Thursday, January 07, 2010

WORST of 2009

If last week’s “Best Of” list was hard to compile, then this week’s “Worst Of” was a walk in the park. There weren’t many truly bad albums in 2009, but there were enough for me to highlight what I saw as the 10 worst. At least, those that I listened to and decided were the worst.

As usual my criteria were simple: any review where the album in question (1) received a failing grade of 5/10 or less, and (2) albums that struck me viscerally, raising my ire and contempt for their content, or at the very least, disappointing me beyond belief.

So without further ado, now’s the only time of year I get to play music snob, so let’s go!

10-Collective Soul: “Rabbit” Album 5/10

These Georgia Rockers have always sounded more like New Jersey wannabes to my ears. Yes, back in 1993 they had that one good song, “Shine”, their one and only gold-certified single, off ‘Hints, Allegations, and Things Left Unsaid’, but really, the rest of their music has been so mediocre and middle of the road they paved the way for Bland Bands like Nickleback.

Surprisingly, Collective Soul’s first four albums went multi-platinum, and their fifth album went gold before people started to wake up to just how much these guys stink. Yet astoundingly they’ve finished up most of their second decade of persistently churning out underwhelmingly bland music. The ‘Rabbit Album’ is more of the exact same tripe they’ve been churning out since 1993.

Collective Soul: “Rabbit” Album


Steve’s Rating 5/10

09-Morrissey: Years of Refusal 5/10

There was a time when Morrissey could do no wrong, in my books. His work with the Smiths, and even his early solo stuff was among some of the best music of the 1980s and early 1990s. Then, well, frankly he started to suck.

‘Years of Refusal’ is his ninth studio album, and probably his most disappointing. Where once Morrissey’s clever turns of phrase and lyrical twists used to be original and thought-provoking, this disc is rife with some of the most awful Morrissey lyrics I’ve heard. Likewise, in trying to update his sound on this disc to capture a younger market of morose, Emo kids, Morrissey has given away too much of the sound that made him so renown to begin with. Refuse ‘Years of Refusal’ is my advice.

Morrissey: Years of Refusal

Lost Highway

Steve’s Rating: 5/10

08-Prototype A: The Evolving Paradigm5/10

I gotta warn you, folks: the farther we get into this list, the worse the music is going to be. Prototype A tried to do something with ‘The Evolving Paradigm’, as they fused 80s Power Rock and Electronica together into a new kind of musical sound.

Unfortunately, what they tried to do failed. Because the band chose to emphasis things like power chords and overblown balladeering, the result is a one-trick album that chooses to play that trick out, over and over again.

It’s a shame, because the musicians behind this glammed-up band are actually quite good. Unfortunately the focus on style over substance kills the effort.

Prototype A: The Evolving Paradigm


Steve’s Rating: 5/10

07-Classified: Self Explanatory 5/10

The Toronto Rap scene tends to take itself, like so many things from the Tee-Dot, entirely too seriously. I’ve always suspected that the reason so many Canuck rappers end up on so many lists, such as the Canadian Hot 100, is due in part to Canadian Content laws that see the promotion of Canadian “talent” for the sake of it being Canadian and not for the sake of its talent.

Classified, AKA Luke Boyd, is an accomplished veteran performer, and this disc is capably produced and performed. However, the constant extolling of the virtues and glamour of smoking weed make this album an irresponsible and stupid entrant on the rolls of 2009 music.

Stupid because all Classified does is rap about how wonderful weed is, without talking about the dangers of abuse, the threat of addiction and the consequences of abuse. In fact, with so many constant drug references on this album I daresay that ‘Self Explanatory’ is one of the most irresponsible albums I’ve ever had the displeasure of hearing.

Classified: Self Explanatory


Steve’s Rating: 5/10

06-All Time Low: Nothing Personal 4/10

All Time Low is billed as Pop Punk. Somehow I missed the memo that redefined Pop Punk as the domain of Jonas Brothers look-and-sound-alikes who give their music an edge by saying “fuck” a lot. This album – in fact All Time Low as a group – besmirches the name of “Punk” music, banalizing it and giving us all yet another reason to hate marketed-to-tween-and-young-teen Pop music.

All Time Low are to punk music as Hannah Montana is to Heavy Metal. Besides making Avril Lavigne look like Courtney Love, All Time Low succeed in making the aforementioned Jonas Brothers seem hard-core in comparison.

When not swearing like a tween who just discovered that they can get away with dirty words when mom and dad aren’t around to hear, or hiding behind random bursts of guitar feedback, lead singer Alex Gaskarth likes to imagine that ‘Nothing Personal’ is somehow a deep album. I’ve seen deeper puddles on the sidewalk than this musical refuse.

All Time Low: Nothing Personal

Hopeless Records

Steve’s Rating: 4/10

05-Ben Lee: Rebirth of Venus 4/10

Ben Lee managed to release one of the most pointlessly self-important and smugly self-righteous albums of the year, when he unleashed the sanctimony of ‘Rebirth of Venus’ on the world, back in February.

Demonstrating himself to be a completely pompous ass, Lee proselytized to the masses with such haughty judgements as the condescending attack on legitimate Pop, “I love Pop Music”, and he makes similar pronouncements across numerous other tracks, from “Wake Up America” to “I’m A Woman, Too”.

Honestly, the arrogance, the self-righteousness on this disc reaches unbearably toxic levels.

Ben Lee: The Rebirth of Venus

New West Records

Steve’s Rating: 4/10

04-Chris Cornell: Scream 3/10

Does anyone remember how awesome Chris Cornell sounded on “You Know My Name”, the theme to Daniel Craig’s triumphant and role-defining debut as James Bond, in ‘Casino Royale’? Yeah, you won’t find any of that kind of awesomeness on ‘Scream’.

Cornell’s major mistake was in deciding to collaborate on ‘Scream’ with mega-homogenizing producer Timbaland. The result is, typically, an album that sounds exactly like every other album that Timbaland has ever laid his hands on.

Cornell is the voice behind Soundgarden and Audioslave; bands that, with Cornell’s work both as their front man and as a soloist, helped to define the Seattle Sound at the dawn of the Grunge Rock era. Here he plays second fiddle to Timbaland, despite this album allegedly being Cornell’s headliner. This one really is less for Grunge Rock metalheads than it is for fans of the generic, tired repetition of Timbaland.

Chris Cornell: Scream


Steve’s Rating: 3/10

03-Tantric: Mind Control 2/10

Truly dreadful is the best way to sum up ‘Mind Control’, by post-Grunge rockers, Tantric. Instead of expanding upon a classic sound with an innovative, fresh perspective, Tantric seems satisfied to just give us more of the same old, same old.

To say that ‘Mind Control’ is unoriginal would be entirely too flattering. They riff on Smashing Pumpkins-style guitar work, rip off Alice in Chains two-part harmonies, and just spend most of this album vomiting up stuff done by other, greater musicians of the Grunge Era and calling it their own.

Likewise, lead singer Hugo Ferreira just doesn’t have what it takes to sing this style of music. His voice is anything but raw, pained or emotionally vulnerable; more suited to Pop and Lite Rock, Ferreira’s just not up to the material. But then, neither is the rest of Tantric.

Tantric: Mind Control

Silent Majority

Steve’s Rating: 2/10

02-Set Your Goals: This Will Be the Death Of Us 2/10

This is another one of those supposedly Pop-Punk albums that fails to deliver anything other than a little guitar feedback and raking licks. Dual lead vocals Matt Wilson and Jordan Brown deliver about as much edge as a Goo Goo Dolls ballad on this, Set Your Goals’ sophomore release.

Inspired by the kind of paranoid mind-fuck of movies like ‘They Live’ and ‘The Matrix’, this album is supposed to be about shaking people awake from their Western complacency. Instead, we get drowned in sugary pop music and worn-out, unoriginal musical cliché.

It would be nice if ‘This Will Be the Death of Us’ actually did sound the death knell for Set Your Goals. Unfortunately there’s just enough rubes out there to buy this crap and guarantee them a third album.

Set Your Goals: This Will Be the Death of Us


Steve’s Rating: 2/10

01-U2: No Line on the Horizon 2/10

What can I say about ‘No Line on the Horizon’? It’s unquestionably the worst album that U2 has ever put out, making efforts like ‘Pop’ and ‘Achtung Baby’ seem positively brilliant by comparison. And please note, this isn’t bad in the sense that bad-sex-is-still-pretty-good. This is bad in the sense that it’s utter shit.

It would appear that ‘All That You Can’t Leave Behind’ was the high point of U2’s third decade of making music, because everything since has been downhill, just as everything after ‘Joshua Tree’ and on down to ‘All That You Can’t Leave Behind’ were equally mediocre, though far more forgivable.

‘No Line on the Horizon’ is proof that it’s time to put Bono, The Edge, et al out to pasture. Other than their grandiose, self-righteous, Middle-Aged Liberal, We’re-Awesomely-Saving-The-World-One-Song-At-A-Time antics, U2 really haven’t made any worthwhile contributions to Pop/Rock, in a very long time. Go out and get their old music; their new music’s just plain shit.

U2: No Line on the Horizon


Steve’s Rating: 2/10

That’s it for our look back! Next week I’ll be starting with a fresh batch of music reviews, for 2010. Place your bets as to what’ll be on NEXT year’s Best and Worst lists; next year, I won’t be quite as nice!