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Right Artist, Wrong Album!

Are there any artists credited on AM whose best work is undervalued in the face of other work? The artist that is inspiring this thread for me is Siouxsie and the Banshees. I recently tracked down The Scream with bated breath, as it is by far their most acclaimed album (number 897). When I popped it in, although I could see the appeal, I was stunned that it received the lion's share of the attention given to the band. It's a nice little punk album, but Siouxie and the Banshees evolved into something absolutely magical, and you would hardly notice going by the ratings on this site. The holy triumvirate of the constistely fantastic and eclectic Kaleidoscope (1980), the nightmarish beauty of Juju (1981) and the breathtaking majesty of A Kiss in the Dreamhouse (1982) looks like an afterthought here. Siouxsie had honed her voice into a beautiful instrument by this point, when compared with the nearly atonal wail of the debut and the subsequent Join Hands. Steve Severin had amped up his abilities to create some absolutely delectable grooves, and the additions of Budgie on drums and John McGeoch would prove to be the perfect alchemy for the Banshees to craft what is their signature sound.

For a more direct comparison, just take 1978's "Carcass" and 1981's "Night Shift", both of which are songs based on murder. While the former may be fun and peppy, it is completely blitzed by the latter, a menacing, snarling, frigtening and spellbinding depiction of the Yorkshire Ripper's travails, sung from his perspective.

Is it a case of critics simply being lazy and listing the debut, as debut albums are often the most acclaimed? Is The Scream elevated by the fact that the band enjoyed enduring success and a rabid fan base? Or, more frighteningly, would it be viewed with even more esteem if the band petered out after 2 albums, rendering it a "lost classic"? Ranking The Scream above the 3 other albums I mentioned (and perhaps a few others!) seems tantamount to lauding The Cure's Three Imaginary Boys above their Dark Trilogy from 80-82, The Head on a Door and Disintegration. While it makes for a fun start, the band's signature sound and arguably the reasons for their enduring and rabid fanbase were developed later.

On the songs side, the situation is similar. The lone Banshee entry is the fun and charming "Hong Kong Garden", but I'd be hard-pressed to find many who wouldn't find several of their songs (such as "Happy House", "Christine", "Israel", "Spellbound", "Arabian Knights", "Night Shift", "Voodoo Dolly", "Slowdive", "Dazzle", "Cities in Dust") better.

Are there any other artists that you feel may be misrepresented by the works that are most celebrated by critics?

Re: Right Artist, Wrong Album!

Elliott Smith's self titled debut is by far my favorite album by him. There's nothing wrong with his acclaimed albums but ST is him with his guitar, fragile voice and little else. This is how he got the label the next Nick Drake.

The Kinks best is often considered to be Something Else but I'd definitely put Village Green before that and probably Arthur as well. Probably not Face to Face but it's close.

And of course Rubber Soul. This is one is such a hot debate that there really isn't a consensus #1 Beatles album but if you had to choose one it would probably be Revolver, maybe Sgt. Peppers. But, Rubber Soul is where the bridge between the early years and late years happens incorporating the best of both worlds without taking on the crap at the same time.

A few more:

Replacements- Tim
REM- Reckoning
Pixies- Bossanova
Simon and Garfunkel- Bridge Over Troubled Water
Van Morrison- Moondance
Dr. Dre- 2001
Weezer- Blue Album (Kind of a split between Pinkerton and this one critically as well but this one is their best IMO)
Metallica- Ride the Lightning

Re: Right Artist, Wrong Album!

Good news for you guys! The next update will include S&TB's "Kaleidoscope" and ES's "Elliott Smith" and "Roman Candle" as well as "Ballad of Big Nothing".

Moonbeam, I agree with you about "The Scream" and the rest of S&TB's career. However, their excellent collections "Once Upon a Time" and "Twice Upon a Time" seem to include all their essential output.

John, aren't "Bridge Over Troubled Water" and "Blue Album" the most acclaimed albums of their bands?

Re: Right Artist, Wrong Album!

Some newer artists:

Bright Eyes' most acclaimed album is I'm Wide Awake It's Morning (ranked as number 564), not the far superior Lifted.. (1164) or Fevers and Mirrors (not ranked at all).

Rufus Wainwright's debut, Rufus Wainwright (1582) is the most acclaimed, with the next four albums following close (1653, 1706 and 2081). His career however, as skyrocketed, and in my eyes Poses (1653) is the standout album, with the latest Release the Stars (too new to be ranked, I guess) as number two. The debut, while being good, is the weakest of his releases, if you look away from that Judy Garland show.

Re: Right Artist, Wrong Album!

Awesome, Henrik! Kaleidoscope is actually my favorite Banshees album! I do agree that Once Upon a Time and Twice Upon a Time are excellent, but I would say that those glorious albums from 80-82 contain a lot of tracks that deserve attention yet weren't released as singles:

Red Light
Desert Kisses
Lunar Camel
Into the Light
Night Shift
Sin in My Heart
She's a Carnival
Painted Bird

Yikes- I'm sounding like an obsessed fanboy here, which perhaps I am!

Re: Right Artist, Wrong Album!

Henrik, I've always been under the impression that Bookends and Pinkerton are the more acclaimed albums.

Re: Right Artist, Wrong Album!

I'm Wide Awake is Bright Eyes most acclaimed? That's ridiculous! Lifted... is miles above that album. Fevers and Mirrors is pretty good too but Lifted is his masterpiece and it's not even close. That's crazy! When thinking about this topic I passed right by Bright Eyes thinking Lifted was obviously the most acclaimed.

Re: Right Artist, Wrong Album!

Triple post I guess. I totally agree with you on Poses too Rune.

Re: Right Artist, Wrong Album!

I was just going to post a topic like this. Once bands get older critics tend to pass up their later work even though some may be better than ever.

Liz Phair- Whitechocolatespaceegg (she actually sings on this one and the songs are more confidant and well produced. Don't understand why critics hate her melodic material and perfer her songs where she can't hold a tune or carry a melody.)

Gomez- Split the Difference
Supergrass- Life on Other Planets
Suede -Coming Up (if Bernard Butler played on this one it would have topped all the UK's critics year end lists but having a 17 year old play on britpop royalty must have been considered a demotion for the band.)
Sigor Ros- Takk(This ones brilliant because it's upbeat and not streched out and sounding like the humpbacks mating call like their earlier work)

Modest Mouse- Good News For People Who Love Bad News (top 40! Nuf said!)
Bjork- Vespertine (Everyone seems to be into Homogenic even though Debut is her most acclaimed. Don't know why she becomes less acclaimed with each album. I'm guessing because of fame and her ever growing college following but this one was a stunner that brought the best out in her. She capitalized on her bizarre Oscar appearance and still went in her own direction to make her best ever. Not as artsy and ambitious as Homogenic. The songs are catchier and more melodic than Homogenic and where as Homogenic has about 4 classic Bjork cuts about half of Vespertine is pretty flawless.)

Tori Amos- Boys for Pele (her version of "the Dreaming")

Flaming Lips- Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots

Placebo- Sleeping With Ghosts

British Sea Power- Do You Like Rock Music? Doesn't look they'll get reviews any better than their debut but this one is more epic and meaningful

Camera Obscura- Underachievers Please Try Harder (EVERYBODY SOUNDS LIKE BELLE AND SEBASTIAN NOWADAYS!!!! Just look at all the twee being played in car commercials or Target commercials with Nick Harcourt in the background, The Shins, the Hidden Cameras, the Decemberists, Sufjan Stevens, Feist are all taking pages out of the B&S songbook. You can't compare a female vocalist to a male one anyway. Maybe Rod Stewart and Kim Carnes. Plus Stewart Murdoch produced this masterpiece. So it got some shit for being a B&S soundalike which was total BS. Look at all the bands that have ripped off the Pixies, Gang of Four, Joy Division and the Talking Heads in the 90s and you don't pass judgement. Album of the decade!!!!)

Belle and Sebastian- the Life Pursuit

Re: Right Artist, Wrong Album!

I really don't get why Blonde on Blonde is considered the Dylan's best instead of H61R.

Although not being such a frequent listener of Doolittle, I still find Surfer Rosa the great masterpiece of the Pixies.

As for Talking Heads, I consider Fear of Music their best, and one of the most underrated albums of all time (only 240 of all time and number 9 of 1979???). The songs here are too successful in constructing a threatening climate, and although there's not a hit as Once in a Lifetime to carry everything, I think the album's cohesion and density make it much better than Remain in Light.

But, for me, the major case of "wrong album for the right artist" is This Year's Model by Elvis Costello. All that "pre-new wave" instrumentation only make decrease the quality level of the songs. Almost all the tracks contain some great musical ideas, but I think they were developed the wrong way (I'm not saying I hate it, though, it's even in my top 100 albums). My Aim Is True contains songs that are much cleaner, catchier, rawer and more inspired, and Armed Forces has some of Costello's most refined gems (although having a few not-so-good tracks as well...).

Re: Right Artist, Wrong Album!

I agree with all of those except the Pixies like I mentioned earlier.

Although, I always thought Imperial Bedroom was considered Costello's masterpiece and I was going to mention it and say that almost every album before that is 100X better than Imperial Bedroom.

Re: Right Artist, Wrong Album!

I don't see how anybody can like Springsteen's overproduced stuff more than Nebraska.

I think the most common reason for a CD to be underrated is that it came before the band gained critical recognition. Sometimes an album is underrated just because nobody rated it. Okkervil River's pre-Black Sheep Boy Stuff, Sufjan Stevens' pre-Illinois stuff, etc.

Re: Right Artist, Wrong Album!

(I also don't get how you all can be putting bands' drab-but-well-produced albums over their raw-but-energetic albums.)

For me with Highway 61 vs Blonde On Blonde, Highway 61 has the two or three best songs between the two, but BoB is more consistent and cohesive.

I think Quadrophenia is very underrated. I'd probably still pick Next as the best Who album, but Quadrophenia is head and shoulders over Tommy. Besides being musically not in the same league, I'm sorry, pinball is just not a good analogy for spiritual awareness.

Also with Led Zeppelin, I think I is just as strong as IV, and II is way overrated.

Re: Right Artist, Wrong Album!

It's not that Springsteen overproduces his albums. He has a backing band called the E Street Band. Of course Nebraska isn't going to sound anything like the stuff he made with the E Streets. You can't compared solo accoustic work with music you make with a band.