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Musical heresies

Inspired by yesterday's fightstarter about cuisine, hipsterdetritus started a thread on a music forum where we hang out dedicated to musical heresies. Here's some of mine.

1. The Ramones are nothing close to a great band. They're fun as hell, and they came around at the right time, but they basically recorded the same exact song a hundred times and never got any better. Good? No doubt. Great? No way.

2. The band who commands the most vastly overinflated reputation I can think of? The Kinks. Bloated, samey, self-satisfied, and often annoyingly theatrical. They did some great stuff, but they also really, really wore out their welcome fast.

3. Henry Rollins is a egomaniacal bore, and every singer Black Flag had before him is better than he was.

4. Elvis Costello hasn't made a record worth listening to in 20 years. What's more, some of his latter-day efforts have been on a Rod Stewart/Billy Joel level of embarrassing, and the only reason people don't say so is out of respect for his great early stuff.

5. There's an awful lot to dislike on Television and Richard Hell's early stuff.

6. With very few exceptions, the two genres of music I would least like to ever listen to again are doo-wop and jazz vocals. I can't stand people who say 'I like every kind of music but _____', but man, do I hate doo-wop and jazz vocals.

7. For the most part, I would rather listen to the JBs' instrumental versions of songs than the ones with vocals by James Brown.

8. I'd rather listen to almost anything by anyone than listen to Van Morrison.

9. With the exception of Brian Wilson. The Smilemania that swept the nation three years ago remains one of the most inexplicable things I've ever seen; when I finally got around to listening to the thing, I couldn't figure out for the life of me what the big deal was, and I still can't.

10. Assorted rap heresies: the Fat Boys were a good band. Rakim was a great MC, but calling him the greatest is way off base; he was just the greatest at that moment, insofar as he pioneered techniques that have since been done better by a bunch of people. Run-D.M.C. were better longer than anyone gives them credit for, and evidence of how great they were can be found in the fact that almost no one copies their steez even in the biter-heavy MC arena of today.

11. Related to #2 (as well as the great Ys rift): everybody talks about what a towering genius Van Dyke Parks is, but everything I've heard that he's a part of makes me want to take a nap.

12. Bob Marley is about the least interesting reggae performer I can think of.

Now you! This is so much fun, I might make it a theme week...


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Sep. 19th, 2007 03:52 pm (UTC)
my biggest musical heresy
music writing is lame

(not yours of course but in general it's just not my bag. It's so subjective and at the same time filled with self-appointed authoritarians. My life has gotten much more pleasant once i've given up the ghost of trying to be on the scene, musically).
Sep. 19th, 2007 03:57 pm (UTC)
Re: my biggest musical heresy
Re: my biggest musical heresy - hipsterdetritus - Sep. 19th, 2007 03:59 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: my biggest musical heresy - janehex - Sep. 19th, 2007 04:44 pm (UTC) - Expand
Sep. 19th, 2007 03:53 pm (UTC)
On the other hand though I like Sound Opinions because it's more of an open forum and there is always someone around to say "Shut up! You're so wrong" as opposed to being one voice saying "I am right!"
Sep. 19th, 2007 03:54 pm (UTC)
I despise Rent to the point where, if I ever became dictator, I'd do everything possible to erase that...abomination from historical record.

And if someone dares tell me that "Rent" was a "positive success" for the gay community again I'm going to perform a real-life Fatality right then and there. How the hell does a crappy rip-off of a nineteenth-century opera where all the gay people are pretentious faux-Bohemians and have AIDS do the gay community any good?

Sep. 19th, 2007 03:59 pm (UTC)
Man, you're off by at least four years on Elvis, there's something broken in you if you can't hear what's great and underrated about "Mighty Like A Rose."

So, before you said anything, I wouldn't have disagreed with you about the Ramones, but as I think about it - what does it take for you to label someone a great band, versus a good one? I mean, the Ramones came along at exactly the right time to play exactly the right music for exactly the right musical and cultural movement, laid a foundation on which others built upwards and outwards, and retained their cred through the whole mess (Assuming that you believe doing the theme for a worse-than-usual Stephen King scholck fest is cred, and I do ...)

Also, ooooh, what a rebel, he thinks the Fat Boys were good. Dopey, everyone who's really listened to 'em knows the Fat Boys were good. Now argue either side of the "Ill Communication is a shittily produced album" argument and see where that gets you ...
Sep. 19th, 2007 04:07 pm (UTC)
There's a lot broken in me, man.

what does it take for you to label someone a great band, versus a good one?

I feel like, for one thing, they have to progress musically, or at least stretch -- they have to at least try to go somewhere different from where they started. The Ramones never did that; they ended up in the exact same place they started. They have one song, basically. It's a great song, and I rarely get tired of listening to it, but it's just one song. I can't really call that great, not in the way the Minutemen were great or Tom Waits is great or KRS-One is great.

ooooh, what a rebel, he thinks the Fat Boys were good. Dopey, everyone who's really listened to 'em knows the Fat Boys were good

Man, are you kidding? Maybe it's just because no one really listens to them, but among the hip-hop critical community, nothing gets you laughed off the block quicker than suggesting that guys like the Fat Boys or Biz Markie were really talented.
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Sep. 19th, 2007 04:09 pm (UTC)
the worst part is I get paid for saying shit like this
From the original thread:

1) Sleater-Kinney are too shrill to be especially enjoyable, and what they're good at was done better and with more fun by X-Ray Spex.
2) The Strokes' Is This It is, song-for-song, every bit the equal of the Buzzcocks' Singles Going Steady. (NOTE: this was my single least popular assertion.)
3) The two records Eric B. & Rakim released in the '90s are -- albeit marginally, and accounting more for full-album consistency than peak holy-shit-greatness singles -- better than the two they released in the '80s.
4) Bands that play disco or disco-derived music in 2007 sound more interesting than bands that play punk or punk-derived music in 2007.
5) Pink Floyd opinion, anti-hipster category: they got better after Syd left. (This didn't win me any fans, either.)
6) Pink Floyd opinion, anti-classic-rock category: Animals was their last good album, unless you're 14.
7) The Bomb Squad's best production job: AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted.
8) To reiterate a perennial argument of mine, the Eagles are underrated, insofar as they have a couple tolerable songs, one of which was used as the theme to The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, which can compensate for almost anything. They are, at least, not the worst band of the '70s, a dubious honor that goes unquestionably to Chicago.
9) '70s Stax is better than '60s Stax. Not by a huge margin, but there is no fucking with Isaac Hayes, Johnnie Taylor, Albert King, the Dramatics, Big Star, the Bar-Kays, dance-craze-era Rufus Thomas and Melting Pot. (Partially rescinded to account for the fact that there is also no fucking with Otis Redding, and later retroactively changed from "'70s Stax" to "post-Atlantic Stax" so I could sneak in Hayes' "Walk on By" -- on the right day, the single greatest studio-recorded performance of all goddamned time.
10) When all is said and done, despite a lot of great stuff on the fringes and the occasional high-quality Timbaland/Neptunes/Kanye-fueled chartbuster, this decade will be regarded as the worst for pop music since the advent of rock'n'roll -- worse than the '70s, even worse than the '80s. And not just by boomers/punks/other rock-focused fans, but by hip hop and indie fans. Why do you think there's so many crossover efforts, mash-ups became popular and Pitchfork's softened its stance considerably on covering mainstream pop? Because to avoid feeling stuck in some low-quality rut where the good stuff in your genre of choice is few and far between, you need to have five or six genres of choice.
11) 95% of the time, stereo separation is little more than an irritating gimmick used terribly. (Notable exception: Freda Payne's "Band of Gold".)
12) Roy Budd's theme to Get Carter is better than anything Ennio Morricone has ever composed.
13) Nobody actually likes Little Brother's The Minstrel Show or Masta Ace's A Long Hot Summer except as rhetorical "slept-on"/"real hip-hop" devices that anti-mainstream fans can glom onto without looking like indie-white-kid backpackers.
14) Astral Weeks: boooooooo-ring.
15) The world was better off when Betty Davis was still obscure.
16) Nirvana's best album is, in fact, Nevermind, not Bleach and definitely not In Utero. (This, obviously, being a rebuttal to the anti-canon reactionaries who roll their eyes every time Rolling Stone or Mojo puts out one of their Graetest Ablums Evar lists.)
17) 9 times out of 10, the "indie hipsters" people like to whine about have more measured, thoughtful and open-minded musical tastes than the people who complain about them.
18) My favorite Sonic Youth album is Dirty.
Sep. 19th, 2007 04:13 pm (UTC)
Re: the worst part is I get paid for saying shit like this
(re #9: Melting Pot being the Booker T. & the M.G.'s album and not some obscure group you've never heard of.)
Sep. 19th, 2007 04:14 pm (UTC)
Bjork is Icelandic for "pretentious, precious crap."

Public Enemy have made exactly one and a half good albums, plus "Shake Your Booty."

Hanson are fucking good and people who make jokes about Hanson are being boring predictable shits.

The best thing that ever happened to AC/DC was Bon Scott dying.

The Tragically Hip have been criminally overlooked by music media because they were making bar rock (adventurous, awesome bar rock, but it's their genre and it's crazy to say otherwise) at a time when bar rock was the least favoured form of music among critics.

Sep. 19th, 2007 04:17 pm (UTC)
#1: Sometimes, yeah.

#2: Nonsense.

#3: Crazy nonsense.

#4: Not the best thing, but people who dismiss their post-Bon Scott material are fools, yeah.

#5: I dunno -- I've always encountered pretty positive critical reaction to the Tragically Hip.
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Sep. 19th, 2007 05:02 pm (UTC)
Okay, let's see ...

The music that came out of the LA punk scene is superior in every way to that of the NYC punk scene.

LeRoi Jones' Blues People is the best book on American music ever written (or, at least, that I've ever read). Smart and funny and righteously angry, but before the ugly unapologetic paranoid anger he had when he became Amiri Baraka.

Anita O'Day was better than Billie Holliday. Which, what with your #6, you probably don't care about, but ...

Sep. 19th, 2007 05:17 pm (UTC)
I feel like I'm so behind the cool curve that I can't even tell if these ARE heresies
The most underappreciated artist of the 1970's, whose bad reputation is richly undeserved, is Barry Manilow. His polar opposite in this regard is Patti Smith.

Pharoahe Monch puts on a better concert than any other rapper ever, period.

The Strokes Is This It? is not only not great, it is snorefully, who-even-gives-a-shit mediocre.

The most important album to come out in 1991 was Death Certificate by Ice Cube.

If Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil in exchange for the ability to play the guitar well, he should really call up the BBB.

The most consistently great artist of the '90s was Tom Petty.

Sam Phillips the female performer is responsible for more very good music than Sam Phillips the record producer.

The best motown group of the 60's/70's was The Foundations.

For an important and undernoticed artist, Scott Walker sure made made a great heaving shitload of totally unlistenable music.
Sep. 19th, 2007 05:22 pm (UTC)
Re: I feel like I'm so behind the cool curve that I can't even tell if these ARE heresies
The reason I am using the Monch icon for this post is because it represents the only opinion on your list that isn't completely bugfuck insane except for maybe the Ice Cube and Scott Walker statements.
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Sep. 19th, 2007 05:19 pm (UTC)
Yes, but what about the Monkees?
Sep. 19th, 2007 06:04 pm (UTC)
Mike Nesmith was pretty funny.
Sep. 19th, 2007 05:37 pm (UTC)
1. Yes. Also no one under 44 really understands the point of the Ramones, and that point was rather a minor one to begin with.
2. Can't say I've ever understood the worship of the Kinks. A few good singles but too often they were like Homer Simpson saying "Oooh, look at me, I'm making a wry social comment".
3. Very true.
4. Ja. I'd go so far as to say 25 years, since I can't remember a track off "Imperial Bedroom" or any of his subsequent albums.
5. How early is early? If you're talking about a tape they made when they were 12 you could be right but otherwise your first stumble.
6. Skiddlee-beedle-bap-a-boo-bayo-ooo is what I say.
7. No preference.
8. I too find him a bore and don't understand the adulation.
9. Wrong. Very wrong, although there is a freakshow element to his recent appearances.
10. What is this rap music you young uns talk about?
11. He is overrated by a certain kind of music hack and I don't think Ys would have lost much if it was just Newsom and a few chums (and I'm saying that as a big fan). "Song Cycle" is a little gem though.
12. Not really his fault he became the Dead Bono of reggae. Give me I Roy.
Sep. 19th, 2007 06:04 pm (UTC)
Re #5: Some of their jam-band tendencies are extremely grating, regardless of the quality of the guitar players, and you can't tell me that "Love Comes in Spurts" isn't a totally retarded lyric.

Re #11: Well, I don't like Ys, and Song Cycle did a whole bunch of nothin' for me, but I know I'm in a minority here.
Sep. 19th, 2007 06:16 pm (UTC)
While I'm a big fan of Mettalica's early albums, I continue to assert that the Black Album is still a good album, and among my favorite, and that popularity does not equal selling out.

Iron Maiden, in retrospect, didn't really deserve the attention they got. I think their albums were sold almost entirely on the merit of the album art.

I really don't understand what all the fuss is about Rush.

Van Halen was much better off with Sammy Hagar than they were with David Lee Roth. Oddly, Sammy Hagar was virtually useless without the rest of Van Halen.

Bruce Springsteen is a terrible vocalist. Can he even inflect his voice at all?

I continue to like Run DMC's version of Walk This Way better than the original.

One of my favorite Black Sabbath albums, Sign of the Southern Cross, did not feature Ozzy Osbourne.
Sep. 19th, 2007 06:17 pm (UTC)
Also, I like the Monkees. Always have, always will.
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Sep. 19th, 2007 06:36 pm (UTC)
I'm surprised at your comment about jazz vocals. While I absolutely concede that the vast majority of jazz vocalists should be lined up against the wall and shot right through their vocal cords, there are a few out there whose talents put them squarely in the company of the greatest jazz "instrumentalists." I'm thinking of Sarah Vaughan, Joe Williams, Ella Fitgerald, and to a lesser extent, Bill Henderson and Carmen McCrae.

Re: Bob Marley - what about his earliest rocksteady/ska stuff with the Wailers and the Skatalites? (I call this "Bargain-Basement Bob".)

I absolutely loved Smile, especially the reworking of "Heroes and Villains", which is already one of my favorite Beach Boys songs.

My heresies:

1. The Doors were unquestionably the most overrated band in history, and if Jim Morrison hadn't kicked the bucket when he did, I would have gladly handed him a whupping when I came of age. He was a terrible poet, wrote crappy, self-important lyrics, and his voice was just god-awful. Not to mention Ray Manzarek who, if I ever come up on him in a dark alley, will happily smash his retarded drawbar organ on his smarmy face over and over again.

2. Speaking of god-awful voices, Eddie Vedder. Whoo boy. Listening to Pearl Jam live is like listening to William Hung. Not to mention that everything they did after Versus isn't worth the plastic it's printed on.

3. Led Zeppelin? Also incredibly overrated. It's my opinion that everyone loves Led Zeppelin for a while (myself included), and then those with discerning musical tastes realize that their music ain't nothin' special.

BONUS HERESY: I was recently defriended on LJ by a woman who took serious exception to something I quoted, which said that "Writing about music is like dancing about architecture."

There ya have it. Flame away.
Sep. 19th, 2007 06:49 pm (UTC)
1. This is becoming a pretty common position, actually, with which I wholeheartedly agree. Once the '60s started to sour and everyone came down from the bad acid trips, they began to realize how bad the Doors really were.

2. I have very little opinion on the matter.

3. Nope. Zep were pretty great no matter how you slice it -- not one of the best bands ever, but pretty fuckin' solid through their whole career.

The person who said that was Laurie Anderson, and it was meant to be ironic, as she spends a lot of time writing about music. (And dancing about architecture, for that matter.)
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Sep. 19th, 2007 07:14 pm (UTC)
From this point forward: no more books about punk rock. Ever. Especially glossy coffee-table photo essays. Exception: you are Dr. Know and you kept a tour diary.
Sep. 19th, 2007 07:20 pm (UTC)
Dude, I put food on the table working on some of those books so shut up. Although the main one I worked on said it all, so yeah, you're right.
Sep. 19th, 2007 07:49 pm (UTC)
- I'm not feeling the new Spoon, New Pornographers or Wilco albums at all. The first two might just be my burnout with rock music of that type, but the Wilco is a pile of aural soggy corn flakes.

- Tupac had one good single at best and the fact that he's mentioned in the same sentence as Biggie is a joke.

- The one genre in the whole psych/prog/head genre I can't get into at all is the whole Canterbury school of prog. All that stuff is so fussy and sterile.

- I'm not generally bothered by most music I don't like, but I have to leave the room when They Might Be Giants are playing. Unendurable.
Sep. 19th, 2007 07:56 pm (UTC)
1. I like the new Spoon. I haven't heard the new NPs, but they're due for a stinker. I don't really like Wilco in the first place.

2. God, 2Pac is overrated. He's generally awful. I mean, I don't even think Biggie is that great, and 'Pac is nowhere near in Biggie's league.

3. Shit, I don't even know what that is.

4. I like TMBG, but I have to be in the right mood for them.
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Sep. 19th, 2007 08:51 pm (UTC)
I'm not afraid to say I'm a big Queen fan.

THERE's a heresy for ya.
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flavored with age
Gun-totin', Chronic-smokin' Hearse Initiator
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Leonard Pierce is a freelance writer wandering around Texas with no sleep or sense of direction. If you give him money he will write something for you. If you are nice to him he may come to your house and get drunk.

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