A Critical Re-Evaluation

There are albums in an artist’s career that are deemed ‘sub par’ by both the critics and the fans. Sometimes, in hindsight and after the passage of a little time, when you revisit said albums they seem to make more sense and you say to yourself “this album ain’t THAT bad.”

Of course sometimes said album IS that bad, but let’s not focus on that. Let’s re-examine some records that were trashed at the time of release and that I think deserve a reevaluation.

My Morning Jacket: Evil Urges…When this album was released in 2008 it polarized fans and critics alike. As a matter of fact fans are still arguing over this one on discussion boards all over the globe. Why was it so hated? Well it all comes down to one song in my opinion. Track 3, usually reserved for heavy hitters, was a song entitled “Highly Suspicious” and featured singer/chief songwriter Jim James showcasing an exaggerated faux-Prince falsetto over a funky metallic back-beat. The silly lyrics (“Peanut butter pudding surprise!”) were a shock to the system of many a fan to say the least. But this band has always trod where others fear to trod and are not content to stay in any genre. The album contains two of MMJ’s best songs (Touch Me I’m Going To Scream pt’s 1 and 2) and the remainder of the album is no slouch either. Even Highly Suspicious has grown on me considerably.  Verdict: Not nearly as bad as its reputation.

The Smiths: Meat Is Murder…Man, I’m gonna get slammed for this one…Ahem…After the critical and commercial success of the Smith’s debut album, Meat Is Murder was initially panned as a sub-par downer of a record, and words such as “pretentious”, “preachy”, “overwrought” and even “boring” were bandied about. Were they right? For the most part, yes they were. Only 3 songs make the cut: Barbarism Begins At Home, Rushholme Ruffians and the amazing How Soon Is Now. The title track, a pushy ode to vegetarianism, is horrible and bleak and the rest of the album (other than the 3 I mentioned and, possibly, That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore) isn’t much better. Verdict: Don’t believe it when someone tells you The Smiths never released a bad album. They did, and this is it.

Pink Floyd: The Final Cut…Is this really a Roger Waters solo album? Yes, but in all actuality so is The Wall and Animals. Is this album really as pretentious and boring as everyone says it is? Absolutely not. I never understood how people could love The Wall and loathe The Final Cut. They are virtually the same record, and I actually think that The Final Cut is more successful, concept wise, than its predecessor. Basically a therapy session to excise the ghosts of his past (particularly his father), The Final Cut is an entirely fitting end to the career of Pink Floyd. Verdict: Much better than its reputation.

Wilco: A Ghost Is Born…Coming after the massive success of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, A Ghost Is Born was never going to be hailed as a masterpiece. And while YHF is a really good album I think all of the hype (record company rejects album for being too ‘experimental’; band streams album on web to rave reviews; company buys album…through an independent arm…back effectively paying for said record twice) exaggerated the album as a whole. A Ghost Is Born was my first Wilco purchase and as such I am a little biased towards it. I think it’s a terrific album, more experimental than YHF and containing some of the best songwriting of Tweedy’s career. Spiders (Kidsmoke) fuses Americana with Krautrock, Muzzle Of Bees and Hummingbird is Paul McCartney at his best and Handshake Drugs, I’m A Wheel, Theologians and opener At Least That’s What You Said are amazingly challenging pop songs. Only the terrible 15 freakin’ minute misstep Less Than You Think keeps this a step away from masterpiece status. Verdict: More than you think.

…to be continued…