There’s nothing more frustrating than when your working your way through a brilliant album and then, from out of the abyss, a dud of epic proportions emerges, that may not necessarily sour the entire LP but certainly leaves you lunging for the skip button.
So this week our writers share the five tracks that have have them pulling their hair out with some regularity, as we walk through our Top 5 Bad Songs On Good Albums.
5. “Come Around” – M.I.A (from Kala)
In my eyes Kala was the greatest album of the last eleven years, a multicultural, technological statement that perfectly captured a world that was simultaneously becoming smaller and more integrated while remaining slave to savage disparities in wealth and lifestyle.
“Come Around” starts off promisingly enough, at first the blend of the Diplo/M.I.A. sound and the Timbaland production juggernaut sounds sexy as hell. M.I.A. delivers a typically slinky stream of consciousness verse, so far, so good, then Timbaland arrives and kills the track dead.
He can’t rap, and the track drifts disappointingly into generic club-a-dub-dub territory. For most M.I.A. fans Kala ends at the 1:40 mark of “Come Around” just before Timbaland makes his presence known. Ugh from babies born in bomb shelters to Timbland trying to “hit that”.
Now I should preface this by saying that “I Never Learnt To Share” is actually a pretty decent effort, and if it catches you in the right mood, Blakes desolate sonics can prove devastatingly solemn.
Unfortunately, this is also the track that best showcases Blake’s biggest weakness: songwriting. To call him a hideously undeveloped singer-songwriter is quite frankly an understatement. While I appreciate his attempts to take one painful sentiment, and let the words crack, falter, repeat and fade despairingly, it’s a trick he relies on too often, and “I Never Learnt To Share” proves frankly overbearing.
No. Bad Bono. No poetry Bono, no. The Unforgettable Fire is U2 best, most exciting, and most fully realized album, but unfortunately it has an albatross wrapped around it’s neck by the name of “Promenade”.
You get the feeling Bono was trying to blow up a sleepy wisp-ish Velvet Undergound style experiment into to a poignant stadium sized anthem. Unfortunately the lyricism is so inept and comical that “Promenade” falls flat on it’s face.
“Mr. Moonlight is the classic momentum killer. It’s far from an awful record, but it’s not good, and it represents one of the rare occasions where John and Paul radically misjudge their choice of melody, offering a grating sneer that’s destined to have listeners desperately smashing the skip button.
To make matters worse, until “Mr. Moonlight”, The Beatles were busy crafting the best album of their career to that point. The gorgeous catharsis and bitterness of “No Reply”, “I’m A Loser”, and “Baby’s In Black” were stunning and ground breakingly thoughtful for a boy band, while “I’ll Follow The Sun” clearly showcased a band expanding their horizons. Then “Mr. Moonlight” arrives and sucks the life out of the record.
There’s been a creeping backlash to both Dark Side Of The Moon and especially “Money” in the music press in recent years, and while I don’t for one second question the brilliance of Dark Side Of The Moon, I’ve got to throw my hat in with the anti-“Money” camp.
Chris Martin often gets blasted for his vague generalities, but Roger Waters practically mastered the art of one dimensional, one topic songwriting on Dark Side Of The Moon. Normally Floyd’s arrangements add all the complexity and depth needed to make Waters simplicity seem both cutting and endearing, not so on “Money”. A six and a half minute dirge, that opens with a series of forced rhymes and mundane sentiments. Money’s bad, people are obsessed with it, deep man.
Gilmour does his best to save the track, and while his guitar work is certainly meaty, it’s not enough to salvage a woefully corny endeavor. Give me “Speak To Me/Breathe” any day.
5. Send Her Back – Mike Ness (from the album Cheating at Solitaire)
Social Distortion frontman Mike Ness’s debut solo album was a rich mix of country, rock n’ roll, blues and folk music, all with a punk tinge, but jaunty closer ‘Send Her Back’ just doesn’t seem to fit and if I’m in charge of the CD player the album usually gets stopped after the penultimate track, a brilliant version of traditional folk song ‘Long Black Veil’.
Splinter is by no means a great album, for many it’s average at best but the gulf between the overall quality of the album and the album’s closer ‘When You’re in Prison’ is sufficiently vast to make this list. How a band I thought as credible as The Offspring could green light a song this turgid to one of their studio albums is beyond me. The ukulele instrumental version of ‘The Kids Aren’t Alright’ found as a hidden mp3 on the enhanced CD would’ve been a much better choice to make the final LP.
Bill Shatner’s musical return in 2004 was something of a triumph for him. The cover of ‘Common People’ is brilliant while new tracks ‘Real’ and ‘Has Been’ speak directly from Shatner’s experience and place in the world today. But three tracks into the record is the slow, organ led, gospel style ‘You’ll Have Time’ which will have you looking at your watch until the five minutes and eighteen seconds is up.
Free All Angels was the album that brought Ash back to the public’s consciousness after Nu-Clear Sounds flopped some. It was a major hit for them but ‘Candy’ is a whiny, snooze-fest in comparison to the rest of the album and its other singles ‘Burn Baby Burn’, ‘Shining Light’ & ‘There’s a Star’.
Warning showed the further evolution of Green Day’s sound away from the straight up pop punk of earlier records like Dookie to a more “grown up” acoustic and folky sound and for the record, it’s my favourite album by the East Bay outfit. One song I just can’t get my head around is ‘Misery’ which seems to stick out like a sore thumb in the middle of the album. Its accordions are just a step too far in a wrong direction so much so you’d never thought this was the band that had once uttered “do you have the time…?”
5. “Now I’m Everyone” – Biffy Clyro (from Puzzle)
Puzzle may not be considered the best Biffy Album by a good number of their fans but personally I consider it their best. The quality of tracks is very consistent but this track has just too much blandness about it, failing to live up to the quality of the others.
Antics is an incredible album with a lot of addictive and beautifully written songs on it, so I can allow them one poor track, and it’s the only one that I consider to be poor. It’s not like it strays off course from the general formula of the album but I just find myself skipping this track as it doesn’t pull me in like the others.
Feeder will always be one of my favourite bands but the truth is I could easily have done this list comprised entirely of Feeder songs. They’ve written some excellent songs and whether it be a quick and catchy upbeat Pop/Rock number or a slower paced acoustic tune they’ve done heaps of both. ‘Tinsel Town’ however falls into the poor category and just fails to get going, slower paced songs really have to hold your attention but ‘Tinsel Town’ will put anyone to sleep.
The album is definitely one of my favourite and includes tracks I’m really fond of such as ‘Shining Light’, ‘Burn Baby Burn’ and ‘Sometimes’ but ‘Candy’ has to be one of the worst songs ever written. The band are more than capable of doing the slushy love songs if need be, but this just fails in every way, and I think even the band would acknowledge that it’s poor.
I think this album, in general, is deserving of being included amongst the Indie classics of the last 10 years or so, and I’ll probably get slaughtered by Maximo Park fanatics for including this tune as most of them love it. However it just doesn’t work for me, it’s not one of the catchy addictive tunes that the band can be so good at, and it’s just too slow paced for me.
5. “Riot Van” – Arctic Monkeys (from Whatever People Say I Am That’s What I Am Not)
Yes, even quadruple platinum selling albums can make you reach for the skip button. Six stomping tracks of insightful and colourful first person narratives depicting Sheffield’s club scene and then bang- a yawn inducing 2 minute nursery rhyme about rozzers picking up drunken louts. It goes nowhere and does nothing. No thanks lads.
Serj’s maniacal howls and the frenzied guitars are the epitome of System’s infectious sound. But whilst tracks like “Bounce” and “Shimmy” make you want to do just that, this is more filler than killer.
Axl screeching “Well, well, well, you just can’t tell/ Well, well, well, my Micheeelle!” on the chorus kinda makes me want to tear my hair out. The riffs and skins rock on this track. Unquestionably. The cheese permeating from this lyrical horror does not.
No matter what you thought of him personally, MJ was (and still is) one of the greatest artists of all time. This album has everything a music fan could want and more. I could listen to “Billie Jean” or “Wanna Be Startin’ Something” until my ears bled – they still sound exciting and fresh to this day. So it’s a true shame that this festering turd of a song was picked to be part of the mix. Dull, saccharine sweet and uninspiring. Stick to your own bloody band(s) McCartney.
I almost feel sacrilegious for including what I, and probably countless others, regard as a masterpiece in this countdown. But the sad fact is that when you reach for mainstream acceptance, the sound that originally lit that fire under your arse sometimes gets lost along the way. Looking for a culprit? This one has Bob Rock’s mucky fingerprints all over it.
5. “Pace Is The Trick” – Interpol (from Our Love To Admire)
I was reminded of this song by fellow Strictly writer Joe Hill; a wonderful album, but it seemed as though Interpol forgot to double check for any mistakes when they made Our Love To Admire. See, “Pace Is The Trick“ would be a great song if we hadn’t already heard it when they opened the album on “Pioneer To The Falls”. A fantastic album let down by the inclusion of an incredibly unnecessary song.
Maximo Park are the band that first really got me into indie music, so I owe a lot to them. They’re third and most recent album Quicken The Heart may not show them at their peak, but is a great album nonetheless. Until “Tanned”. Whenever I’ve seen Maximo Park perform live this is the only song I haven’t known all the words to. It’s dull and completely unlike them. The only upside is that if you ever need a break during one of their sets, this is the perfect three and a half minutes.
Only Revolutions is the album that made Biffy Clyro, getting them all sorts of radio play, an X Factor single, and a Mercury Nomination, but also produced what is probably their worst song to date after five studio albums.
Yes, I went there. A song so overplayed, you’d be mistaken for forgetting that the same band made songs like ‘Rock And Roll’, ‘Black Dog’, ‘The Battle Of Evermore’, and ‘Four Sticks’. All of which also happened to be on the same album, Led Zeppelin IV, which is only let down by the one song that everyone remembers from it.
The Strokes are the epitome of indie rock and First Impressions Of Earth is just one of the many reasons for this, but “On The Other Side” is a song that bugs me every time I hear it. It opens brilliantly, with a great bassline; in fact it goes really well until the chorus comes in and all I hear is a slowed down version Camptown Races. Yes, I listen to a song by The Strokes and can only hear a song written in 1849 by Stephen Foster. I defy you to listen to it now and not sing ‘Doo-dah, doo-dah’ along in your head.
5. “Pagan Poetry” – Bjork (from Vespertine)
Love her or hate her, it’s hard to ignore that Bjork is a real innovator. She’s chased every musical whim she’s had to the very end and makes it work. ‘Vespertine’ is her quietest album; most drums are replaced by the sound of cards being shuffled or feet walking on snow (that’s not a joke, it’s true) and her voice is often reduced to a private whisper rather than a holler. The album’s only let-down comes on ‘Pagan Poetry’, which would be excellent if it didn’t descend into self parody with her (over-) childish chorus of “I love him I love him” and the just-plain laughable reply of “She loves him she loves him” from the choir. Normally Bjork demands your attention, but here she tries too hard and loses her way.
If I was asked to list my heroes, John Grant would be high up the list. He has overcome nightmarish depression, cocaine and alcohol addiction, homophobic abuse and – despite making three of the most remarkable and unique albums of the decade with The Czars – complete lack of success. His first solo album ‘Queen of Denmark’ is the opening of the gate; the loves and losses of his years without direction all come bursting out… sometimes a little clumsily. Bad lyrics can so easily ruin a song, no matter how perfect their sentiment might be. ‘Caramel’ was written about his former lover (the never named “Charlie” who is apparently a recurrent subject), and portrays an achingly honest love, but he could have said it differently, surely. “His heart is a shield that protects me from the vilest foe”… My Chemical Romance settled out of court.
Once again, it’s one element that pisses all over the rest of the record and this time it’s the voice. Probably one of the best, most influential songwriters alive, Stephin Merritt’s greatest achievement is this triple-disc CV that celebrates and ridicules the concept of the love song. Amazingly, it’s nearly all magnificent, but he had to put a foot wrong somewhere. ‘Promises of Eternity’ would fit right in if it wasn’t for Merritt’s overdone vocals that sound far too laboured to be either sincere, insincere or even listenable.
In a way, you can understand the fact that Morrissey’s such an unlikeable, arrogant, pretentious smart-arse (understand, not forgive). He made some of the best albums of the 80’s with The Smiths and then made three more great ones after that on his own (with lots of help) and I can’t think of another living musical figure that commands such adoration from his fans. Even so, a person born on the day that his last good album was released can now legally drink and have sex – just saying… The last Smiths album ‘Strangeways Here We Come’ was excellent apart from this disastrous gay-disco blip. If you listen closely you can hear Johnny Marr praying for a nuclear holocaust.
My Chemical Romance’s ‘The Black Parade’, sincere Lord-of-the-Rings informed fantasy prog concept albums, everything Dragonforce have ever done ever: all of them are because of this. It was the most requested song on 1970’s American radio (even though it wasn’t even released as a single there), Rolling Stone ranked it as the 31st greatest song of all time, Tenacious D jokingly ripped it off in a “tribute to the greatest song in the world” and yet it’s so hard to stifle a groan whenever someone plays it. A pair of medieval recorders, Robert Plant fully embracing his Jesus complex and guitar solos that go to 11; ‘Stairway To Heaven’ is the absolute final word in pretentious rock music.