[I am in a bit of a rush right now, but I will come back around and comment more fully on this tomorrow. -- Geoff]
If you have a favorite artist (whether it be in music, film, comics, etc.), chances are you have been let down by them at one point or another. No matter how great the artist, they always have their moments (or periods) of mediocre or, at times, just flat out terrible work. Even the Beatles are not immune to this fact, Jason and Neil have discussed the quality of “All You Need Is Love” at great length on this very blog [Ed. note: it was Jason and Neil right; Scott and I cannot remember and I cannot figure out how to search comments for key words]. Many Beatles fans (and the Beatles themselves) see ‘Magical Mystery Tour’ as the band’s greatest failure and I myself have always hated the song “Hello, Goodbye” (granted, the album did give us “I am The Walrus” but, even that, was intended as a bit of Louis Carollinian absurdity). So, when have your favorite artist broken your hearts?
Here are some of my top offenders:
The Who- ‘Face Dances’
When people ask me if the Who’s recent ‘Endless Wire’ album is any good, my response is usually, “It could have been worse. It could have been ‘Face Dances.’ While the album does have the band’s last great single, “You Better You Bet”, and the worthy “Another Tricky Day”, the rest of the album is embarrassingly bad. Songs like “Did You Steal My Money” and “Cache Cache” are almost laughable in their awfulness. It’s no small wonder that Rolling Stone would give the much better but hardly note worthy follow up, ‘It’s Hard’, a 5 star review a couple of years later. In comparison to this, it was a masterpiece of a comeback album.
“Imitation of Life” is one of the band’s best singles but the rest of the album just really left me flat. Unlike ‘Face Dances’, this album isn’t TERRIBLE it is just so incredibly bland; plastic is a word that comes to mind. Their previous album, ‘Up’, had used ‘Pet Sounds’ as a sort of template upon which to play to the bands own strengths, this was an attempt to continue that idea but it sounds quite often like they tried too much to sound like the Beach Boys (see “Summer Turns To High”) rather than sounding like REM. Many consider the follow up, ‘Around the Sun’, to be the band’s artistic low point but, for me, ‘Reveal’ was so bad that I actually considered ‘Around the Sun’ an improvement (this is also the first time I can remember the band, typically critical darlings, getting, not necessarily bad, but mediocre reviews).
Bruce Springsteen- ‘Human Touch’/’Luck Town’
Why would Bruce Springsteen ever endeavor to make a rock album WITHOUT the E Street band? It just doesn’t sound… right… again, like ‘Reveal’, these albums aren’t terrible just terribly mediocre. This also might be a case of a double album (or, in this case, two separate albums released simultaneously) that might have worked better as a single album.
U2- “Instant Karma”
About a year ago, U2 covered this John Lennon classic for a tribute/benefit album. This is one of those covers that looks great on paper but ends up poor in execution.
Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (George Lucas)
I don’t have to explain why this is bad to anyone but, at least I got something out of this: as a result of this movie my expectations were so lowered that I was pleasantly surprised by the other two prequels (especially Episode III).
Zac and Miri Make a Porno (Kevin Smith)-
Ok, ok… I know what you’re thinking… How could I be expecting anything after Jersey Girl? But, for the record, I happen to like Jersey girl. I also liked Clerks II (c’mon, you have to at least admit it was funny… my sides hurt from laughing after the ‘Donkey Show’ scene). Hell, as stupid as Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back is… I have no problem because that’s EXACTLY what that movie was supposed to be. My problem with Zac and Miri (as mentioned in last weeks Free Form Comments) is that it is a romantic comedy where I have absolutely no emotional investment in whether or not the two leads end up together. Overall, this was just sloppy.
Chuck Palahniuk- ‘Snuff’
The transgressive fiction genre does rely heavily on shock value and its ability to offend but, ideally, the purpose is to make you think. Here Palahniuk forgets that latter part and pretty much spends 200 pages trying to gross us out and not much else. I’d figured out the twist within the first 20 pages and then the twist on the twist about halfway through. To date, his weakest work (granted, maybe I’m being more harsh to this book than I normally would be as it is the follow up to ‘Rant’ which I consider Palahniuk’s masterpiece).
Gabriel Garcia Marquez- ‘Love in the Time of Cholera’
I consider ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’ to, quite possibly, be the greatest novel of the twentieth century so I was sorely disappointed with how boring I found this novel to be. I guess it isn’t all that bad but, I imagine, it would be like having your first exposure to Star Wars be The Empire Strikes Back and, then, you immediately follow it up with, not Episode I, but Episode II.
F. Scott Fitzgerald- ‘This Side of Paradise’
Many times, we can go back and appreciate the earlier work of an artist as much or even more so than their most well known work; ‘This Side of Paradise’ is not one of those times. Its Fitzgerald’s first novel and he has yet to develop into his ‘mature’ style yet. It also follows that ‘child-to-young-adult’ model that I find so annoying (the ‘David Copperfield kind of crap’ so to speak). I gave this to a friend and said “Hey, you like Fitzgerald, right? If you ever feel like not liking Fitzgerald, read this!”