Axver (axver) wrote,

  • Music:

The hype machine doesn't always get it right.

Every so often, an album or band comes along that seems to grab prominence amongst your more elite, non-mainstream music fans. We're not talking about mainstream hype like U2 or Coldplay, but nor are we talking about some obscure band whose releases are in batches of 100 and are hyped up by a couple of people who saw them live. Now, I'm mainly going by the elitists and other associated people in U2 fan circles, and I must say, I am consistently let down by the artists that gain prominence with them. These albums are praised as being exceptional, the best of the year, classics, and what-have-you, but I don't see any of those qualities at all.

I brought this up on a community yesterday, and I'm bringing it here today. The album that particularly inspires this disappointment is Illinois by Sufjan Stevens. Talk about hyped! This album definitely received a bucketload of praise and appeared on a lot of "best of 2005" lists. I decided I would check this album out, and I expected that even if it didn't live up to the hype, it would at least be good enough to listen to. How wrong that impression was! I've never heard an album whose hype has been so unwarranted. It wasn't bad, it was simply bland and completely uninteresting. After eight (out of 21) tracks, I couldn't stand it any more. The music was doing nothing. It was as if the album was trying to present the musical equivalent of blandness; the perfect soundtrack to express a boring day. To assert that the album's good, let alone great, seems quite ludicrous to me. 2005 should have been the year of Porcupine Tree and I just cannot comprehend why incredible music such as that on the Deadwing album is overlooked.

I'm also kind of baffled by this current obsession with music coming out of Canada, which I understand is centred around Toronto/Montreal. I'm referring to bands like Broken Social Scene and The Arcade Fire. Now, while my impression of The Arcade Fire has improved somewhat since listening to the entire Funeral album rather than just a few songs in isolation, I still don't see what warrants the lavish praise heaped upon them. Besides the fact I think they destroyed a classic in Wake Up by dragging it out two minutes longer than necessary (it'd be perfect if it ended around the 3:30 mark), I just don't see what's so spectacular about the band's general sound. John Petrucci can play music ten times more intricate and interesting with his thumb in his sleep, and for goodness' sake, Arcade Fire, get rid of that female vocalist. Sure, Arcade Fire's listenable and enjoyable, and I find myself coming back to play some tracks again, but I do not feel they have any particularly classic quality. And let's not even touch Broken Social Scene. Wholly forgettable.

Now, the big one. Supposedly, all the kids "in the know" with good taste like Radiohead. Don't give me that bollocks. If Radiohead's vocalist didn't sound like a cat was gnawing on his balls, many of their songs would be significantly better. There should be a law that Thom Yorke is not allowed to sing any slow songs because he utterly massacres them. That said, The Bends isn't a bad album and they've some other great tracks (think Electioneering and Idioteque), but OK Computer is quite simply the most over-hyped album of the nineties. It even beats U2's Achtung Baby. Besides Electioneering and maybe Paranoid Android, the album has no remarkable, groundbreaking, classic qualities. There's a fine line between experimentation and sticking a fork up your arse, twisting ten times, and claiming it's experimental, and Radiohead are familiar with crossing that line.

I also must say, while I'm on the topic of disappointing albums, that I'm shocked how underwhelmed I am with albums made by individual members of Pink Floyd. I'm quite a fan of the Floyd, as many of you know, but it seems the lads are far stronger together than apart, despite their well-known differences. Roger Waters does himself no favours on Radio K.A.O.S. or Amused To Death by bringing in entirely unnecessary female backing vocalists who do nothing but degrade the quality of perfectly good songs. Perfect Sense, Part I is a great example - oh how much better it would have been had Roger sung all of it himself! And Syd Barrett's album entitled Barrett did utterly nothing for me on the whole, though for some reason, Effervescing Elephant seemed similar in my mind to Porcupine Tree's Nine Cats. I'm not sure if I'm just imagining it or if there really is something there. I suppose it's the lyrics.

Well, that's enough for me. I was planning on going to bed an hour ago and reading, but I guess that's not happening now! Anyway, share: what well-hyped but somewhat less-than-mainstream albums have disappointed you?
Tags: music, over-rated music, pink floyd, radiohead, roger waters, sufjan stevens, syd barrett, the arcade fire

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