Bands That Need To Stop
There always have been, and always will be, shitty musicians.
Maybe they're shitty because their songs are so cliché. Maybe they're shitty because of musical ability. Maybe they're shitty because of their ridiculous rockstar antics or general douche-itude. However a shitty musician is defined, they exist, and there's no way to stop them (other than a collective uprising, but god knows THAT isn't going to happen anytime soon). And while one might despair at this never-ending barrage of crap, in a way, it's comforting.
While all the Nickelbacks and Simple Plans and Insane Clown Posses in the world will continue to make money, their awful, awful work can unite us in a common bond of furious disgust. We can put up with them, because as they get worse, other bands continue to get better.
But, there are some times when a band's shittiness can break your heart. There are times when no matter how hard you try, you cannot ignore the pain you feel when a certain group puts out a terrible new record or makes an idiotic video. And you'll try to put up a good front and forget, but it affects you, deep down in your soul, and nothing can fix it.
The only way for the pain to end is for the music to stop.
The following is a list of bands who may not have always been shitty. Some, quite the opposite. But, for whatever reason, they are or have become shitty in such a way that tortures the listener into a quivering mess. Often, critics don't acknowledge their shittiness until much later, when it's become clear that something has changed, when they look at their review of this awful piece of work and hold their hands over their eyes screaming "What have I done?!" over and over again.
Here they are:
No. The new U2 album is NOT a five-star release. Maybe it is the best album they've made since the '80s, but that says NOTHING! That's like saying "It's the best M. Night Shyamalan film since Signs!" Sure, The Joshua Tree had a few decent songs. But let's be honest; does anyone want U2 to make another album that sounds EXACTLY THE SAME as their last ten?! Another god-awful bore like How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb, which featured one of the most sickeningly ridiculous singles in decades ("Vertigo")? For all of the humanitarian aid that Bono and Co. champion, there are millions of people being tortured daily, beaten and hopeless, because U2 continues to make garbage, garbage that regularly gets hailed as masterpiece works by critics who still think that this is somehow the same band that they listened to during their first sexual experience in 1984.
As news of another reunion breaks, I'm forced to ask: Why? While the Pixies had an obvious influence on the alt-rock diversions of the early- to mid-90's, their influence on young musicians has waned over time. And if they are wont to keep themselves relevant to the American youth, a reunion tour is not the way to do it. Pixies, your time has passed as a band. There is no way, absolutely no way, that making new music will be anywhere near as satisfying or worthwhile as it was back in your heyday. So what will you be doing? Playing the same old songs to the same old crowds, bloated and wrinkled parodies of your former selves squeezing money from the pockets of your fans. You've reunited, and things were alright. Now stop. Don't be The Grateful Dead. Get out now, while you've still got solo projects to sell.
Sonic Youth's Rather Ripped was hailed as a return to form by many critics. But what form are we referring to? Are we referring to the screechy, repetitious, whine-rock that (let's face it) did less for indie rock than it did for the douchebag hipster movement that followed it? Are we referring to the unlistenable noise, the nonsense lyrics that mean nothing? Are we referring to the art-school bullshit? Even by those standards, Sonic Youth has grown stale and continues to get staler. Their act has been redone, and done better, by countless younger bands, and their groove is no longer innovative. If you quit creating or branching out, you quit being relevant, and, sadly, Sonic Youth's relevance is stuck decades ago, where it belongs.
Of all of these, this one makes me the most depressed. I can forgive bands that get older and fail to spark like they used to, and I can forgive bands that quit trying. But Weezer haven't just gotten shittier, they've gotten more egotistical. And the cockier the swagger, the cheesier the songs. It's a vicious cycle that has overtaken a band beloved by many and still influential today. Remember the Blue Album? Pinkerton? Hell, I've always had a soft spot in my heart for Maladroit, which, while formulaic, features probably the best guitar work of the band's career. But from the first moment I heard "Beverly Hills", I knew something was wrong. Before I knew it, I, like every other Weezer fan, was knee-deep in shit. Make Believe was supposed to be their finale, their goodbye record, and after listening to it, I was struck both by sorrow and by relief, because at least they could do no more harm to their discography than that dreck. But then they had to ruin it. The Red Album is one of the most vile, insidious, soul-crushing albums I have ever heard, a blight on the ear and the Weezer name. Each song more despicable than the last, and Rivers Cuomo called it their BEST RECORD.
Please, Weezer, for the love of all that is good, and for all of the fans that hate to see you bleed so virulently in the dirt, don't ever make another album. You've ruined yourselves. Rivers, your lyrics have become idiotic. How can an English major from Harvard write poetry so shitty a middle school student could do it better? The songs have become over-produced trash. Honestly, my friends and I thought you were joking when this last album came out. We thought, "There's no way they're serious. This is a prank. An Andy Kaufman-esque prank that went too far." But when we woke up, the nightmare was in our CD players, and we could not make the horrible memory go away.
This one is gonna hurt. Bob, you are, without question, the greatest songwriter in American history. Even if you have a reputation for being a bit of a dick, you've still managed to transform the musical landscape for all time. Highway 61 Revisited, Blonde on Blonde, Blood on the Tracks, all undisputed classics.
All that said, please stop making albums.
Sorry to say, but you've basically been making the same album for the last two decades, and the time has come to either try something brand new that no one expected, or to stop altogether. The formula you've followed is neither the folk of your early days nor the classic rock/blues of you best days. It's simply an old-time blues paint-by-numbers sound. Your lyrics have gotten bland and altogether unimaginative. While it's great that you're still a political lightning rod, your worldview gets lost in your songwriting. You are the voice of your generation, but unfortunately, your generation has more than passed its prime. I would love to hear you do something new, something left field. Make a drum and bass garage rock album. Make a techno album. Make an auto-tuned R&B album about heartbreak. Okay, maybe not that last one (or the second one). But you know as well as I do, Bob, that it's not going to happen. You'll just keep making the same thing again and again and critics will keep kissing your ass, but you will never make a truly classic album ever again.
Until these artists learn of their folly, the musical realm will always bear the painful weight of diminished returns. Maybe someday we can live in a world where the good remain good and the shitty remain shitty. But as long as good bands slip into melodrama or banality, or as shitty bands make an indelible mark on the landscape and then flog a dead horse until their whips hit the sand, there will never be peace.
We must try to overcome.
Christian Hagen is a music journalist from Minneapolis who is also in a band), who likes to waste his time writing about nothing, and who has yet to launch his own website (though one is on its way), so for now he can only link to his MySpace profile.