Considering the lengths at which we discuss music, we at The Fix decided it was high time to put together a list, not of the greatest albums of all time, but of the most overrated albums of all time. Yes, it’s sacrilegious, yes it will gain us many enemies, but no we are not afraid!
In no particular order, here are 6 of your favourite albums, trashed by us.
The Beatles, ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ (1967)
Why it is overrated: Like the smallest sibling in a family of bruisers, it is overrated by virtue of being surrounded by tougher, more refined brethren (‘Revolver’, ‘Rubber Soul’, ‘Abbey Road’). It still has a knockout punch that would topple most rivals but is just not deserving of the extravagant praise it receives. Often topping polls as the best album ever made, it’s not even close to being the best album The Beatles ever made let alone the greatest moment of recorded sound.
A better album from the same year: Love, ‘Forever Changes’.
Why the album is actually pretty decent: Few can argue the hallucinogen-inspired genius of “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds”.
Nirvana, ‘Nevermind’ (1991)
Why it is overrated: Perhaps the most controversial of our choices on this list, Nevermind is a real Marmite record. Frankly, if you were not a self-absorbed, grungy teenager in the early 1990s this record held little for you. When you look back on post-war youth trends – Mods, Punks, Hippies, New Romantics – grunge has to be the least attractive and most insular. Nevermind also benefited from being one of the few memorable albums released in 1991. And we won’t mention the clichéd album cover.
A better album from the same year: Primal Scream, ‘Screamadelica’, because come on, it’s ‘Screamadelica’.
Why the album is actually pretty decent: It’s a real rock-out game-changer, and it inspired a string of t-shirt designs.
Wilco, ‘Yankee Hotel Foxtrot’ (2002)
Why it is overrated: Ranked by Rolling Stone as the 3rd best album of the 2000s, the intrigue surrounding this record seems as much to do with the collateral effects of its creation as its sonic merits. A bitter wrangle stemming from Reprise Records’ refusal to release the album led to its eventual release on Nonesuch Records and tensions between Jeff Tweedy and Jay Bennett resulted in the latter’s departure from the band immediately after recording. Lacking the multi-layered, coruscating pop of ‘Summerteeth’ and the trenchant melancholia of the best moments of ‘Sky Blue Sky,’ some would argue that ‘Yankee Hotel Foxtrot’ is surpassed by other Wilco albums.
A better album from the same year: Featuring thrilling melodies and literate lyricism, The Libertines’ ‘Up The Bracket’ promised so much before it all ended in heroin and acrimony.
Why the album is actually pretty decent: ‘Jesus Etc.’ could well be the highlight of Tweedy’s formidable song-writing canon.
Bob Dylan, ‘Time Out of Mind’ (1997)
Why it is overrated: Having grown up with a Dylan sycophant I am acutely aware of the indoctrinated devotion which Mr Zimmerman inspires. It is also true that people always try desperately to find flickers of creativity in cherished heroes long after their fires have been extinguished. Time out of Mind is a case in point. Considered a return to form, its only redeeming quality appears to be that it’s not awful. Winning multiple Grammys, it was hailed as the best thing since sliced bread when in fact it more accurately resembled bread that had been left out in the rain and had become a doughy mash – with its fuzzy poor production and bland content. Had it not been a Dylan album it would have more than likely passed by without notice.
A better album from the same year: Beastie Boys, ‘Hello Nasty’ (a true return to form).
Why the album is actually pretty decent: “Not Dark Yet” has a poignant quality to it given that shortly after recording it Dylan suffered a near fatal infection.
John Lennon, ‘Plastic Ono Band’ (1970)
Why it is overrated: A dreary set of downers, ‘Plastic Ono Band’ features the same simple chord structures The Beatles utilised, without any of the George Martin production to beef it up and make it interesting. Several of the tracks are full of lyrics a stoned Sixth-Former would be ashamed of, and must rank highly among the most depressing ever committed to vinyl. And don’t mention the grating, constant declarations of love to Yoko.
A better album from the same year: When it comes to singer-songwriters, Neil Young‘s ‘After the Goldrush’ absolutely blows ‘Plastic Ono Band’ out of the water. And The Velvet Underground‘s ‘Loaded’ isn’t half bad either.
Why the album is actually pretty decent: “I Found Out” is a proper toe-tapper.
Radiohead, ‘OK Computer’ (1997)
Why it is overrated: Released at the tail end of the Brit Pop era and as the self-aggrandising embers of ‘Cool Britannia’ began to fade, Radiohead’s despondently bleak ode to desolation was sure sign that the party was about to end. Though featuring less introspective and more abstract lyricism, the weighty moods of ‘OK Computer’ were more successfully captured in the superior melodies of ‘The Bends.’ A perennial top 10 fixture in numerous best album countdowns (often as number 1), ‘OK Computer’ is perhaps as overrated as its 1995 predecessor is underrated.
A better album from the same year: Their albums consistently praised by critics, Yo La Tengo’s “I Can Hear The Heart Beating As One” is arguably their best.
Why the album is actually pretty decent: Released just a month after Tony Blair’s arrival in Downing Street, the “They don’t speak for us” sentiments of ‘No Surprises’ were a poignant antidote to the ‘Things Can Only Get Better’ optimism of New Labour. There is prescience in the album’s despondent dystopia as the fiercely hopeful wave of 1997 soon broke and rolled back amidst economic turmoil and the debacle of the Iraq War.