Bands We Should Like But Don’t

Iggy Pop: Sorry. I guess I just don't consider him a very serious musician. The Godfather of Punk like James Brown is the Godfather of the flute concerto. It's hard to see how this slob could have inspired the virtuosic songwriting and musicianship of the Minutemen or the Soft Boys. Iggy Pop's music makes the Ramones sound like King Crimson. Ditto MC5. - W

Flaming Lips: Everybody who has ever preached the Lips to me has done so by describing how many drugs they took at the concert. Zig said he did so many mushrooms and beer he felt like styrofoam. Keith said that the Lips cranked up the smoke machine so high they filled Tritos with fog, creating such impaired visibility that they could suck down a bunch of whippets in privacy. How did he even know what band was there if he couldn't see them and didn't listen to the music? I'm not a prude. If I were catching Jimi at Monterrey I'd feel left out if I didn't take the Owsley. But it sounds like the Lips concerts are best if you are in a state that renders you oblivious to the music. - W

Bob Dylan: His arrogant, self-righteous, acoustic, conscious-raising drivel means nothing to me. The stir he caused when he “went electric” (oooohhh) means nothing to me. In fact, to this child of the nuclear Reagan years and subsequent decades of greedy consumerism, Dylan is just that old lecherous wanker who did a Victoria’s Secret commercial. - C

I suppose the biggest problem with overrated rock stars is their fans. Bob Dylan could hardly be more overrated, though he had a good run. Through 1965. But he kept on running. And I’m not talking about how he sold out by using an electric guitar, I’m just talking about the music. As a devotee of Bob Dylan’s late ex-friend Phil Ochs, what annoys me the most about Bob Dylan is when people talk about him as if he were a political songwriter. His songs, with almost no exceptions, manage to avoid making any kind of political assertion. “Masters of War” is perhaps the most explicit, though being opposed to war in the late 1960s was a pretty safe stand to take for three minutes. “Blowing in the Wind” is facile, vague, and meaningless. “The Times They Are a Changing” could be a song for the 1960s counterculture or the Nazi Youth. A savvy self-promoter, Bob Dylan would appear folk or rock, electric or acoustic, personal or political when it best served his career, and anybody who cares about the world ought to be able to see through his thin efforts to sell records to those who were desperate to be inspired to make things better. Phil Ochs named named and dates, read the newspaper, knew history, and wrote songs that were explicit, educational, and, most important, inconvenient—for him, his listeners, his record company, and even for Bob Dylan. - W

Bright Eyes: Conor Oberst is hot. (But not nearly as hot as you, William.) But he’s like that boyfriend who seems mysterious and brooding at first, then you find out he cries all the time. He’s moody, he doesn’t want you hanging out with your friends, and his eyes are constantly brimming with tears that threaten to spill over and embarrass you. - C

The Pixies: Everything about the Pixies is cool. The name. Kim Deal. Short blasts of sonic assault. The video from the early 1990s where they look like dwarves. I just can’t get into the songs. - C

The Raspberries: Mention “power pop,” and every rock scholar will name the godfathers of the genre: The ill-fated Badfinger. Cult favorites Big Star. And the schlocky-ass Raspberries. I don’t care how many fans tell me how the Raspberries are bastions of pop sensibility—frontman Eric Carmen has lounge-singer aspirations and evil in his soul. He wrote “All By Myself,” covered bombastically by Satan himself (Celine Dion), and adult-contemporary “Hungry Eyes,” featured in every sorority girl’s favorite deplorable crapfest, Dirty Dancing.  - C

Grateful Dead: - C & W

Elvis Costello: Maybe if he got a singer. - W

The Clash: Everybody assures me that this noise is political, but the politics of “every song should sound the same” seems fascist on the surface. Ditto Rage Against the Machine. - W

The Ramones: We rented a documentary on these overrated, underequipped pop stars who were among the first New York entrepreneurs to fake “punk rock,” but the box said the DVD was two-and-a-half hours long! I can see that kind of running time for a film about Gandhi, but Joey Ramone? Come on! In that time, we could have listened to 20 Ramones albums. Annoyed, I returned it unwatched. A documentary on the Ramones should be two minutes long, in keeping with the spirit of their songs. - W

Beastie Boys: Licensed To Ill was a special album, one of those unforgettable musical moments (as with the album They Might Be Giants, or anything by the Butthole Surfers) when you listen to something carefully, over and over, wondering “Is this a joke?” and can never answer that question. As They Might Be Giants sounded like toy music, or as XTC’s debut White Music sounded like (as my friend Joe put it) jazz musicians pretending to be mice on cocaine, Licensed to Ill was like plastic rap—teenagers with a new Casio SK1 pretending to be hip-hop, and, as such, it had a playful exuberance that could only be undermined by commercial success and rendered into pretentious, awful sludge in every subsequent release I’ve ever listened to. - W

Beach Boys: I saw Naked City play in Chicago and the estimable (I got an estimate right here) John Zorn told the audience with a straight face that Brian Wilson was one of the greatest composers of the twentieth century. Elsewhere in this website Cristy will investiate the sleight of hand with which Rolling Stone repositioned Pet Sounds from schlock to the second greatest album of all time between 1977 and 2007. Our dear friend and rock geek mentor Rick has framed copies of original Beach Boys singles in his rock rec room. Did you ever see Invasion of the Body Snatchers? Brian Wilson’s credibility seems to rest on the fact that he took too much and many drugs, had a nervous breakdown, stopped touring, had a falling out with his band, and failed to finish his masterpiece. So he’s obviously a genius. - W

Radiohead: A lot of grammar school English teachers are so mean that people go through their life suffering from a shame of their writing. Sometimes these victims of education will assuage their insecurities by becoming completely famous rock stars, but mumbling and whining all their lyrics unintelligibly, afraid, at some deep and perhaps inaccessible level, that that teacher will hear their song and mock them. Ditto REM.

Big Star: I have tried and tried, bought and sold this record. But the rift between the relentless, credible endorsements this band has received and my experience of grating tedium while trying to appreciate their songwriting is big enough to hide away every copy of Kilroy Was Here that was ever printed. - W

Television: Marquee Moon stands as the most half-good album I have ever heard. I have bought it, sold it, and bought it again, just because the first three songs are completely acceptable. But the tortuous, torturous title track is the sound of a band running out of ideas halfway through their first record deal. When they all play a rousing major scale in unison like eight minutes into this interminable number, I pass out from sheer ambivalence. Like everything on this list, it is a subject I will try to avoid whenever it comes up among people I don’t know that well. They’re called “Television,” doesn’t that tell you something? - W

I am compelled to email largely because you list Bob Dylan first in your "Bands We Should Like But Don't" list.


Oh, Sweet, Sweet Jesus, thank you for saying so. I couldn't agree more.

On a totally different front:

I'm the 98-pound weakling currently responsible for selecting/purchasing the pop and rock (i.e. rock, rap, R&B, whathaveyou) at The Urbana Free Library. I just wondered if you folks would be interested in providing recommendations for music purchases...—John Gehner

Music we dislike.

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