Friday Fun Thread

by Ted on July 15, 2005

“The world needs laughter.”

Leonard Nimoy

The Something Awful column “Your Band Sucks” is an unrelenting, over-the-top assault on every musician, genre and album that it touches. A recent column, “The Greatest Albums Ever Suck”, is just what it sounds like. For example:

On U2’s The Joshua Tree: This managed to weasel its way to number four on the Rolling Stone list, inexplicably. I wish I could write this review like The Edge plays the guitar. I’d just tap a few words into my delay pedal and let them echo and repeat for five minutes so I could leave and read Mad Magazine on the toilet.

A lot of people look at a few critically revered albums with incomprehension, don’t they? I know I do. My big one is Pavement’s Slanted and Enchanted. I’ve given this rock milestone a lot of chances, and I just can’t pay attention for more than a few minutes. Fans listen to this album and hear “cryptic”, “primitive”, “disjointed”, “groundbreaking”. I hear a bunch of guys who forgot to write any songs. I’m not saying that my taste is any better than theirs; I just don’t get it.

Anyone else?



Matt 07.15.05 at 2:04 pm

Almost anything by the Beatles, especially if Paul wrote it. So. Boring. Maybe it wasn’t boring 35 years ago, but man, the Beatles are boring. I just don’t get them.


Grand Moff Texan 07.15.05 at 2:13 pm

“The world needs laughter.”
-Leonard Nimoy

Good thing he sang Proud Mary!


Jon Moyer 07.15.05 at 2:14 pm

The idea that Brian Wilson of Beach Boys fame is a “genius” is an all time head scratcher.

The BB’s barely improved on Jan & Dean.

Shallow California surf music. Kinda fun, for SURFERS.

Also, any great rock guitarist after 1975.


Iron Lungfish 07.15.05 at 2:17 pm

I like bits of the Beatles, but I hate Paul McCartney’s stuff with a firey passion. But not as much as I hate U2.


Andrew 07.15.05 at 2:21 pm

The Sex Pistols and punk in general. It’s bad music, and the attitude isn’t even that special, and certainly not original. So Sid Vicious died young and Johnny Rotten is crazy. Sounds a bit like every other rock band in history. They helped spawn generations of scenester/emo/punks who think its cool to have nothing interesting to say, and the only thing worse than that white suburban wannabe rappers.

At least the Clash had a touch of idealism.


Cryptic Ned 07.15.05 at 2:36 pm

I think Andrew’s comment is pretty cliche’d. Is there any such thing as a white suburban wannabe rapper, really? I’ve never heard a song or seen an album by one, aside from jokey acts like Paul Barman, Northern State and Young Black Teenagers.

And rap success should go to those who have a talent for it, not those with some romanticized horrible underprivileged background. The rapper Common has grown steadily more popular over the past 10 years, and he’s a smart suburban type.

As for punk music, it’s not all bad music. What’s “bad music”, anyway? Untalented musicians? The bassist for Rancid is incredibly talented. The lead guitarist for the Sex Pistols was really good too.

It is true that success within the punk community doesn’t correlate to being actually talented or writing interesting songs. I’ve noticed that for a punk band – unlike most non-punk bands – generally their first album is much weaker than the one that follows it. That’s because punk bands start playing shows, and becoming popular locally, when they still don’t know how to play their instruments or write interesting songs. Most punk bands break up before they ever become pleasant to listen to, but not before they release a few records. That’s why most punk records aren’t very good.

Check out the first Propagandhi album. I find it hilarious and very melodic and very angry.


Cryptic Ned 07.15.05 at 2:46 pm

As for the best albums ever that suck, I generally consider anyone who cites Pet Sounds as being unbearably condescending and pretentious, along the lines of Rob Sheffield and his crunk-loving ilk. Do you think Brian Wilson is actually a genius? No? Then why do you think his attempt at behaving like a genius is one of the best things ever produced?

Also REM’s Murmur. I would put about sixth on my list of top REM albums. Yes, it created a new paradigm for music, but REM continued to work within that paradigm and produced at least three albums (Fables of the Reconstruction, Lifes Rich Pageant and Document) that I think are clearly better. All the songs on Murmur sound kind of hazy and similar.

The problem with “Best albums ever” lists is that they consider historical importance as being important. That shouldn’t really be considered at all, I don’t think. People see Murmur at the top of some list, buy it, and think “These songs all sound the same, and the lyrics make no sense”. What they SHOULD be recommended to do is buy Lifes Rich Pageant.


Andrew 07.15.05 at 2:48 pm

Hey, I don’t have a problem with any sort of rappers, Common is a fantastic artist. But he’s not a wannabe rapper. I have a problem with the kids dress like they were in a rap videos and form odd fake gangs though they live in Redmond or Palo Alto and their dads work for Microsoft or Google.

And I stick by my claim that Sex Pistols is bad music = I don’t like it. (What other definition can there be?)


Jared 07.15.05 at 2:54 pm

“Those who didn’t know how to play, tried to learn, and those who did, tried to forget.” Talent’s got nothing to do with it. The Beastie Boys were white suburban wannabe rappers, so that’s not really a bad thing.

My contributions are DJ Shadow and Beefheart. Different genres, same reason: I can’t hear anything but pointless wanking. Putting in everything but the kitchen sink doesn’t make for compelling listening if you don’t have a clear vision. In my less generous moments (which usually occur when I’m listening to this stuff) I suspect they are being willfully difficult.

Hmph. Sorry if that’s too vague and negative. It’s harder than I thought, being a music cricket.


theCoach 07.15.05 at 2:56 pm

Beefheart anyone? [Actually, I found parts of it interesting, but not something I want to play all that often.]


Uncle Kvetch 07.15.05 at 2:56 pm

My big one is Pavement’s Slanted and Enchanted. […] I hear a bunch of guys who forgot to write any songs.

My own take is “Skilled musicians pretending they’ve forgotten how to play their instruments,” but I think we’re essentially saying the same thing.

What else?

– I’m with Jon Moyer on Brian Wilson & the Beach Boys, too. Just don’t get it.

On the alt/indie tip:

– Conor “I’m just [sob] too [choke] damn [hic] sensitive to [gulp] merely ‘sing'” Oberst, a.k.a. Bright Eyes

– The Arcade Fire: So full of earnest, empty bombast they make U2 sound positively mild-mannered

– Sonic Youth…I know I’ll get flamed to a crisp for it, but…goddamit, Sonic Youth.


Jake 07.15.05 at 2:59 pm

I give a vote for Captain Beefheart myself, except for “Tropical Hot Dog Night”.

My best of the Rolling Stones compilation would only have about 4 songs on it.


Jared 07.15.05 at 3:00 pm

As for Pavement, I didn’t get S&E for a very long time either. It wasn’t ’til I listened to Crooked Rain Crooked Rain that it made any sense to me, and S&E started to sound good.


Matt Weiner 07.15.05 at 3:07 pm

You guys are all a bunch of haterz. I say the Stone Roses, though I’ve been told that this is my Yankness showing itself. (I have since heard the album, and the middle is kind of cool, but I don’t get the fuss.)


Jared 07.15.05 at 3:09 pm

Uncle Kvetch–exactly: musicians pretending they’ve forgotten how to play. But that’s a GOOD thing, or at least it can be. Frees you from slavish imitation, and all that.

I’m not going to flame you to a crisp for your opinion on SY, even though it’s wrong.


P ONeill 07.15.05 at 3:11 pm

I had to stare at the Something Awful post a few times to make sure I was reading this sentence correctly:

I love rock and roll more than life itself, of course, but I don’t think there’s ever been a single good rock and roll band or album

If that’s the standard, then I don’t know how he kept the list Great/Suck to 5. Led Zeppelin? Appetite for Destruction? But these “Best” lists are indeed dominated by albums that people think should be there rather than ones they actually have sitting in their CD tray.


Uncle Kvetch 07.15.05 at 3:14 pm

Uncle Kvetch—exactly: musicians pretending they’ve forgotten how to play. But that’s a GOOD thing, or at least it can be.

Oh, don’t get me wrong…artlessness can be a great thing. In the case of Pavement, I just don’t think it is. (Interestingly, I find Malkmus’ solo stuff much more to my liking–the sound is still loose and raggedy, but somehow it’s not so contrived.)


Nick 07.15.05 at 3:25 pm

I think the last time Q magazine did a top 100/50/1000/infinity+1 albums of all time (though my occasional perusal of their cover indicates they do something like that every other month, so this may be out of date), Radiohead’s OK Computer was number 1. Now, it’s not bad, but the best album of all time?

And maybe it’s just my Brummie roots showing, but I can’t think of a good album by a band from Manchester.


Njorl 07.15.05 at 3:28 pm

Is there such a word as iconoclastoclastic? How about iconoclastoclastoclastic?


Steve Carr 07.15.05 at 3:39 pm

This may be the most annoying thread I’ve ever read on CT. You all are just like Diane Keaton and Michael Murphy in “Manhattan,” putting all these amazing artists into the Academy of the Overrated.

Pavement. Sonic Youth. Radiohead. The Sex Pistols. The Stone Roses. DJ Shadow. As Woody Allen says in response to Keaton’s and Murphy’s faux snobbery: “What are you talking about? They’re all great.”


John Quiggin 07.15.05 at 3:40 pm

Tubular Bells was the big instance for me. I never took progressive rock seriously after that. In fact, Tubular Bells pretty much cured me of taking critical acclaim seriously.


Adam Kotsko 07.15.05 at 3:57 pm

Slanted & Enchanted might require several days of continuous on-repeat listening to break through the initial wall of incomprehension — but on the other side of that wall, one’s life changes dramatically.

Crooked Rain is a better sing-along album, though, definitely.


ogged 07.15.05 at 3:59 pm

Steve Carr is overrated.


Uncle Kvetch 07.15.05 at 4:02 pm

As Woody Allen says in response to Keaton’s and Murphy’s faux snobbery: “What are you talking about? They’re all great.”

Aw, c’mon, Steve. I know the scene you’re referring to…and it always makes me laugh, I love how Woody gets so annoyed, “What about Mozart, don’t forget Mozart….” You’re right…it does smack of a parlor game for annoying people with too much time on their hands.

But seriously: assuming you’re a serious rock/pop fan, are you going to say that there’s never been an album or artist that was getting showered with hosannas (and moolah) while you sat there scratching your head, thinking “What am I missing here?”

Never? Not once?


engels 07.15.05 at 4:05 pm

Pet Sounds smells worse than rotten fish. The whitest album ever made.


Gaspar de Guzmán y Pimentel 07.15.05 at 4:21 pm

The Beastie Boys weren’t suburban…
U2 sucked until the discovered irony and after that they sucked in more interesting ways. (That graph above is hilarious!)

And I know it’s on a different album (Smile) but Heroes and Villains is amazing.

REM pretty much suck, yes.

And Don Van Vliet does not suck at all oh no.


joe o 07.15.05 at 4:22 pm

Woody Allen is no longer overrated.


Bertrand 07.15.05 at 4:25 pm

This may be the most annoying thread I’ve ever read on CT

You haven’t been trying.

What’s “bad music”, anyway?

Is there a philosopher in the house?


Brendan 07.15.05 at 4:27 pm

You are all wrong wrong wrong wrong wrong I tell you! All old albums posited by rock critics as being great really are, all new albums (and by new i mean made since 1980) aren’t. This is because nowadays rock critics have the average age of about 68. And don’t know what’s going down with the ………er……….kids.

Overrated albums: Nirvana, (teen spirit), Stone Roses, everytbing by U2, everything by REM. OH, and everything by Elton John. Since when did HE become the new Lennon and McCartney?

Not that these artists are actually bad per se, but overrated is definitely the word.


Jake 07.15.05 at 4:29 pm

Yes, that’s right, my preciousss. We hatesssss
Radiohead too.


almostinfamous 07.15.05 at 4:32 pm

i dont get house/techno/drumnbass at all. i can see how they could be parts of a song, but i dont see how they are a song on their own. but then i haven’t tried any psychedelic substances so i guess im too square for that stuff.

DJ shadow is ok, i appreciate that he at least has a sense of humor. listen to Bombay:The Hard Way if you dont believe me


jtthomps 07.15.05 at 4:37 pm

No one’s commented on the wealth of misplaced adulation in bands coming out SF in the late 60’s. My favorite is Jefferson Airplane. It’s hard to imagine a time when rock lyrics like “in loyalty to their kind, they cannot tolerate our minds… in loyalty to our kind, we cannot tolerate their obstruction…” actually were considered powerful and profound.


Philip Brooks 07.15.05 at 4:39 pm

I’ve never been able to understand high music since, oh, the beginning of the 20th century. It’s as if somewhere toward the end of the Romantic period people decided that if music actually sounded good there was something wrong with it.


engels 07.15.05 at 4:48 pm

Matt Weiner is an irredeemable yank. But I will be praying for Uncle K and his Sonic Youth heresy…


Scott 07.15.05 at 4:50 pm

As for recent bands, I nominate The White Stripes. I can see reinventing the Fall (S&E) because who were the Fall? But Led Zeppelin? And what band has managed to combine pretentiousness (De Stijl), a reactionary attitude (“We don’t record with equipment made after ’68!”) and gimmickry (“We only wear white and red – did we mention De Stijl?!” and “We’re sister and brother – kinky huh!”) like they have?


luci phyrr 07.15.05 at 4:53 pm

– Bob Dylan. Lame.

– Beatles. Rocky Raccoon? Dear God.

– And Sonic Youth sucks with Kim Gordon singing, but is pretty good with Thurston Moore singing.


Uncle Kvetch 07.15.05 at 4:58 pm

As for recent bands, I nominate The White Stripes.

Thanks, Scott, I almost forgot. 8^) Not to mention that Meg White is the worst rock drummer since Mo Tucker, except that in the latter’s case, it made a weird kind of sense. Meg is just plain bad.

Oh, and as long as I’m here: Modest Mouse.


Henry 07.15.05 at 5:23 pm

Flaming Lips anyone? Is there a there there?


Brian 07.15.05 at 5:37 pm

It’s hardly classic albums, but while the thread is trending towards modern indie darlings, could anyone explain what is meant to be good about the Killers?


Uncle Kvetch 07.15.05 at 5:59 pm

Flaming Lips anyone?

Personally I don’t put them in the same category…I’ve listened, and nothing’s outright irritated me…I just find it forgettable, one big “eh.” That’s a different list, I suppose.

But I will be praying for Uncle K and his Sonic Youth heresy…

You’ve got your work cut out for you. I reject Thurston and all his works…except one or two songs, maybe…

could anyone explain what is meant to be good about the Killers?

There’s no “meaning” involved, which I think is the key: they’re utterly derivative and they don’t pretend otherwise. I haven’t been moved to buy the album but I think the singles are groovy…but I can see where they could easily rub the wrong way.


robbo 07.15.05 at 6:00 pm

I love that Something Awful piece, but of course going back in time and judging who’s been overrated is a little like judging the taste of a beer you left open the night before. For better or worse, pop music is about what interests us today, not six months ago. “The most impassionate song to a lonely soul is so easily outgrown,” as one of my all-time favorites put it once. He’s dead right — I’ve not played a Smiths CD in years now.

Anyway, REM was freaking great, Radiohead had their one great effort, and Captain Beefheart’s Spotlight Kid and Clear Spot have aged very nicely. On the other hand, Sonic Youth have always been generally un-listenable — and shouldn’t they be changing their name at some point? I’d have agreed with the anti-Flaming Lips comment until their last release, which I played silly until its expiration date, about six months ago…


Teresa Nielsen Hayden 07.15.05 at 6:18 pm

No music works for everyone, just like no book works for everyone. It’s easy to get the idea that whatever doesn’t work for you must be inherently bad.

We need humor, but humility leavens us too. I accept the fact that not everyone likes J.R.R. Tolkien or early American choral religious music, just as I accept the fact that normal human beings can enjoy listening to Gary Puckett and the Union Gap, Bread, and Minnie Ripperton, think Malamud’s The Natural is a swell book, and don’t feel the slightest urge to razor out the last few pages or their copy of Cold Mountain.


junius ponds 07.15.05 at 6:36 pm

“Radiohead had their one great effort”

Rather, _OK Computer_ would have been their one great effort had Thom Yorke not listened to a salutary amount of Autechre and the Boards of Canada.


Matt McGrattan 07.15.05 at 7:47 pm

Bob Dylan is one great big ‘eh’ for me. I can take his songs when played by other people — “All Along the Watchtower” being the great example — but the man himself leaves me cold…

Otis Redding’s a massively over-rated singer — his stuff doesn’t hold a candle to the best of his contemporaries, people like Oscar Toney jr., James Carr and Bobby Bland. You can pick up one of Dave Godin’s Deep Soul compilations and find a dozen singers with better voices.

With classical music Segovia stands out as a just a titanic waste of time — he was technically inferior to many who came before and most who came after and some of his interpretations of people like Bach are just woeful. [As a not-very-good guitar player I can bore people with a 20 minute rant on the man’s awfulness…]

Sonic Youth, on the other hand, may have long since jumped the shark but there’s some moments of total brilliance in their back catalogue…


yoyo 07.15.05 at 8:36 pm

sonic youth is interesting, especially in a history of music sort of way, but not really enjoyable. and i didn’t think people still enjoyed the sex pistols. the archetype of a historically important band that is shit outside the context.

pavement albums should be listened to in reverse chronological order if S&E doesn’t take right away.

canonical bands i don’t get, but don’t doubt are great?: tom waits


bad Jim 07.15.05 at 10:55 pm

A footnote to jtthomps’ complaint: the lyrics to Crown of Creation were taken directly from John Wyndham’s science fiction novel The Chrysalids, where they did indeed make sense.


Andy 07.16.05 at 3:02 am

The Pavement haters can represent in a steel tank full of paint fumes. If you’ve held your breathe long enough to bleat out one last diss of a seminal 90s band then try and make it something other than “cryptic” or “amateurish.” Just to be contrary and all though, agreed on the Radiohead hating as The Bends was their last great album.


Mr. Bill 07.16.05 at 9:47 am

Steely Dan’s recent “Two Against Nature” was a, to my mind, a dreadful rehash of their old stuff. It’s critical reception made me think we need a manditory retirment age for ‘contemporary’ music criticism.
And I was a Steely Dan fan….


J. Ellenberg 07.16.05 at 12:05 pm

Lots of criticisms one could make of Slanted and Enchanted, great as it is, but “they forgot to write songs???” I have to say that there’s not much I find myself singing as I walk down the street more than early Pavement. That stuff is catchy.


jonnybutter 07.16.05 at 2:48 pm

Since when is rock or pop music criticism about music? Since never, for the most part. It’s always mostly been an excuse for musically ‘challanged’ writers to blather self-importantly, usually in an attempt to seem ‘smart’. This guy is no exception.

And Don Van Vliet does not suck at all oh no.

That’t right, he doesn’t. Some of his records are better than others – and some of them are just bad – but he’s not a ‘product’ which simply ‘sucks’ or ‘doesn’t suck’. (Jake might want to have a listen to ‘Clear Spot’)


tvd 07.16.05 at 3:34 pm

What’s “bad music”, anyway?

“There are only two types of music, good music and bad music. Good music is music that I want to hear. Bad music is music that I don’t want to hear.”—Fran Leibowitz

I suppose one could make a case that there are psychoacoustic phenomena like wave forms resonating in mathematical “harmony” that sound “good,” but it would be a value judgement to say this isn’t the pinnacle of all human sonic endeavor.


Walt Pohl 07.17.05 at 9:27 am

Teresa Nielsen Hayden makes an important point. Just because you don’t like some music doesn’t mean it’s bad. That’s the difference between you and me. If I don’t like some music, then it’s because it really is bad.

And I liked Slanted and Enchanted. Does that mean I can get a job as a rock critic?


kth 07.17.05 at 10:42 am

If you like, say, Big Star, and middle-period George Jones, it’s hard to see how you wouldn’t like Pet Sounds. “He Stopped Loving Her Today” and “God Only Knows” are practically the same song.

But Smile, the followup to Pet Sounds, is quite dreadful despite near universal acclaim from rock critic types.


Jake 07.17.05 at 1:11 pm

I’ll give it a try, jonny. The allmusic blurb makes it sound like it might be more to my taste than Trout Mask Replica was.


jonnybutter 07.17.05 at 2:19 pm


I personally like Trout Mask, but it’s not something you want to sit around listening to for hours day after day. Clear Spot is denigrated by some cooler-than-thou types as too ‘commercial’, but that’s hokum. It’s a wonderful album, and well-recorded, which a lot of his records decidedly aren’t.


Don Grimm 07.17.05 at 4:34 pm

Don Van Vliet was an amazing live performer with The Magic Band. A great deal of the rythmic power and amazing ensemble playing they were capable of didn’t transfer to vinyl. I saw them live three times in the 1970’s and each show was wildly different with the musicianship at a very high level each time. The records that he recorded just don’t reflect that live presence very well.


Dave F 07.18.05 at 6:26 am

Rock music died in 1969. It’s just marketing set to music now. Or even without music, as in rap. Trite rhyming is telling it how it is? Bullshit. And I am a former rock musician. Yes, before 1969.


lane 07.18.05 at 1:43 pm

is that what happens when academics gather to discuss music? radiohead haven’t released a good album since The Bends? the arcade fire are too earnest? pavement forgot to write songs on slanted & enchanted? sonic youth jumped the shark? Nevermind is overrated?

For a bunch of people i’m counting on to save the world, you sure have bad taste in music.


Scott 07.19.05 at 1:29 pm

Holy. Shit. Saying either that rock died in 1969 or that rap is not music would have marked you as an old fogey, Dave F. By saying both, you have transcended that label. What does that make you now? A transcendental fogey? A fogey overlord?
I’m in awe.

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