Friday, April 06, 2007

The Twelve Most Unjustly Maligned Albums List

If there's one thing musos like to do it's make lists and I am no exception. If there's one other thing musos like to do it's bag on other people's lists. In this series of posts, which shall hopefully take me no longer than four or five years to complete, I shall attempt to do both.

It is impossible for one to say with complete confidence that such and such an album is a band's best or worst, because there's always some contrarian clown who will disagree virulently. However a general critical consensus can usually be determined, and in this series I will take upon myself the role of the aforementioned clown and point out the most notable cases where everyone in the world bar myself has gotten it all completely wrong.

12. System of a Down - Steal this Album!

Most people barely remember that this album even exists, being instead content to argue the merits of the self titled, Toxicity or god forbid Hypnotize and Mezmerize. Perhaps it is because it's a b-sides album or perhaps it is because it's more melodic than their other releases but even people who are big fans of System tend to dismiss Steal this Album! as of no consequence.

However I would confidently rank it as their best album (narrowly edging out the self titled). For it's first half the disc shows off the bands heavy side with all of the humour and quirkiness that made their first album so good and only a touch of the self importance that in the end turned them to crap. The second half is more melodic and personal, and 'Highway Song', 'Roulette' and 'Streamline' are among the best things they've written.

I should also note that not only does this album belong on this list but that System of a Down themselves would be close to the top in a list of unjustly maligned bands. When your peers include Limp Bizkit and Linkin Park it's hard not to end up tainted by some of their stinky odour but at least up to and including this album they were actually a pretty good band with more in common with their predecessors such as Faith No More than the meatheaded proponents of the genre they ended up lumped in with.

Bold Statement: Toxicity is a good album too.

11. Rage Against the Machine - Evil Empire and The Battle of Los Angeles

Sure Rage's first album is pretty good, but I've never understood why it's rated so much higher than their subsequent albums. Renegades deserves dismissal but the dislike for The Battle of Los Angeles is quite mystifying. Yes these two albums both contain a bit of filler whereas the self titled is consistently good from beginning to end, but the good songs on the later albums are really, really fucking good. Any album that opens with 'People of the Sun', 'Bulls on Parade', 'Vietnow' and 'Revolver' or that contains 'Sleep Now in the Fire', 'No Shelter' and 'Maria' is already fucking awesome even before you consider the brilliance of 'Ashes in the Fall' or 'Down Rodeo'.

The weird thing is that I don't hear much different between these albums and the self-titled. If anything they're technically better in terms of production and songwriting, Zach's lyrics have improved and Tom Morello is never less than awesome. What strange cabal has decided that the first album is the only one worthy of respect?

Bold Statement: 'Ashes in the Fall' and 'Down Rodeo' are better than all of the self titled put together.

10. Korn – Untouchables

In over ten years they still haven't made an album that didn't contain at least a few embarrassingly dreadful tracks, but in Untouchables Korn come pretty close to making a genuinely decent record. One of the reasons this album gets dismissed is because despite a strong lead single in 'Here to Stay' the brain eater ensured that they followed it up with 'Thoughtless', the most dreadful of the aforementioned dreadful songs on this album and probably one of the worst things they've ever written. The third single was the ballad 'Alone I Break', which I think is decent but turned off the neanderthal munter crowd pretty quickly. The other reason this album gets bagged is because it's by Korn, who it must be admitted have truly earned their reputation as the shitty music of choice of said neanderthal munters.

Nonetheless this album is the only thing they've ever done which I consider genuinely worthy of merit and not just a guilty pleasure. In a move that's far cleverer than anything they've done before or since Korn managed to infuse their conventional stompy headbanging anthems with a good dose of sensitive balladry and what's more actually do both aspects well and make them blend harmoniously together. If that's not enough there are also the goofy but fun metal anthems 'Beat it Upright' and 'Wake Up Hate'.

Bold Statement: Pretty much anything good I say about Korn counts as a bold statement.

9. The Doors - Waiting for the Sun

Conventional wisdom holds that The Doors released two good albums, their début and L.A. Woman, which bookended a largely regrettable career. While The Soft Parade deserves almost every bit of bad press it gets and I have no strong desire to pick up Morrison Hotel, Waiting for the Sun is total brilliance from beginning to end. Sure everyone loves 'Five to One' but if you can believe it this album gets dismissed for not being as edgy as their older stuff. Compared to my normal diet of Burzum and Coil the relative edginess of The Doors' albums is a bit of a non issue so I'm free to appreciate the gentle beauty of songs like 'Yes, the River Knows' and 'Summer's Almost Gone' on their own terms. And do I need to even mention the brilliance of 'Not to Touch the Earth'?

Bold Statement: Jim Morrison wrote good lyrics.
Bonus Embarrassing Admission: I really like 'Hello I Love You'.

That's enough for now. Hopefully in a few days I'll have the next post in this series up, featuring 66% less nu-metal and 100% fewer bands with over rated self titled début albums.


Joel said...

I concur on two points (the others I don't have enough listening time to make a comment on)

Evil Empire is the best Rage album.

I like Untouchables for the most part too.

Jon said...

You should definitely give Waiting for the Sun a listen. I think you'd like it...