Friday, January 21, 2011

Weekend Listomania (Special Tom Waits For No One Edition)

Well, it's Friday and you know what that means. Yes, my Oriental trampoline tart Fah Lo Suee and I are off to lovely Wasilla, Alaska to join former Governor Sarah Palin [R-Blood Libeled] in a crash course in the Kabbalah. We've been assured that when the weekend is over the ex-Gov will be able to breathe life into a clay golem, thus enabling her to smite her liberal Nazi detractors.

That being the case, and given that things will doubtless be a little subdued around here till our return, here's a fun little project to help us all wile away the intervening hours:

Group, Song or Album You Used to Like But Which, Given the Passage of Time, You Now Consider Unlistenably Dated!!!

No arbitrary rules, you're welcome very much, and it occurs to me I may have flogged something like this one in the past, Without looking it up, however, I suspect at least some of my nominees must have changed since, so what the hell.

And my totally top of my head Top Five is:

5. Paul Simon -- Graceland

Maybe it's simple over-exposure or maybe it's that damned gated drum sound. In any case, an admittedly great album that seemed like it would be timeless when it emerged in 1986 now comes off as...a really annoying artifact of the 80s, kinda like the Thompson Twins except with (much) better songs.

4. Hüsker Dü -- Zen Arcade

There's a couple of great tracks on this -- the above being one of them -- and as a result I overlooked the album's appalling low-fi punk-rock production for far too long. Sorry guys, it was an annoying affectation then, and it was even more annoying on your subsequent major label albums, which also sounded like muddy amateurish crap.

3. Poco

I loved Richie Furay in Buffalo Springfield, and "You Better Think Twice" remains a pretty cool song. But in retrospect the doofus "Isn't everything great?" optimism of most of Poco's output strikes me as beyond irksome.

2. Pearl Jam -- Jeremy

I have no problem with these guys in general, although what could be said of Michael McDonald -- that you can hear the beard when he sings -- could also be said of Eddy Vedder, and he usually doesn't even have one. In any case, at this point you would need a heart of stone to sit through the 90s grunge angst of "Jeremy" without laughing.

And the Numero Uno time wounds all heels act or artifact simply has to be...

1. The Mamas and the Papas

Okay, "Safe in My Garden" is a great song and production, but most of the rest of their hits just sound insufferably smug to me now. And frankly, if I ever hear "Creque Alley" again I swear to god I'm gonna take a hostage.

Alrighty then -- what would your choices be?


Sal Nunziato said...

Anything by The Replacements. I spent the most of the late 80s and early 90s listening to nothing but and now, it all sounds so lightweight. I'm not sure if it's the music itself, or if Paul Westerberg's pathetic solo output of late has poisoned the well.

Today's coffee-spewer:

..although what could be said of Michael McDonald -- that you can hear the beard when he sings -- could also be said of Eddy Vedder, and he usually doesn't even have one.

Michael said...

Three letters:

Gummo said...

I'm gonna get pilloried for this, but I find most of Hendrix's work utterly dated. A great, even revolutionary, guitarist, of course, but he died too young and most of his work is that of a very young man very much of his time.

I've been rediscovering one of my first musical loves, Donovan, lately and a lot of his work was dated even BEFORE it came out. But one of the worst was an album that was barely noticed even at the time, Open Road, which came out in 1970. In theory, it should have been a keeper -- Donovan, with a small, simple band, no silly flower power flourishes, but the lyrics are so awful and hippyp-dippy, they just kill the whole project.

Another album I thought would be timeless but sounds utterly dated now is Achtung Baby by U2.

steve simels said...

Note to self: Stop blogwhoring this stuff over at Facebook. It's killing your hits here.

Shriner said...

I think a lot of it depends on the producer. Some really old stuff (Beach Boys, Beatles, Zeppelin, etc.) still sound fresh to my ears almost 50 years later. Stuff produced in the 70's by Bob Ezrin or Chris Thomas still sounds great as well.

I had written a longish post about bands that I just don't like any more (Elvis Costello, Barenaked Ladies, The Byrds, etc), but then I realized I got away from the question about what seems "unlistenably dated". With that:

1) Early Mothers of Invention. I still play my mid-70s-and-on Zappa albums. But the MOI stuff from the 60s? Pass.

2) Genesis/Yes/ELP/King Crimson (70's version)/Jethro Tull. Apart from specific timeless songs, I find myself never going back to the "prog-rock" stuff any more because of the production. And, yet, I've never tired of Jefferson Airplane/Jefferson Starship. Go figure.

3) Hendrix. Yes, I should probably turn in my Strat because of this, but what can I say. It sounds dated and I don't like most of it (even though I own it…)

4) Utopia/Todd Rundgren. Some albums have really bad production and the songs don't make up for it.

5) The Ventures. I have a lot of Ventures albums. A *lot*. But the dated sound just has me skip right over.

I *almost* put ELO on this list because Jeff Lynne's production sound is definitely *dated*. But the songs are so damn catchy. Same with most of John Lennon's solo output.

Sadly, I would agree with the comments on REM and Paul Westerberg (I might throw in U2 as well).

But I will defend the Mama's & Papa's songs. Yes, "Creeque Alley" is a really, really dated song and should be banned from oldies radio. But "Go Where You Wanna Go", "Words Of Love", "Twelve Thirty", "I Saw Her Again" and the heart-renderingly-beautiful version of "Dedicated To The One I Love"? Sacrilege!

But "All Right Now" by Free? Hand me an icepick so I can gouge out my eardrums

brian morris said...

truly epic tracks

Gummo said...

I agree with Shriner about the Mamas and the Papas.

And Shriner, I agree with you about early-to-mid-70s prog -- and it's not just the production, the music itself is dated and hasn't aged at all well.

Hey steve, is there going to be a corollary list -- Pop/Rock Music That Has Aged Well?

Karin said...

Corsby Still & Nash. It's painful to listen to them in the Woodstock movie now.

Gummo said...

But Karin, is that because the music itself hasn't aged well or because that's an awful awful performance?

Personally, I blame that particular performance; I still find CSNY's music very enjoyable and the acoustic stuff especially for me has not dated at all.

jeff said...

Agree, mostly, about Hendrix. Still like the first LP, but some badly dated material on Axis and (especially) Electric Ladyland. But I've always preferred concise Hendrix (Voodoo Child [slight return]) to the expansive (Voodoo Chile).

Per above comments about Westerberg, I was briefly concerned my dislike for Keith Richards book, much of which (the latter two-thirds) I found smug, hypocritical and over-explicit, might affect my love of the Stones. A viewing of "Ladies & Gentlemen..." proved that groundless. Still love 'em; and him, even off his pedestal.

Brooklyn Girl said...

Cream. All of it.

However, I have to disagree with Gummo about "Achtung Baby" ...

jeff said...

Might mention I would agree with the Simel's Top Five, except I never did like Eddy Vedder's habit of making every syllable a three-act tradedy (what a Brit critic once said of Elizabeth Schwarzkopf), and the rest I have not heard for ages and have no desire to go back to-- proving Simel's verdict, I suppose.

jeff said...

"tradedy"? tragedy.

Anonymous said...

McGuinn and McGuire are still getting higher (on the Lord, that is) and can be heard together at:

Totally agree on Cream, but I didn't like them to begin with.


steves said...

Never thought they were that great to start with, but Blondie's entire catalog sounds hilariously stuck in the 80s to me now.

And I have to take issue with those who put Hendrix on this list. The stereo mixes may be a bit hokey with the constant l-r panning, but after listening to some recently obtained mono mixes of Smash Hits and AYE, I was amazed by how that well stuff holds up. It's still better than 95% of what passes for new music.

pete said...

I hate to day this becuse I loved them in high school but... Traffic. The groove tunes are still fun but the sloppiness rankles and it's all terribly twee.

You'd like I'd dislike the Incredible String Band for the same reason but they're still delightfully weird.

pete said...

Typo city! And I like the Mama's and Papa's better now than I did before. Monday, Monday!

Faze said...

Hendrix lives. He was just damned original, a total individual, and one of nature's great one offs. Like early Cream, he didn't just play endless solos, but dreamed up unexpected songs. The oozey darkness of his vision doesn't appeal to me much now. And I'm kind of glad he's dead because he pretty much sucked the air out of the rock music room when he was alive. Hendrix isn't something you grow out of, like Hermann Hesse. He's something that's permanently great, but too volitile to carry into adulthood, like Keroauc or Wallace.

Anonymous said...

This is sounding a little bit like the Academy of the Overrated. Rock/pop is supposed to be disposable eventually, especially the hitmakers, while obscure but well-meaning flops live in our hearts forever.


Shriner said...

"steves" brought up the "stuck in the 80s" stuff.

I would tend to agree with that. There's a lot of stuff I just don't like about the 80s-top-40 radio-friendly dated *sound* (cheesy synths, electronic drums) -- so much so that it's just completely off my radar as something to suggest here. I'm sure if I thought about it, I could dig something up.

But I never listened to it in the first place, so I don't skip it on the shuffle now.

I think an off-shoot topic might be "albums you really liked, but you played so often that you got sick of it". I'm sure we'd all have a lot of suggestions for that!

big bad wolf said...

i don't really understand what "dated" means. bing crosby sounds dated. hank williams sounds dated. the crystals sound dated. "born to run" sounds dated. hell, public enemy sounds dated. but to my ears, they all still sound amzing and vital, despite bearing the marks, musical and electronic, of their eras.

if dated means bands that don't stand up over the ears because they were overvalued at the time and now sound worse because they bear too many of the electronic and musical signs of their eras without transcending their eras, then i wholeheartedly agree that traffic and cream belong on the list. i think hendrix sounds as vital, and difficult, now as he did then. he ain't coltrane, but few others from that era sound so persistently modern. i think creque alley sounds fine because it was and is an artifact, not art. i think graceland is near brilliant, but hurt by its era-related drum sound, as are many of the 80s albums of otherwise enduring value---80s drum sounds by and large sucked. i think the replacements were overrated until they were underrated (tim, pleased to meet me) and then given better grades than deserved for their exceedingly mediocre last two albums, but that doesn't make them dated, just correctly placed now. i think the byrds are one of the most overrated bands in history, but i am grateful for their influence and i don't think they sound dated, just overpraised. i wish that people not cognizant in 77 could hear what the sex pistols sounded like to those of us who were; production has come so far that what sound world-shaking and offensive then sounds unrearkable now. that brings me full circle, for though the sound is dated the pistols album is great, as bing crosby is great, now matter the sound. or so i think.

cthulhu said...

Lou Reed's New York seemed visionary in 1989, but I listened to it again recently and couldn't stand it. But The Blue Mask, Legendary Hearts, and New Sensations still do it for me, as do most of the Velvets stuff.

Hate to say it, as big a Who fan as I am, but side 2 of Quadrophenia (except for the sublime "I'm One") is nearly unlistenable to me now. But that still leaves lots of grand teenage angst. (I leave it to others to figure out which songs comprise "side 2"; some albums are indelibly in my memory on vinyl.)

Traffic still speaks to me, but maybe because I never liked all of their stuff from the beginning - e.g., "Berkshire Poppies" sounded like indulgent crap first time out to me. But I've grown to appreciate other of their songs even more; for example, the B-3 solo on "Every Mother's Son" is more staggeringly good each time I hear it anew.

I listened to Richard and Linda Thompson's "I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight" (the song, not the album) a few months ago and was struck by how dated it sounded and how much I preferred the muscular live versions I've heard from him over the last few years.

And Talking Heads' soundtrack to Stop Making Sense now causes me to hit the skip button on my iPod...

Hadrian VII said...

The Strokes' first album is hideously overrated and unlistenable in my view despite being still the darlings of the critics.

steves said...

Had this experience first-hand last night with John Fogerty's Centerfield, an album I remember liking a lot at the time.

Now, not so much.

dave™© said...

"side 2 of Quadrophenia (except for the sublime "I'm One") is nearly unlistenable to me now." Hey, I NEVER liked side 2!

Libby Spencer said...

Chiming in very late but totally disagree about Hendrix. Still love to listen to his stuff, especially the earlier albums.

Agree with Shriner about the prog rock stuff at #2 on his list.

Also loved Cream in the day, but only can listen to a couple of songs they did now. Oddly, Politician is still one of all time favs. "Hey now baby... step into my big black car..."

I'd also add CreedenceCR.