talent will never be seen again. That's the appeal.

Post Edited (09-18-12 16:12)
Re: Favorite critical head-scratchers
August 09, 2005 12:37AM
he was sincere and had a deep knowledge of the guitar - you can't knock that.
without whining, i am not a dylan fan. i feel that more than do his own thing, he continued the traditions of woody guthrie and ramblin' jack elliott. friends of mine love his poetic style that encrypts his personal life, which is interesting, but there is still a bitter side to him. he uses his intelligence to make people feel uncomfortable, ideally to get them to speak up for themselves and use their own common sense, but i don't really appreciate that. i think he cuts down women and assumes he knows a little bit more than they do, too.
Re: Favorite critical head-scratchers
August 18, 2005 02:04PM
Over the last 20 years, lots of great live Hendrix vault releases have come out too. You really can't go wrong with any of them. My personal fave is the now out of print "Jimi Plays Monterey". Stunning..... "no buttons to push..."
Re: Favorite critical head-scratchers
August 05, 2005 08:32PM
As a kid I recall anxiously waiting for the Friday midnight ahowing of Kids Are Alright. I bought Who Are You when Moon died, backtracked to My Generation, etc. Yet 79% of what this band put out sounds like filler to me. Squeeze Box is about as pleasant to me as The Eagles. I can see how their 60s singles were landmark but Daltrey is an unappealing front man.
What did I miss?

Thanx Scratchie. hard to believe I've never really absorbed 'Sell Out'.

Post Edited (09-18-12 16:19)
Re: Favorite critical head-scratchers
August 06, 2005 02:38PM
>not a fan of My Gen, Tommy, Quad, Next, Numbers...is there a crucial 60's
>one or something?

Actually there is, "The Who Sell Out", but if you haven't warmed up to the band after hearing the albums you've already listed, I doubt if you're going to like this one either. If you really want to appreciate the early Who, get The Who Sell Out and Meaty Beaty Big & Bouncy.
Re: Favorite critical head-scratchers
August 18, 2005 02:19PM
Let's reconsider The Who for a moment. I have always liked them and I definitely absorbed them in my high school years (early 80's), Meaty, Beaty, Big and Bouncy was in my tape deck just as much as The Jam.

However, I fell in love with The Who all over again in the '90's thanks to two incredible vault releases: The expanded / complete Live at Leeds and Live at The Isle of Wight. What a revelation. If all you ever listened to were the tightly constructed anthems and rock operas on the greatest hits albums (of which there are way too many, but that is for another topic) you would never know what a staggeringly powerful jam band they were at the height of their powers.

Zeppelin's How The West Was Won is the same kind of revelation. It seems like a forgotten chapter of rock history that The endless jam was absolutely the fashion of the day in the early 70's. Everyone knows that the Allman Brothers Fillmore East and The Grateful Dead's Europe '72 (and many others) are seminal jam records but try listeneing to the above Who and Zep records plus Santana's Lotus set to see that this is a bandwagon lots of folks were on at the time.
Re: Favorite critical head-scratchers
August 18, 2005 02:37PM
the who's monterrey pop performance is amazing - i was in a snotty mood when i cut down the who earlier.
Re: Favorite critical head-scratchers
August 14, 2005 02:58AM
ok... ok, Im that someone that said the Dead were critically overrated. Thanks for straightening me out. It's just that when I was 15 in '80 (I think?). my parents and all their friends drugged (oops) dragged me to a Dead concert and I hated it. Since then, even just the the other day, I keep meeting Deadheads. So I figured they must have been well received in the mainstream all along. I am learning to appreciate their and my own history. In fact, Im gonna call my mom right now and tell her thanks too.
Re: Favorite critical head-scratchers
August 14, 2005 06:14PM
Yup, critics hated them. But then, that's because they were reviewing their extraneous LPs.

Post Edited (09-18-12 16:18)
Re: Favorite critical head-scratchers
August 14, 2005 06:25PM
Coincidentally, I caught them cir '74 on PBS last weekend, honoring their new box with all kinds of extra footage and stuff, and I thought the band was very good. I was most impressed at their own level of commitment/enjoyment at playing. And most surprised at how their stuff(considering era/period ) holds up. No embarrassment. where's my tie dye?!
Thanks my favorite Pagan.
Re: Favorite critical head-scratchers
August 18, 2005 02:25PM
The issue of Relix on the newstands right now is pretty interesting for anyone fond of the Grateful Dead. Now that ten years have passed, the folks interviewed are pretty open about the ups and downs that Jerry and the band experienced. Bruce Hornsby in particular offers very balanced (loving and critical) view of his time with the band.
Re: Favorite critical head-scratchers
August 27, 2005 06:12AM
the nuggets comp is in fact, highly underrated.

Post Edited (08-27-05 03:13)
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