Recent Disappointing Albums

  • Bright Eyes - I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning / Digital Ash in a Digital Urn (I thought I was alone until I read this terrific review...)
Author Comments: 

All great bands or artists with new releases that are huge drop-offs from the excellent (or even just good) albums (or EPs) that came immediately before...

I think you are being a little harsh on the new Costello. Certainly nowhere near his best album but I found it a very good listen. It did seem he tried a little too hard to recreate his early sound but I guess I am getting old enough to appreciate the effort and wallow a little in the nostalgia.

Well, the Costello *is* the best album up here, for what that's worth.

It was touted as a 'comeback', but frankly, wasn't as good as the previous Painted from Memory or Sweetest Punch. Costello can still write, but the production on all his 'return to rock' albums (Cruel, Brutal Youth, etc.) have been criminally toothless, and faint echoes of greatness are always so much more depressing to me than failed experiments or continued craftsmanship.

What exactly did he need to come back from? He was doing some great work.

Cruel ain't bad, but I did think it was quite a step down, and yet, it was his first album in ages to nail most critics' top ten lists for the year.

So I find it hard NOT to find it disappointing, but then, you know how cranky I can be... ;)

I really don't want this list to be simply 'crap albums by good artists', but albums that represent a step down from what come immediately before, and sadly, I think Cruel qualifies for that.

Feel free to hurl a pie, though.

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

Didn't care for the new Blur? I haven't heard it, but a fellow college DJ was quite impressed after a few thorough digestions. Not to imply that you haven't given it a fair chance; I'm just curious what about it was disappointing to you.

I am a huge Blur fan. They are (were?) one of the great groups in the tradition of the Smiths and the Rolling Stones, and like those bands, they worked because of the collisions of conflict and collaboration between two magnificent personalities, in this case Damon Albarn and Graham Coxon. Like Morrissey or Mick Jagger, Damon simply cannot cut it without his guitarist partner. This truth not only plays itself out by comparison to other groups, but by the reality of Think Tank. Sure, there are tons of noodlin', which will keep the college crowd happy for a bit, but none of the experimenting is really novel or interesting past a few listens (if that much), and unlike Blur-past (or Sonic Youth at their best, or any number of adventurous bands), few of these excursions are within the confines of a well-written song. As a result, Think Tank is a mess, and the worst Blur album ever. Easily.

Which is a shame, because they had one of the most admirable good streaks I've seen in recent history. Every album from Modern Life to 13 was well worth having, and several were classics, with Parklife being a top 100 album in my book. Too bad.

Your impressions, of course, may vary, but I wonder how many fans this disc will still have in six months.

Granted, six months may change *my* mind. But at this point, I wouldn't lay down any bets just now... :)

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

Interesting. The notoriously hard-to-please folks at pitchforkmedia actually thought this was a sort of reinvention for Blur. The comments about an album "with hips" and the Northern African influences piqued my interest (as did the references to the Stones, of whom you made mention). If you have the chance to comment, I'd be interested to hear.

Although All Music Guide didn't care for the album at all, saying that it was the sound of "Albarn gone amuck". So I dunno. Guess I need to give it a listen.

That pitchforkmedia review was interesting, especially since I was unaware anybody but me was seeing a strong Stones analogy here. Sadly, I think they just compared Graham to the wrong Stone. He's a Richards, not a Jones...

I suppose I side with Stephen Thomas Erlewine and, as I often, but certainly not always, do. I know for a fact that he, like I, was a major Blur fan, so that is pretty interesting. I also note that Rolling Stone loved the album, but then, that mag entirely missed out on Britpop the first time around any way (its original review slammed Suede's Dog Star Man and Blur's Parklife pretty hard!), so beware taking its word for it (or anything, really).

The proof is in the pudding, so I'll be very interested to see what your thoughts are if you hear the album!

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

Aw crap! I was planning on buying Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Blur! Well, I'm just gonna have to find some more interesting music. Do you have any recommendations from this year or last?

Oh, and When I Was Cruel is great, but I see what you're talking about.

Well, you may want to give them both a listen before you take my word for it. The Blur is VERY disappointing, though...

The Yeahs' EP from last year is great. Lucinda Williams' latest (World Without Tears), while hardly the same type of music, is also terrific. I also highly recommend Cat Power's You Are Free.

Off the beaten path, Low's Trust was pretty good, although if you are new to the band, I'd have to recommend giving Thing We Lost in the Fire a shot first.

I can't remember - have you heard Wilco's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot? If not, you should certainly try a listen.

I hope that helps!

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

Oh my gosh, Things We Lost in the Fire is fragile & beautiful. "Laser Beam," "In Metal," and my favorite, "Medicine Magazines". Such a good album; it's good to see someone speaking its praises. For such a dogmatic approach to slowcore, Low usually comes up with quite a few gems per album.

Glad to find another fan! Yes, Low stand quite tall in the often tired world of sadcore (or slowcore, or whatever the critics are calling the style today). Things We Lost in the Fire was easily one of the best albums of 2001. Terrific.

Have you heard the somewhat similar American Music Club? Everclear is one of the best albums nobody seems to have heard...

Medicine and Magazines is a great song. What a haunting band!

Fans of Cowboy Junkies' Trinity Sessions should certainly check that record out!

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

Well, I found my station's copy of Mercury and I enjoyed it much. Particularly "Dallas, Airports, Bodybags" and the poignant self-laceration of "Johnny Mathis' Feet".

Yes, Mercury is a good album. The good news is that Everclear is even better, so if you like what you heard, keep digging!

Johnny Mathis' Feet is one of Eitzel's best, though. Several of his solo, post-AMC albums are also well worth hearing. But few bands could touch the Club at their prime.

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

Well, I'm rethinking the Yeah Yeah Yeahs debut album a bit. I'm still a bit disappointed, but it ain't too shabby and really doesn't belong in the company of the above, so off it goes!

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

tell me your thoughts on "goldfrapp" will you? i just heard something recently and was very intrigued... sounded somewhere between portishead and garbage--what's your take?

Portishead is a very appropriate comparison for Goldfrapp - cinematic, sweeping, adult contemporary, electronica-drenched torch music. Well, that at least gives a touchstone for their first album, the terrific Felt Mountain.

If you are interested in the group, I highly recommend grabbing that debut, which is much better than the recent Black Cherry. The newer album has some admirable experimentation, but too many stabs in the dark miss any mark whatsoever, many of the experiments are really all that new or experimental, and besides, that first album is a sleeper that will grow on you!

I suspect the recent praise is a classic example of the critics belatedly catching up to a band they over-looked the first time around, but I certainly won't swear to that.

And the video for Felt Mountain's big single, Pilots, was pretty nifty too!

If you get the chance, check them out!

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

Oh, no! Is the new Liz Phair really that bad? I was looking forward to it, until I heard that she worked with the same people who manufactured Avril Lavigne... I've been listening to so much Exile in Guyville recently, too...

She worked with The Matrix, the production crew behind Avril. And, sadly, yes, the new album sounds quite a bit like Ms. Lavigne. It is a turkey.

I fear the Liz of Exile may be gone for good, and I hate that. Exile is one of the best debuts in rock history... :(

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

Oh, goodness, her new video is on MTV2 right now, and every time I hear it, it sounds more and more like Avril. When the creator of Exile in Guyville stoops to photocoping crap from last year's flash in the pan flavor of the month, the moon is dripping blood...

Stay away. It is crap.

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs still write reviews that good? I had no idea...

Too bad their site is such a pain to navigate (esp. on dialup), or I'd read more of their reviews.

Stephen Thomas Erlewine's reviews are still usually the best out there, well-written and refreshingly hard-nosed and hype-free. I love his work even when he and I do not agree. Heather Pharis (sic?) is rather good as well. Some of the other reviewers, however...

Yes, AMG is now designed for high-speed users, and that sadly leaves dial-up folks in the cyber dust. I like the design, but then, I have cable Internet. It is too bad there is not a streamlined option for other folks.

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

That stupid flash menu is a waste of space, bandwidth, and CPU cycles.

I've spent entirely too much time with Bright Eyes' I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning , and at the end of the day, it, to these ears, is just a bland, boring, disappointing album nowhere near the great work of genius it is being hailed as. Anybody agree, or does anybody care to educate this oldster as to what he is missing?

Near my apartment is a frisbee golf course. I think I may find a good use for this CD after all...

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

Just in case you might miss it, AAA's reply is here.