Music

The 40 Most Disappointing Albums Of The Past 25 Years

Albums can be overrated, underrated and decade defining. But what makes an album disappointing? It could be considered “too experimental” for its time (yet got go on to become a classic), fail to live up to fans’ expectations, arrive so far into a band’s career that no one cares, or just be plain terrible.  And for a record to really disappoint it has to come from an artist that matters, someone whose music has shifted culture and shaped a scene.

FL’s Most Disappointing Albums of the Past 25 Years is a chronological list of 40 musicians who have done just that, and somewhere along the line produced a record that let down fans, critics – or even themselves.

The Stone Roses – Second Coming (1994)

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As a title, Second Coming was a wry reflection of the feverish anticipation that awaited The Stone Roses’ second release. It was never going to be anything other than disappointing. The album itself was actually pretty great. From the swirling edifices of ‘Ten Storey Love Song’ to ‘Breaking into Heaven’’s psychedelic solos, Second Coming took the Roses into darker, more experimental territory. But it was too late. Five years gestation, coupled with a non-existent touring schedule, meant that absence had made hearts grow rabid with misplaced reverence. Despite the album’s many high points, the record was cursed by its failure to deliver on something it had never promised to do. – Victoria Birch

Red Hot Chili Peppers – One Hot Minute (1995)

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Albert Burneko at Deadspin summed up the last few decades of Red Hot Chili Peppers songs as “just Anthony Kiedis saying “Llama gamma busy hella fizzy California” over the opening credits music from The Cosby Show” and that’s both funny and depressingly accurate. Given how low their star has sunk it’s disconcerting to remember their album Blood Sugar Sex Magick was critically beloved, but the Chili Peppers were a very different band in 1991. John Frusciante was still playing guitar with them, and they were still doing songs as weird as ‘Suck My Kiss’ and ‘Sir Psycho Sexy’. But One Hot Minute wasn’t a goofball funk weirdo album, it was druggy angst-rock with metal riffs thrown in and it set down a template that would eventually turn them into that “Llama gamma busy hella fizzy California” joke band years later. – Jody Macgregor

Metallica – Load (1996)

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Load , Metallica’s sixth album, came after their mainstream breakthrough with the “Black Album”. Fans were prepared to forgive that album for mixing thrash with more accessible hard rock, but Load went even further into radio-friendly unit-shifting territory. It wasn’t a thrash metal album at all, swapping their trademark heaviosity for a couple of country songs and a whole lot of dad rock. Metallica’s fans expected them to be the kind of maximalist band who crank everything up but with Load they filled the CD to its full capacity without ever going all-out, even when they released a follow-up album of off-cuts. Also they cut off their hair, man. – Jody Macgregor

Pearl Jam – No Code (1996)

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Pearl Jam recorded No Code at the same time as they performed a Ticketmaster-boycotting tour that bogged them down in organisational hassle and would have worn them out even if they hadn’t also just begun their fan-pleasing tradition of three-hour concerts and been undergoing some band tension at the same time. That No Code turned out to be a fractured album isn’t a surprise; that it came out at all kind of is. Influenced by Vedder’s collaboration with Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and the band’s with Neil Young, Pearl Jam took steps away from their stadium grunge sound but didn’t find any one thing to replace it with, instead bouncing around from mood to mood in a way that’s dizzying and incoherent. Like the cover art it’s a collection of random images that only sort of forms a bigger picture from a distance when you squint, but it doesn’t really add up to anything. – Jody Macgregor

Oasis – Be Here Now (1997)

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Oasis’ debut album was all spilt beer and good times; a lean, glam rock punch up that felt like a personal invitation from Liam Gallagher to join him for a pint and a smoke. But by their third release, Oasis had changed from working class heroes to nouveau riche brats. Be Here Now was a mess: overblown jams, sloppy melodies and the kind self-indulgence only (a lot of money) can buy. This would have been forgiven if Oasis were still the people’s band, but wealth and arrogance had created a gulf that neither the band nor their fans could bridge. – Victoria Birch

The Smashing Pumpkins – Adore (1998)

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For some reason The Smashing Pumpkins reduced every single music critic in the British Isles to a sweary apoplectic mess of frothing rage, but I went back and listened to Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness earlier this year and it’s still great so fuck ’em. Adore is a total mess, though. Jimmy Chamberlin had left the band and they didn’t know what to do without him. Billy Corgan was high as a kite and pushed the other members away – this was the first Pumpkins’ album on which James Iha received no writing credits, and D’arcy Wretzky is just sort of there. Adore wallowed in sad piano, sad acoustic guitar, and wafty electronica, and apart from lone standout ‘Ava Adore’ sounded as indulgent as the critics always said they were. – Jody Macgregor

The Beta Band – The Beta Band (1999)

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Everybody loved The Beta Band. There was a whole scene in High Fidelity about how rad ‘Dry The Rain’ was. Pitchfork called their bundle of three EPs one of the best albums of the year, and it was. But when they brought out an actual album, well, there were no scenes devoted to it in John Cusack’s next romantic comedy. The band tried to get out in front of the news that they’d screwed the pooch by giving an interview to the NME calling it “probably one of the worst records that’ll come out this year” and blaming the record label for not giving them the time to finish it properly. They’d wanted it to be a double album with disc two devoted to a single half-hour ambient track, and if anyone could have made that work it was probably The Beta Band. What we got was a mess, half-finished jams and doodles and terrible whiteboy rapping of the “my name is X and I’m here to say” variety. Thankfully it was saved from being the actual worst record of the year by Creed releasing Human Clay. – Jody Macgregor

Nas – Nastradamus (1999)

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For a certain kind of Nas fan nothing after Illmatic was ever going to live up to it, but Nastradamus came as a letdown to even his most apologetic Stans. Nastradamus was released just months after I Am… – an album of B-sides that Nas had decided weren’t worthy of him – but the album he recorded in a rush turned out to be less popular than any re-heated collection of leftovers would have been. Nastradamus featured none of the innovative rhyme schemes or multi-syllabic barrages he’d made his name with, and several tracks seemed like obvious grabs at mainstream radio play. But it wasn’t a pop album either, slipping back into the boastful street poet persona of his earlier albums just long enough to disappoint by failing to live up to them. Nastradamus also marks the beginning of his embarrassing beef with Jay Z, with Nas suggesting he could “let a slug melt in your hat” whatever that even means. – Jody Macgregor

Green Day – Warning (2000)

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Green Day had a crossover hit with their mellow acoustic single ‘Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life)’ in 1997, a song that became the soundtrack to both the final episode of Seinfeld and several years of high school graduation dances. But while it was the odd song out on their album Nimrod, their follow-up Warning was full of similarly folky, Dylan-ish acoustic tracks. They left behind bubblegum skate-punk in favour of maturity and artistic growth, which was the last thing anyone should have wanted from a band who specialised in the sound of suburban brats hanging out in convenience store car parks. ‘Warning’ itself was a catchy song but the album sounded like Green Day growing up, and that was the worst possible thing they could do. – Jody Macgregor

Radiohead – Kid A (2000)

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Prior to 2000 Radiohead made records from recognisable things, such as verses, choruses and melodies. Kid A had very few of those. A concept album of sorts, its tech wary themes were given a soundtrack rather than a song. Conventional instruments made way for electronic effects and unpredictable rhythms. Words appeared and disappeared at strange intervals. At times it blossomed into great beauty; at times it became so wilfully obtuse it felt like an insult. For some it was Radiohead’s finest album. For many, Kid A meant their time with the band was done. – Victoria Birch

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