When Bad Reviews Happen To Good Albums

Ever read the reviews on Amazon.com? I do, I have for years, but I stopped reading the glowing 5 star reviews years ago. Why? Because they’re boring, and totally biased towards the band, virtually 100% of the time. “Best album EVER!!!” is the most common sentence in any 5-star review, and that’s not only asinine (for the most part, some actually deserve that tag) but unfair to those folks who actually use these reviews to find out whether or not to purchase an album, or to get into a band. No, if I want to get an unbiased and well thought out opinion I’ll read the good, the bad and the stupid one’s in order to get the bigger picture, coupled with sites like allmusic, popmatters and by reading some of the self-published one-man music blogs I respect. But it’s the one star reviews I find most entertaining, especially on those albums that have long since been tagged as ‘untouchable”. Here are a few.

Rolling Stones: Let It Bleed

“This CD is soooo boring. Like most of the stones stuff(except the halfway decent TSMR)this is stuck-in-a-rut stuff. The stones didn’t know how to explore (unlike another band I could mention) and all their stuff sounds the same. There are an awful lot of filler tracks here as well. The only decent songs are Gimme Shelter & Midnight Rambler which are great pop songs. I suggest getting Hot Rocks or maybe Rolled Gold, both of which have the Stones’ best pop stuff. And really this is the only stuff worth having. This CD is weak, flat and extremely uninspiring in its lack of diversity. Try Let It Be instead.”

XTC: Skylarking

“Then there was Skylarking. It was supposed to be THE XTC album, their masterpiece. People compared it to the likes of Pet sounds and proclaimed it one of the best albums of all time. I’m sad to say it didn’t live up to the hype for me. In fact, I find it to be downright mediocre. For me this is where they dropped the ball and failed to pick it back up. I’ll admit that I miss the more raw, punk like energy that was found in early XTC, but that’s not why I dislike this album. I actually enjoy alot of mellow, lavishly produced music, but Skylarking just sounds…bland. None of the songs seem to stand out and the production is borderline soft rock. Every time I listen I hear less of what made me love XTC in the first place and more of why I can’t stand Phil Colins. Even the songwriting itself is weak, lacking strong hooks and any sort of weight to help the music rise out of the syrupy muck that Todd Rundgren laid out. I just don’t see what all the fuss is about.”

The Kinks: The Village Green Preservation Society

“For some reason this album of the Kinks has been hyped to a younger generation of listeners who now hold it in the highest esteem. As a fan of the Kinks from the moment I first heard “You Really Got Me” on the radio in 1964 and who once owned over 30 of their LPs, I consider myself one who has a pretty broad knowledge of their catalog, and always felt “Village Green” was rather a filler in their career until Ray could figure out what direction to take.

This album was Ray’s rebuttal to the psychedelic sounds that were filling the airways and record stores at this time. He had no intention of competing with Hendrix, Cream, the S.F. and L.A. bands, even what their contemporaries the Stones, Beatles, Animals, etc were doing, so being ever the contrarian, he created the most nostalgic, traditional-sounding collection of songs he could. From the (at the time) high point of “Face to Face”, which is a masterpiece of confident songwriting, innovative sounds, and strident commentary, the Kinks slid into the likewise overrated “Something Else” that while boasting a few strong tracks, fairly screams “treading water” until this psychedelic thing passes.

After “Village Green”, Ray got his legs again and began a string of cohesive operatic works beginning with the masterwork “Arthur” and continuing through their real peak years: “Muswell” “Powerman” “Show-Biz” and “Preservation”.

Kids, go ahead and canonize this album, it’s perfectly harmless and rather sweet. I don’t expect any support for this minority opinion, but that’s OK. Just please give “Muswell” and “Arthur” a listen if you haven’t already.”

Radiohead: OK Computer

“Really not a bad album, considering the sheer amount of garbage stinking up popular music (and this is without a doubt popular music). Just simply put, the most overrated album of the 90s. Nothing here is incredibly innovative, production-wise or songwriting-wise (the band wrote much better, hookier songs on their two previous albums), and at times the preachy and pretentious “social commentary” of tracks like… well all of them, can be extremely cloying. Especially when delivered by the thin, drawn-out falsetto of Thom Yorke. I disagree with some of the other negative reviews that say the band lacks talent, that just isn’t true, their songs are just, for the most part, bland, drab, and almost totally humourless. Also, the much-ballyhooed production sounds too sharp and tinny to these ears. In terms of “feeling” this album, and not listening to it (as some reviewers here suggest that I do), I must say I always feel like hitting “Stop” about 30 seconds into “Exit Music”. Aptly titled I guess. For much better music I recommend going to the band’s influences, My Bloody Valentine, Pixies, and Neu! I also highly suggest the Flaming Lips, highly innovative, “futuristic” pop music with a sense of joy and un-contrived emotion that Radiohead simply lacks.”

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