‘Machina/The Machines of God’
The biggest artistic selling point of Smashing Pumpkins was that the group knew how to play it fast and play it slow. It’s a skill few alternative acts master. Yet despite their ability to change tempo and tone, not every Smashing Pumpkins album prior (or
after) this was an outright success. Their most famous album ‘Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness’ is as bloated and self indulgent as anything ever released in the ‘90s. Yet it works because the songs are good. Machina on the other hand is not very good; mostly because the songs aren’t. The album also suffers from the fact that its hard rock isn’t quite as cocksure and anthemic as it ought to be while the slower moments drag on and on. This was supposed to be the group’s sign off and thankfully it wasn’t because if it had been it would have been an inglorious end to an at times excellent run.
‘Their Satanic Majesties Request’
Like a better Blur and Oasis, The Beatles and Rolling Stones fought it out over the decades in an endless (yet friendly) battle for musical supremacy. Whatever the Beatles did, the Stones thought they could do better and vice versa. This relatively
relaxed Cold War situation came to a head when the Stones decided to offer up a reply to the Beatles’ ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’. The similarly ludicrously titled ‘Their Satanic Majesties Request’ was a complete disaster. Coming at the height of the Stones dalliance with drugs it was unsurprisingly ‘out there’. Badly (self) produced, messily psychedelic and gratuitously self indulgent the seldom self-deprecating Mick Jagger even admitted much of it was ‘rubbish’.
‘Around the Sun’
Indie rock princes of modern America they might have been, but that didn’t stop them from signing off some absolute shite in their time. Post ‘Automatic for the People’ REM struggled to cope with the demands of their extremely large, increasingly mainstream fanbase. First they punted us the ramped up ‘Monster’ and then inflicted several other inconsistent though not incorrigible efforts on the public. By 2004 though they’d seemingly run out of creativity; choosing to thrust ‘Around the Sun’ onto the market. Predictably strong sales couldn’t hide the fact that Stipe and the lads had run out of ideas and still missed influential drummer Bill Berry. Timid and turgid in equal measures REM never sounded so boring, banal and broken.
Any artist with a discography stretching to over 20 studio albums will have had a few stinkers in their time. And Bowie, bless him, has had more than his fair share. Many critics point to the bombastic but artistically dead ‘Never Let Me Down’ as being
Bowie’s worst work. Glitzy and excessively ‘80s though it might be, there was something commercially acceptable about that particular release. It was, a product of its time, as they say. What wasn’t a product of its time, or indeed any other, was ‘Outside’. Artistically Bowie has (with one or two exceptions) always dabbled and crafted his music to suit his own personal direction. Concepts and creativity were always bywords for Bowie. And ‘Outside’ is no less creative or conceptual than even
Bowie’s best work. It’s just that the hazy, garbled, electro-rock dross of the instrumentals coupled with a whiffy mini rap from pre Play-Doh faced Mickey Rourke didn’t work. On any level.
Released shortly after ‘Nevermind’ this collection of rarities, B-sides and covers was hardly required. But with Nirvana worship at its peak, the band and the execs decided to take a gamble on throwing something together in what always looked like a half-arsed cash in. While the release made plenty of bucks, it didn’t give us anything musically. Age has also been particularly cruel to the title with both the quality and the direction of the included tracks seeming slapdash and unintended. Hardcore fans might argue otherwise, but we feel the world would have been a better place without us having to hear ‘Incesticide’.
Guns n’ Roses
Seldom have groups teased their fanbase with as much regularity as rock gods Guns n’ Roses. Famed for their sterling debut and a string of mediocre follow ups, their supporters had been awaiting the semi-legendary ‘Chinese Democracy’ release for over a decade. After years of petty infighting and break-ups the most protracted album in rock history hit the shelves of the world’s music stores on November 2008. Had it been released a couple of months after 1993’s ‘The Spagetti Incident?’ it might have been hailed as a return to form for the group. However with so much time spent in anticipation of its release, it’s difficult to listen to it and think it was even worth a quarter of the wait or the exorbitant cost. Clumsy lyrics and Lady Gaga-esque production levels combined with flaccid overbearingly aggressive guitar work do not help to make this an original or enticing album.