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Showing posts from September, 2008

Rock Bottom: The Beach Boys

The one constant in every established artist's oeuvre is the bad album, the one that's reviled by both fans and critics. Those unlovable albums are the ones this feature, Rock Bottom, is concerned with.

Here's how it works: I've consulted three sources, the AllMusic Guide and Rolling Stone (for the critical point-of-view) and Amazon.com (for the fan perspective*). The album with the lowest combined rating from both sources is the one I'll consider the worst. I may not always agree with the choice, and my reviews will reflect that. I'll also offer a considered alternative.Finally, there are some limits. The following types of albums don't count: 1) b-sides or remix compilations, 2) live albums, 3) albums recorded when the band was missing a vital member, and 4) forays into a different genres (i.e. classical).

*A note about Amazon.com. I consider this the fan perspective, because most people who choose to review albums on this site are adoring fans of the artis…

Rock Bottom: David Bowie

The one constant in every established artist's oeuvre is the bad album, the one that's reviled by both fans and critics. Those unlovable albums are the ones this feature, Rock Bottom, is concerned with.

Here's how it works: I've consulted two sources, the AllMusic Guide (for the critical point-of-view) and Amazon.com (for the fan perspective*). The album with the lowest combined rating from both sources is the one I'll consider the worst. I may not always agree with the choice, and my reviews will reflect that. I'll also offer a considered alternative.Finally, there are some limits. The following types of albums don't count: 1) b-sides or remix compilations, 2) live albums, 3) albums recorded when the band was missing a vital member, and 4) forays into a different genres (i.e. classical).

*A note about Amazon.com. I consider this the fan perspective, because most people who choose to review albums on this site are adoring fans of the artist in question. As a …

186. Matthew Sweet: Sunshine Lies (2008)

Did you know that paid music critics are contractually obligated to compare every new album by Matthew Sweet to 1991's Girlfriend? It's true. Unfortunately for them, the comparison has been apples to pomegranates for the past 17 years, since Sweet hasn't even really even tried to recreate his commercial breakthrough. Each of his 8 subsequent albums has had its own identity: Altered Beast was rawer, 100% Fun slicker, In Reverse grander, etc.

Sunshine Lies is the first Sweet album where the critics might actually be justified in making that tired-and-true comparison. It's guitar-heavy, slightly off-kilter power pop, and it features a reunion of most of the Girlfriend-era players. Whether intentional or not, it seems like a willful attempt to recapture some of that early-'90s magic.

As logic would dictate, the reviews have been mostly positive.

But this Sweet fan is not so pleased. As an unpaid music critic, I'm free to say that I don't think Girlfriend is the be…

Rock Bottom: R.E.M.

Is there a musical equivalent to "jumping the shark"? In television, where the phrase originated, it's the point where a show's quality drops and never quite recovers. But in pop music it's trickier.

Even if an artist looks like they've completely lost their touch, there's almost always a comeback. And how do we judge an artist as no longer viable? Do the fans decide, or the critics, or the buying public? Because, there's always a critical darling that's a complete commercial failure, or a record that sells boatloads despite a critical ravaging. Or the album that all the fans just adore, but no one else has heard of.

It occurs to me that the one constant in every established artist's oeuvre is the bad album, the one that's reviled by both fans and critics. Those unlovable albums are the ones this feature, Rock Bottom, is concerned with.

Here's how it works: I've consulted two sources, the AllMusic Guide (for the critical point-of-view…

Worst. Album. Ever.

It appears my torrid 2008 posting pace has slowed, but I'd like to assure you that I have new content in the works. The 5 year anniversary of this blog is coming up in a couple of months, and it's my goal to reach review #200 by then.

So I have a couple of reviews of new albums percolating, as well as a brand new feature. I haven't settled on a title, but contenders include "When Good Artists Go Bad" and "Rock Bottom". The basic premise is this: Pick a really good, established artist, find out (via actual research) what their consensus worst album is, listen to it, and share my thoughts. There were some limits, as the following types of albums don't count: 1) b-sides or remix compilations, 2) live albums, 3) albums recorded when the band was missing a principal member, and 4) forays into a different genres (i.e. classical).

I've done this accidentally a few times already, including here and here. But now look for 13 more, based on research and my …