Here's the thing - there have been plenty of lists arguing a person's/group's/etc. favorite albums of the decade recently passed. [There's one coming here soon - of course - patience.] Far more interesting to me, however, are lists of albums that disappointed someone. It really brings out the snark - hooray! - and the creative way someone can write about something that failed to live up to expectations is far more interesting than something singing the praises of something else. [Pot, kettle, etc. I get it.]


Ten albums that disappointed me over the past ten years. Apparently 2002 was a really, really bad year.

Kid A
10: Radiohead - Kid A [2000]

Let's start with a big one, shall we? I simply don't understand how ten years removed people can still be singing the "praises" of this album. It wasn't the moment where Radiohead [and Thom Yorke in particular] turned from one of the modern eras most gifted artists into a group of whiny bitches - that would be 1998's insufferable and unwatchable "Meeting People Is Easy" documentary - but it was the musical manifestation of two years of trying way too hard to not make 'OK Computer II'. Fair play, but in the meantime they ignored almost everything that made them special in the first place and made an album of sub-Warp records cast offs, uninteresting sonic experiments and shat on one of their potentially greatest songs - "Motion Picture Soundtrack" - by, erm, soundtracking it with a dying organ and cheap choral synths.

Not that it's without its merits, of course. They did get "How To Disappear Completely" right and the electro-experiment worked in the fantastic "Idioteque" and the wonderfully paranoid "Everything In It's Right Place", but best of all was the bass-and-horn cacophony of "The National Anthem". Yes, I just listed off 2/5ths of the album, but the other 3/5ths is so horribly wretched, so terribly misguided, so just not good that it kills any good will that can be earned by those four tracks.

This is the sound of a band melting down, a band disappearing up their own collective ass, of a once mighty act falling. It's the kind of record that should have killed them, not furthered their reputation as the world's greatest band. It certainly was a game changer, that I can't argue - it made it impossible to take this band seriously anymore.

Say what you will, but 'Kid A' sucks.

Scarlet's Walk
09: Tori Amos - Scarlet's Walk [2002]

First there was the cheap- and rushed-sounding 'Venus: Orbiting' disc of 'To Venus And Back', but that was forgivable because it was hastily written & assembled and rush recorded on the back of a massive world tour to get out in time to pair it with a live album. Fair enough. Then there was the just plain awful 'Strange Little Girls' covers album but that was apparently a rush-job done to get out of her contract. Not really fair to fans, but fine. Do what you've gotta do.

Then comes this nonsense, a "proper" album with "proper" time spent on it, the album we were supposedly waiting for. Quite frankly, it was even worse than the two before it. More listenable than 'Strange Little Girls' perhaps, but at least that had the shock of being so awful going for it. 'Scarlet's Walk' suffers a far worse sin - it's boring. Dull dull dull.

Oh, and overlong. 'Boys For Pele' got away with being a third longer than it needed to be because it kept things interesting with the harpsichord and electronic piano experiments and mini-interludes that served as palette cleansers every once in a while. 'Scarlet's Walk' was one go-nowhere piano meandering after another, all married to a ludicrous concept about a hooker hitching across the US after 9/11. Or something like that.

It doesn't matter. If you need a good nap, put this one on.

[This one won out for the list over any other Tori Amos album in the last decade because it was the moment you had to admit she was really never coming back. I've always had more of a soft spot for 'The Beekeeper' than most, though it is pretty bad. 'American Doll Posse' could have been great with some editing and I still have no idea what to make of the nonsense that is 'Abnormally Attracted To Sin'. The less said about 'Midwinter's Graces' or whatever it was called the better.]

08: GusGus - Attention [2002]

This will be an easy one. GusGus was exactly what you thought a 4AD dance act would sound like - one foot firmly on the dance floor, another in the world of ethereal pop. My total adoration of 'Polydistortion' - and to a lesser extent 'This Is Normal' - is no secret. I wanted very much to like this album as well, but they made it very, very hard.

To be fair, it followed a complete overhaul of GusGus as an artistic collective. Now they were down to a slim four [or three, I forget] - the musical core was essentially the pre-GusGus house act T-World, fronted by new female vocalist Earth. [To be fair, former vocalist Daníel Ágúst did show up for a guest spot on "Desire" and it was just as bad.] In any case, on 'Attention' they went from something special to just another sub-par dance act in a landscape cluttered with them. Sad. They would never recover. Even sadder.

NYC ghosts + flowers
07: Sonic Youth - NYC ghosts + flowers [2000]

Let's be honest: Sonic Youth's recorded history is littered with some pretty bad ideas. That said, they generally saved their best ideas for the proper albums, so if you pretended that was the extent of their discography you were generally doing OK. Heading into 2000, though, they were in a rough spot. Their last album proper - 1998's 'A Thousand Leaves' - was a blatant attempt to re-capture 'Daydream Nation' that didn't quite work. [It wasn't bad but it certainly sits among their lesser albums at this point.] They followed that up with the well-intended but unlistenable mess of 'SYR4: Goodbye 20th Century'. They had also had a chunk of their gear stolen at a recent show and this was their first album recorded without it.

A chance to be reborn? Sure. As 21st century beat poets? Err...no thanks. The music plods, the lyrics are embarrassing even for Sonic Youth - "boys to to Jupiter/get more stupider/girls go to Mars/become rock stars"? Really? - and, well, the end result was terrible. They rebounded, truly reborn like a phoenix from the actual flames on 2002's 'Murray Street', but this will forever be a blot on a once pretty amazing album discography. [Joined at the end of the decade by the mess that was 'The Eternal'.]

( )
06: Sigur Ros - ( ) [2002]

Where to even begin? Formless, repetitive, overly precious, trying-too-hard musical masturbation that got the "next big thing" hype so people accepted it. After the impossible beauty of 'Ágætis byrjun' this album was going to prove that album to be a fluke or to truly be an "alright start". Unfortunately - and, sadly, unsurprisingly - it proved the former, and the rest of the decade only drove that fact home. *sigh*

A New Morning
05: Suede - A New Morning [2002]

It's almost too easy. What were they even thinking? There is nothing - I repeat NOTHING - redeemable about this one. Even the cover art is horrendous. I can't even put it into words - the music speaks to the embarrassment itself. Nothing to see here.

Red Carpet Massacre
04: Duran Duran - Red Carpet Massacre [2007]

What was promised was an 'Notorious' update - that's how I read it, anyways. What we got was the sound of the once "IT" band trying far too hard to once again become cool with the kids by hitching their wagon to the new "IT" producers. It could have worked alright - at the time, Justin Timberlake was essentially the Duran Duran of 2006/2007 - but for whatever reason it just didn't. They've bounced back from worse before, hopefully they've learned their lesson.

03: Pet Shop Boys - Release [2002]

Another one that could have worked alright - the Pet Shop Boys "acoustic" album, if you will, only not at all acoustic - but what we got was a cycle of incredibly weak lyrics paired with coma-inducing backing tracks. No one involved - not Neil Tennant, not Chris Lowe, not guest-guitarist Johnny Marr ['Behaviour II' this certainly is not] - was on top of their game on this one. Hell, not even at the bottom of their game - it's as if the Boys hired doppelgangers to fill in for an album while they went on holiday. Fortunately they came back in time to salvage the project with the shockingly excellent 'Disco 3' - probably the album we should have gotten in the first place - and we moved on like it was all just a bad dream.

Dark Days / Light Years
02: Super Furry Animals - Dark Days / Light Years [2009]

Maybe it's because we're so close to the fact, but the mess that is SFA's 9th long player still stings. While there's no arguing that each album they released after 2001's 'Rings Around the World' offered increasingly diminishing returns, I never thought any of them were without their merits - 2005's 'Love Kraft' is particularly unfairly maligned - and was anxious awaiting this one.

Instead of another mini-pop masterpiece, though, we got a group of stoners releasing a string of inside jokes set to music. Great. A recent re-listen revealed what I initially thought to be true - the fantastic "Inaugural Trams" can sit comfortably alongside past glories as a fantastic SFA single, but nothing else here is worth saving. Not the 6-minute monster riff that ultimately goes nowhere of "Crazy Naked Girls", not the piss-poor "Mt.", not even the Cian led electro-fest closer "Pric" is up to any sort of high standard the band once held themselves to.

That it was continually praised as their finest record in years only made the whole thing more infuriating. A chink in the armor and hopefully nothing more, but for once I'm very apprehensive about what comes next.

01 - Björk - Volta [2007]

Fuck you, Björk. That's all I have to say about this, really.

1 comment:

Daft Monk said...

I'm right here with you on most of this. Completely agree with your take on "Kid A", wanted to like GusGus but they made it very, very difficult before sinking even lower later in the decade, worst PSB album and I have no idea what Bjork was thinking. On the flip side I think "Red Carpet Massacre" is the best Duran Duran album since the 80s. I've never been a huge DD fan so the redefining their sound didn't bother me and it is only extreme on a couple of tracks so I can see how someone else would have a different take on it.