Saturday, December 6, 2008


In honor of one of my favorite adjectives, it's time to salute those groups and artists whom I find to largely be overrated by the critics and so-called “music experts”.  Keep in mind, their inclusion on this list doesn’t necessarily mean I dislike themI merely find their work to be overly-lauded…

MC5—I have their greatest hits CD and have no idea why this band gets lauded as much as it does.  Nothing but ‘60s White Trash noise to me.

Black CrowesMore White Trash noise, this time featuring an anorexic male lead singer who somehow managed to charm the pant(ie)s off Kate Hudson at one time.  Eat something, Chris, will ya!

U2—I've softened my stance on these guys considerably in the last ten years or so after finally making peace with them and recognizing what a truly important band U2 is.  Having said all that, I still think they’re way too political (Bono especially), and their overall body of work gets way too much praise.

Bruce Springsteen—Okay, Randy and Dr. S., before you get your slings and arrows out, I do like Brucie—he’s put out some outstanding music over the years.  But similar to my feelings on U2, I think Springsteen is overly-praised at times, to the point where his mediocre stuff gets rave reviews just because he’s The Boss.  The Rising, for instance, was pretty flaccid (pun intended) to me.

Pink FloydDark Side Of The Moon is friggin’ brilliant.  “One Of These Days” is an underrated classic.  Wish You Were Here ain‘t too shabby, either, but most everything else they’ve done is way overly-praised, especially The Wall, which is, hands down, the most overrated album in Rock history.  Apart from “Mother”, “Run Like Hell” and “Comfortably Numb”, that album never has clicked with me, and I’ve never quite gotten the point of its so-called “concept”.

Janis Joplin—Yes, Miss Pearl is an important figure in the evolution of Rock, especially considering how few women succeeded in such a male-dominated world in the early days, but it doesn’t take all that much talent to drunkenly scream and wail.  It also didn’t help that the bands she worked with were mostly mediocre-to-bad.

Jefferson Airplane—Unquestionably, the Airplane put out some landmark stuff in the late ‘60s, but beyond their 1967 album Surrealistic Pillow, there are only about a handful of other JA songs worth listening to (“Volunteers”, “Wooden Ships”, “Crown Of Creation”, “Greasy Heart”, and one or two others).  I totally agree with singer Marty Balin’s assessment of their post-1969 output as being “all drugged-out and coked-out—it was boring.”  The Jefferson Starship era from ‘75 through about ‘82 was much more prolific to me.

Lou Reed—Another guy the critics just went apeshit over for reasons I never got.  Even “Walk On The Wild Side” is lauded way beyond its true merits.

Jackson Browne—Seems like a nice enough guy, but I’ve always found his stuff to be pretty mundane and bland.  Hardly worthy of the Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall of Fame…

Madonna—Classic case of style over substance.  Her first two albums were great, the next two were decent, but the rest are pretty average, at best.  I do give ol' Esther credit for one thing—at least she hasn’t fallen prey to drugs and alcohol throughout her career.

Blondie—Debbie Harry and the boys had a nice little run for about four years, and some of their stuff is pretty good.  “Dreamin”, “Call Me”, “One Way Or Another” and “Heart Of Glass” all cut the cheese for me, but that hardly makes them Hall Of Fame-worthy either…

Patti Smith—Can anyone please explain to me why this skank is considered so important in music circles?  Her biggest claim to fame, "Because The Night", was co-written by Springsteen and at her induction ceremony for the Hall of Fame, she chose to perform the Stones’ “Gimme Shelter” instead of one of her own songs.

The Lovin’ Spoonful—Their chart run barely lasted two years and half-a-dozen or so hits in the ‘60s, and I’m pretty confident that Paul Revere & The Raiders could’ve easily blown them off any stage.  And don’t even get me started on their gawdawful performance at their RNR HOF induction.  Their membership should’ve been rescinded immediately…

Traffic—Great musicians all the way around in this band, but that doesn’t necessarily guarantee exciting music.  “Paper Sun” and "Dear Mr. Fantasy" were cool songs, but beyond that, these guys were a huge bore to me.

Donovan—“Atlantis” was pretty cool, but the rest of Dono’s music was mostly ‘60s tree-hugging hippie crap.  “Epistle To Dippy”?  WTF?!?

Elvis Costello—His best song, “Girls’ Talk”, sounded infinitely better with Dave Edmunds singing it.  As influential as ol’ Declan McManus was in the whole punk/alternative movement in the late ‘70s, I hardly see how he belongs in the HOF when guys like Nick Lowe don’t even get a sniff of it from the so-called “panel of experts”.

Bonnie RaittNice gal, and not a bad slide guitar player, but I hardly find her to be Hall-worthy.  Hell, Raitt’s biggest hit was a cover version of a John Hiatt song, “Thing Called Love”, and he’s not in the Hall of Fame (and sadly, probably never will be).

Sex Pistols—Ah yes, Johnny Rotten, the man who hocked a loogie on Dick Clark on “American Bandstand”classy guy.  And good ol’ Sid Vicious—another classy guy.  This band was so awful that even I coulda played bass with them and sounded like John Entwistle. [NOTE: I can’t play guitar to save my doggone soul!]

Aretha Franklin—I know this’ll probably piss people off, but I think the Queen of Soul is soooo overrated.  Not unlike Janis Joplin, anyone can scream and holler!  You want soulful?  Go with my girl Dusty Springfield.

The ClashThese guys were the supposed “torch bearers” who would take over for The Who in the ‘80s, but I still fail to see what the big deal was here.  “Train In Vain” and “Should I Stay Or Should I Go” are the only two Clash songs that honk my hooter, and if it weren’t for all that “phony Beatlemania” they derisively sang about in “London Calling”, these wankers wouldn’t have had a career in the first place…

Staple SingersThe Staples seemed like nice folks, but I was never terribly impressed with any of their big hits, like “Respect Yourself” and “I’ll Take You There”.  I’d take Cornelius Bros. & Sister Rose over them any day...

Frank ZappaWith all apologies to my dear friend Stacy, I think FZ is overly-tauted for his body of work in general, although he did have his moments (like “Don’t Eat The Yellow Snow”, “Dancin’ Fool” and “Trouble Every Day”).  I think I’ve heard “Valley Girl” one too many times, too.

Al GreenUndoubtedly, “Let’s Stay Together” was a colossal R&B record.  Is it just me, though, or do the backing tracks on the rest of Al’s songs all kinda sound identical to it?

Joan BaezBeautiful voice, to be sure, but methinks she doth protested a tad too much…

Sheryl CrowMediocre songwriter with a voice so off-key she makes Alfalfa from the Little Rascals sound melodic...

Blues TravelerOh yes, let’s marvel at the annoying sloppy harmonica playing on all their records!

Percy SledgeThis dude is in the Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall of Fame, but I defy you to name one other hit he had besides “When a Man Loves a Woman”.


dr sardonicus said...

To keep it short and sweet, understanding the importance of "white trash noise" in rock is essential to the appreciation of many of your examples. Some of your examples also had a much deeper body of work than their two or three big singles (for example, did you know that the Staple Singers first recorded back in the 50's?), and that needs to be taken into consideration. A complete rebuttal would require me to write a book; many of your examples will be dealt with in the Album Project in the next twenty years or so.

RR said...

B, Where do I begin? Bonnie has such a wealth of material that goes back to 1971. If you want her best work, I think "Streetlights" is about as good as it gets. Pick up a Frank Zappa songbook, his music is sooo complicated, its rediculous. Bruce Springsteen can bring me to tears in a song, same thing as Jackson B. Most of the rest of the stuff I agree with but The Reverend Al was who all of us adolescent guys wanted to be like. Smooth, cool and confident with a song. Nice post, tho. I'll bring up this subject on my blog soon.