Monday, March 31, 2008

Stopgap Post-Convention Blogging

Not back from Philadelphia yet, but in the meantime a question:

Is Foreigner still, in Robert Christgau's immortal phrase, the most useless band ever? Or has someone surpassed them in the intervening years?



Discuss....

[h/t Sinfonian]

15 comments:

Dave said...

There is lots of competition of course, but also from my college days, I would rank Journey and REO Speedwagon ahead of them.

David said...

I'm right there with you on Foreigner sucking. I was never able to buy into the praise of Chuck Eddy, their most staunch defender among supposedly hip music critics. In his review of the self-titled 1982 debut, Eddy compared the songs of Lou Gramm & Co. to those of the Stones and the Who, and even went so far as to declare that on “'79's "Dirty White Boy," Foreigner one-upped punk rock with a concise fleet-footed nugget that merges the Standells' "Dirty Water" and "Sometimes Good Guys Don't Wear White" both texturally and textually." But Chuck, I fume, those records were precursors to punk because they were raw, raucous, and teenage cocky, and they weren’t slathered in corporate cheese. You can't say that about "Dirty White Boy." Then again, Christgau is inviting controversy too; with so many in contention for the crown of Most Useless Band, it's hard to argue that Foreigner is any more useless than, well, a slew of Foreigner wannabes. Each decade probably deserves its own Most Useless Band. If Foreigner wins for the '80s, I nominate Seven Mary Three for the '90s.

peter spencer said...

For a long time I thought of Foreigner as part of the Journey/REO Axis of Lame. Then my son, who has excellent taste in current hardcore and metal, discovered them. To him they are a solid, disciplined '80s pop band, slightly dated perhaps, but a good window into the time. His comments about Foreigner sound a lot like mine about, say, the Turtles. They may not satisfy every mood but they're good at what they do, it's not a shuck, and they can show surprising depth when they want. Considering the last time Caleb found something he really liked in the music of "my" era it was Robert Johnson, I think his opinion is worth repeating. Foreigner may not be the Who. They may not even be the Zombies (much of whose non-single opus before O&O could be pretty limp) but they're not the Speedwagon. This wouldn't be the first time Christgau said something mostly for effect.

steve simels said...

David said...
I'm right there with you on Foreigner sucking. I was never able to buy into the praise of Chuck Eddy, their most staunch defender among supposedly hip music critics. In his review of the self-titled 1982 debut, Eddy compared the songs of Lou Gramm & Co. to those of the Stones and the Who, and even went so far as to declare that on “'79's "Dirty White Boy," Foreigner one-upped punk rock with a concise fleet-footed nugget that merges the Standells' "Dirty Water" and "Sometimes Good Guys Don't Wear White" both texturally and textually."


Chuck Eddy was merely ripping off Metal Mike Saunders, the Richard Meltzer teen disciple (who I believe went on to be one of the Angry Samoans)who use to write pieces for Rolling Stone in the Seventies about how great Grand Funk Railroad really were (precisely because they sucked), and how come the Count Five were actually better than the Yardbirds because they were one generation more removed from actual blues sources.

It was a silly shtick back in the day and equally so when Eddy revived it.

As for Foreigner, one of their riffs showed up to good effect in Tone Loc's sublime "Funky Cold Medina" so obviously their not totally useless.

TMink said...

What Dave said. You go Dave!

But in the same vein, that Fleetwood Mac record without Lindsey Buckingham sucked. Not that I am a huge Mac fan, but that lineup makes me shudder.

Seems to me that Foreigner was too pat, too studio, too much polish, not enough soul. Most useless band ever though? Not by a long shot.

Trey

TMink said...

Journey's main problem was their singer, same thing with Guns N Roses, fine or great bands respectively (Journey was hot backing up Carlos Santana) but I cannot make it past the guy with the microphone.

I nominate Axl for most useless singer ever, with that Perry guy in the running.

Trey

TJWood said...

Foreigner were basically common-denominator, hackneyed, arena rock, but capable of coming up with a single or two on occasion that was a cut above said genre. Next to some of the bands that have already been name-checked in this blog, they come off as quite solid. I'll also take them in a minute over all these emo bands dominating the modern rock charts.

Anonymous said...

Any music of a quality below a level of a high B+ I just tune out. Steve did you play us any music, I just couldn't hear it. My mind was somewhere else. (Probably humming a Stones riff.)

ROTP(lumber)

geor3ge said...

Dude. Styx.

Anonymous said...

Styx sux dyx.

ROTP(lumber)

Mike said...

What'd Uriah Heep or Kansas ever do for humankind?

Noam Sane said...

Hello? Nickelback?

I find Foreigner less annoying than, say, Rick Springfield. But hey, that's me.

And Chuck Eddy - oy. He thought Kix were the second coming. Easily the most annoying critic ever.

Christgau has become much less self-indulgent in his Rolling Stone pieces, but even at his most oblique, he's always fun and usually spot-on.

David said...

I can dig that a young kid can look back and find something solid about Foreigner. But for me, my reaction to hearing songs like "Feels Like the First Time" and "Cold As Ice" remains the same as when I used to have to endure them on the radio constantly; they just don't give me any joy. And I like plenty of cheese, but it has to be the right kind of cheese. Like "Midwest Midnight" by the Michael Stanley Band, that I like.
Oh, and Steve, regarding Chuck Eddy's secondhand schtick, how far from that is Lester Bangs' effusive praise for the Troggs and the Guess Who?

steve simels said...

regarding Chuck Eddy's secondhand schtick, how far from that is Lester Bangs' effusive praise for the Troggs and the Guess Who?


Well, I for one absolutely adore the Guess Who, and I say that without any irony whatsoever. I actually think that "Rockin'" -- which is not, alas, on CD, is an overlooked masterpiece.

But I know what you mean. Brilliant as he was, Lester has a great deal to answer for.....

David said...

I also dig the Guess Who, just not quite as much you and Lester. I'll keep my eye out for "Rockin'" on vinyl.