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This Post Is SO Overrated

June 18th, 2007 · 9 Comments

In the comments to the post “Rock Heresy,” Andrew writes:

So, is there an album that is beyond reproach? It would have to be something that doesn’t aim too high, wouldn’t it?

I don’t know that I’ve got an answer to that one, but it did get me thinking about the category of the “overrated” album. Now, people almost always mean by this albums that they think are rated too highly by critics, rock snobs, and so on. (It’s trivial and not very interesting to rattle off a list of crap music that moves lots of units, after all.)

What occurs to me is that it’s always going to be relatively easy to make the case that a critically hailed “classic” album is overrated if you about it as the respondents in the Guardian piece I linked did. Albums that critics and rock snobs regard as great are usually going to fall into one of two categories. You’ve got the ones that fit to a a tee this definition from The Rock Snob’s Dictionary:

Seminal. Catchall adjective employed by rock writers to describe any group or artist in on a trend too early to sell any records. The Germs were a seminal L.A. punk band, but guitarist Pat Smear didn’t realize any riches until he joined Nirvana.

Because they’re significantly out in front of their audiences, they usually get truly universal acclaim and recognition years after the fact, when their innovations have been assimilated. But at that point, the very originality for which an album earned its renown won’t be nearly as striking when it’s considered ahistorically, as an isolated listening experience. It’s very rare cases where an artist manages to do something first and also do it better than most of those who followed after. Charlie Parker comes to mind, but he doesn’t have a lot of company.

The other sort of band that gets high critical laurels is less radically innovative, but (to borrow Malcolm Gladwell’s terminology) “tweaks” recent innovations, polishing them and making them palatable to a broader audience. But these are typically susceptible to the converse criticism that they’re getting the credit due their more obscure progenitors.

Wayne Coyne manages to skewer Nirvana’s Nevermind from both directions at once:

For me, Bleach and In Utero are superior. [....] If you think you’re going to hear an utterly original, powerful and freaky record when you put on Nevermind, as a young kid might, Christ you’re going to be disappointed. You’re going to think, “Who is this band that sounds just like Nickelback? What are these drug addicts going on about?”

It’s not that Coyne is entirely wrong here, but that the use of these varying standards is unfair. In one sense or another, everything is overrated.

Update: Oh man, I had so wanted to link Chuck Klosterman’s “Ten Most Accurately Rated Bands” in this post, but didn’t think it was online. Thanks to joeo in the comments.

Tags: Art & Culture


       

 

9 responses so far ↓

  • 1 joeo // Jun 18, 2007 at 7:03 pm

    In a world where music is either overrated or underrated, these ten artists got exactly what they deserved. By Chuck Klosterman

  • 2 dan // Jun 19, 2007 at 12:02 pm

    “Charlie Parker comes to mind”

    Hendrix, perhaps? Maybe VU? Depends how far ahead of the curve they have to be, and more importantly how narrowly we can define what they were doing. If “psychedelic blues-rock electric guitar god” is a suitable genre, I think Hendix fits. But I only say that because I hate Stevie Ray Vaughn.

    I also hate the Beatles, but maybe they have to be considered too.

  • 3 D.A. Ridgely // Jun 19, 2007 at 7:03 pm

    Because they’re significantly out in front of their audiences, they usually get truly universal acclaim and recognition years after the fact, when their innovations have been assimilated. But at that point, the very originality for which an album earned its renown won’t be nearly as striking when it’s considered ahistorically, as an isolated listening experience. It’s very rare cases where an artist manages to do something first and also do it better than most of those who followed after. Charlie Parker comes to mind, but he doesn’t have a lot of company.

    Great point. Even with Bird, most of us today never heard him in his time when his sound was new, so his impact on us is diminished by having already attuned ourselves by listening to later musicians who took from him what they could. The same could be said perhaps even more so about Armstrong. You would have to listen to a lot of what people were listening to before Armstrong and pretend you’d never heard anything afterward to get a sense of the revolution in that trumpet. Of course, the latter is impossible.

    BTW, it’s one more sure sign of codgerdom that I’ve never heard more than half of that Top 10 list. [sigh]

  • 4 Dave W. // Jun 20, 2007 at 7:01 am

    Here is a record that is far ahead of its time and may or may not ever get the recognition it deserves:

    ftp://www.farceswannamo.com/CBO_ZIP/

    IIRC, Wriggley’s found at least one track a bit “out there” for his personal tastes. It is good because it sounds unlike any record you have ever heard. One reviewer called in “genreless.”

    Do people even listen to “out there” records any more like they did when VU and Bird were around?

  • 5 mccleary // Jun 23, 2007 at 6:58 am

    It’s very rare cases where an artist manages to do something first and also do it better than most of those who followed after.

    Much less true for anyone who rightly considers the single (as opposed to the album) to be the true unit of rock and roll.

    Tomorrow Never Knows — Beatles
    Pay To Cum — Bad Brains
    Israelites — Desmond Dekker
    Oh Happy Day — Edwin Hawkins Singers
    Bela Lugosi’s Dead — Bauhaus
    Smells Like Teen Spirit — Nirvana
    etc.

  • 6 James Barker // Aug 12, 2007 at 4:25 pm

    Hi there,my name is James,i’m 16,i’m a huge fan of rock music,and i also like Nirvana,but can you please tell me what is so fucking great about Nirvana’s Nevermind,i think it’s ok,but you
    have to admit it is extremly overrated,it’s way too commercial,punky,over-produced,and there isn’t enough songs on the album,there needs to be at least 18 songs on it.It needs to be far more raw,dirty,hardcore and heavy to satisfy my needs.If you have the answer pleas write back to me at my E-Mail Address,Thank you!!Bye!!!

  • 7 Anonymous // Nov 13, 2007 at 8:07 am

    Nice

  • 8 Anonymous // Feb 9, 2008 at 12:51 am

    Nice…

  • 9 xuxppxxuxyyy // Dec 26, 2008 at 12:43 am

    hello it is test. WinRAR provides the full RAR and ZIP file support, can decompress CAB, GZIP, ACE and other archive formats.

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