Alright, I know there are some stick in the mud party poopers out there who complain about these sorts of lists…how they’re are subjective, pointless and snarky. But, hey, let’s be real – they’re also fun. Even when you’re annoyed by them, it’s an entertaining annoyance. You’ve got to love musicians and music lovers, they’re a passionate lot. I’ve had readers curse my unborn children over some of my pontifications – and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Curse me all you want…as long as you have a good time.
The following is a selection of albums I consider to be the most overrated of all time. To be clear, some of them – not all – are fantastic…but that’s not what it’s about. The point is whether or not they are as great as they’ve been made out to be. It’s a fair list and well-considered. So remember — don’t get your balls in an uproar!
Oasis – (What’s The Story) Morning Glory?
Oasis are, to borrow an epithet from across the pond, utter shite. Their musicianship is middling at best, their melodies are the definition of generic, the lyrics are eighth grade-level, rhyming dictionary rot, and their slammed production is dated and overly compressed. Their only saving grace is Liam’s vocals which are strong to be sure, but definitely one note. Most irritating of all is how they fancied themselves the rightful heir to the Beatles – fuck no. The only thing remotely comparable between the Beatles and Oasis were Noel and Liam’s haircuts. Now that that’s out of the way…Morning Glory. Well, their most acclaimed and best known album is a washy, contrived and repetitive collection of lunk-headed dross. That being said, there are obviously some tunes on here made to order for ‘90s radio – that still doesn’t make them any good. “Wonderwall” is about as moronic a set of lyrics as you can get – a song based around a reference to an obscure George Harrison record. Is it catchy? I suppose…but so is “Sugar, Sugar” by the Archies. They delivered the hits, I’ll grant you that…but their colossal esteem – especially in the UK – is utterly mystifying.
Lauryn Hill – The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill
A critical and commercial juggernaut on practically every ‘best of’ list, Miseducation was a phenomenon. It is also a phenomenal snooze. Aside from “Doo Wop (That Thing)” the tunes ramble, meander and drag. Musically, it’s all pastiche – a mere echo of far superior albums like Innervisions, Hot Buttered Soul and I Never Loved Man The Way I Loved You. The dearth of melody on this record is stunning, just a bunch of simplistic minor key sketches set to the same hip hop groove. And her voice – considered by many as one of the greatest of her generation — is a tiresome mass of melismas. Seriously, forget Whitney Houston, Christina Aguilera and Mariah Carey, Hill was the queen of vocal runs and trills. Jeebus mamaloocha talk about a headache!
Massive Attack – Blue Lines
This record has taken up residence on every critic’s ‘best of’ list since it dropped in 1991. I’ll acknowledge that it was the first example of trip hop, which I suppose makes it an innovative release. But, really, should I give it props for that or hate it even more for being the progenitor of such an unbearably soporific genre? Blue Lines is a dull collective of slow jams over stutter-y beats. I’ll say this, if you have insomnia give it a spin…it’s the sonic equivalent of a secanol. It took me a long while to listen to this album, only because it was so acclaimed. I’m always dubious of these sorts of cultural touchstones. On occasion though, I’m pleasantly surprised – this time it was exactly what I expected, a sleepy loop of middling meh. For what it is, it is without a doubt massively overrated.
Van Morrison – Astral Weeks
I cannot tell you how many people I’ve known over the years that adore this record. Among musicians especially, Weeks is regarded as nothing short of genius. In point of fact, it’s one of the most boring, indulgent, and endless albums of all time. Jeebus mamaloocha, just listening to this album ages you by five years. Don’t get me wrong, Van Morrison is a great songwriter with one of rock’s most distinctive voices. And if you want to talk about greatest albums of all time, well, Moondance ranks way up there. Astral Weeks, however, is an untenable wank-fest. The songs have no structure, melody or point. Van the man just sounds like an incredibly stoned busker assaulting our ear canals with his prattling poetry and migraine inducing caterwauling.
Paul Simon — Graceland
Before I begin, let me just say that I am a huge Paul Simon fan. I consider him to be the single greatest songwriter of all time. As a lyricist, he’s stunningly brilliant. His insights into the human condition are unparalleled. And he is still fantastic, his last couple of albums featured some of his strongest material in years. Now, all that being said…it really annoys me that for so many he is best known for fucking Graceland – one of his weakest albums. Sure, it had some great tunes on it – he’s Paul Simon – but it was also his most grating, cutesy collection to date. I mean, “You Can Call Me Al”? What the fuck? He never wrote another tune so utterly cheesy before or after. Sure, the lyrics are great – as always – but talk about irritating. To me, it’s a travesty that an album like Hearts and Bones gets hardly any recognition comparatively. On top of all that, let’s face it, he did rip off the whole Mbaqanga sound and profited off of it – that wasn’t cool.
The Stone Roses – The Stone Roses
The Stone Roses’ debut eponymous album is considered a mega-classic by musicologists across the board, many considering it to be among the best British releases of all time. I’ll concede it was a prescient precursor to the ‘90s Manchester sound, not that that’s a particularly great thing, but what a tedious sound it is. One after the other, the tunes just bleed into each other in a washed out, drone-y, jangle. Ian Brown’s flat and flavorless vocals sound as if you lopped off the top range of Liam Gallagher’s. Lyrically, I can’t make out what they’re trying to convey – probably something about raves and pill popping. I give points the drummer, Reni, who definitely knows his way around a kit. But overall, it’s a snore and a half, and definitely not worth all the taint-licking it’s been given over the years.
Marvin Gaye – What’s Going On?
Okay… the title track is unimpeachably genius, that’s a given. Still, let’s be honest, the rest of the tracks on the album are a bunch of undercooked jams repeating the same theme — love your brother…the children…lord have mercy…stop the war. All admirable sentiments, but he literally just states them – they are not expressed through story or narrative. Now, Gaye had one of the greatest voices of all time, no question, but the melodies are slim on this record – it’s just a lot of riffing over syrup-y arrangements and Montavani strings. All that being said, it’s still a nice, laid back record to listen to, however, for an album that is so widely considered as one of the greatest of all time it is absolutely – overrated.
The Rolling Stones – Exile On Main St.
There is no denying that Exile is an incredible album, it is swampy, dangerous and features stone cold classics like “All Down the Line,” “Tumbling Dice,” and “Rocks Off.” However, this list is about albums that are overrated. Among critics – and many fans – Exile is not only considered the Stones best album, but in the top albums of all time. This is where I differ from the crowd and why it makes the list. For all its merits, it is not their best work. Let it Bleed, Beggars Banquet, Sticky Fingers and Aftermath are all superior – especially in terms of musical invention and writing. I’d even say Between the Buttons and Some Girls edge it. Let’s face it, sonically Exile is muddy and discombobulated – though the 2010 re-master did manage to crisp it up quite a bit and bring out the vocals in the mix. As far as the collection of songs are concerned, they are obviously terrific – hey they’re the Stones! – but they are not nearly as varied as let’s say Sticky Fingers, which I consider to be their best album. There are just far too many generic blues/boogie woogie potboilers to be lauded to the extent it is. So, ultimately – though a fine, cohesive effort — it is overrated in its position in music history.
The Beach Boys — Smile
Technically, Smile was never released, but it is still regarded as one of the greatest rock masterpieces ever created. Most musicians know the story behind it — Brian Wilson’s decline into paranoia and drug use, the piano in the sand box, the competition with the Beatles…etc… It’s one of the most compelling tales in rock and roll history. I, for one, was obsessed with the album. When I was a kid, I would scour the ends of the earth to find bootlegs, to try and compile what would have been Brian’s ultimate vision – which he always described as a “teenaged symphony to God.” I was all in. Then in 2004, Brian Wilson Presents…Smile was released, a re-recording of Smile with all new musicians. It wasn’t the original, but for the first time you could get a good idea of what the album was supposed to be – directly from the horse’s mouth. Aaaaand it was a pretty big anti-climax. A few great songs, with a lot aimless filler and variations on the “Bicycle Rider” theme. Then in 2011 the Smile Sessions was released on box set. Finally, here it was this mystical, legendary album, Brian’s teenaged symphony to god!! Well, it pretty much sounds like what it is, the ramblings of a musical genius who took way too much acid. To be honest, I much prefer Smiley Smile, the slapdash version they released after Brian melted down. I’m not going to say it’s bad…it’s far too interesting and there are some beauties on there, “Wonderful,” “Surf’s Up,” “Heroes and Villains” to name a few. But there is also a lot of crapola – I mean, “Vegetables”? Come on! So, for all the hoopla it is definitely overrated…and far too much “Bicycle Rider”!
The Beatles – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
Ok…so this one is controversial, but hear me out. Pepper is absolutely a genius record, but is it really the greatest album ever made? Because that’s what it’s considered. Let’s be honest, it’s not even the greatest record the Beatles ever made…so how could it be the best of all time? There is filler here, of course it’s Beatles-level filler, so it’s still damned good. But, seriously, does anyone ever get a bug up there ass to listen to “Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite”? And what about “Fixing a Hole”? Sure, its chordal structure is brilliant, but isn’t it a wee bit dull? Now, had they included “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “Penny Lane” as they originally intended – then it would be the greatest album of all time. Sure, it’s a milestone in pop culture, but it’s an album that has always subsisted to a great extent on its myth – and hype. So for that reason – and that reason alone – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is overrated.
If you enjoyed this list check out some of the other great stuff we have on The Z Review!