The Most Overrated Albums Of All Time

Because even the most sacred of cows are not immune from a good old-fashioned slaughtering, we’ve decided to focus our inaugural list on albums that are universally acclaimed, but in the cold light of day really aren’t that good. After much deliberation, heated debate and soul-searching (for the most part, we had to put our own nostalgic attachment aside), we’ve come up with a list of records that, for whatever reason, seem to get a free critical pass. Perhaps it’s the product of a hivemind? Perhaps they really are that good? But what use is criticism if it’s not at least questioning accepted truths?

Just to prove we’re not complete jerks, we’ll be unveiling FL ’s “Most Underrated Albums of All Time” list soon. In the meantime, here’s the first instalment of 50 most overrated records spanning the 1960s through to the present, with 10 records to be revealed each day this week. Warning: Your favourite album may appear here. Perhaps you’ll revisit it with a different perspective and some fresh ears.

50. Cut Copy – In Ghost Colours (2008)

Oooh, shiny! Nobody’s denying that Cut Copy make very pretty, shimmery dance music. It’s great for headphones. But you know where people listen to it now? Giant fuckoff dance festivals. You know why they listen to Cut Copy at giant fuckoff dance festivals? Because that’s what Cut Copy must have been thinking of while writing this eye-gougingly ordinary album. “Lights and music are in your eyes, be my baby one more time;Hearts on fire, I reach out to you tonight.” Banal lyrics are not a death sentence; the right interpreter can make them magic. Sung in Dan Whitford’s flat Bondi shrug of a voice, these affirmations for munted media students sound like placeholder lyrics – the pop music equivalent of Lorem Ipsum. Cut Copy make pretty, intricate, impossibly crisp dance music – then, chasing Hot Chip’s carefully balanced detached/emotional blend, they go and poke big boring holes in it by turning it into pop music Mitt Romney would deem too bland to use without permission at a campaign event. (Topical burn!) – Caitlin Welsh

49. TV On The Radio – Return To Cookie Mountain (2006)

‘Wolf Like Me’ was one of the most urgent, uncompromising rock songs of a rather limp mid-Noughties. Such was its potency it almost singlehandedly resurrected rock’n’roll only a few years after The Strokes and countless imitators pissed on its grave. But it’s an anomaly on a record that sounds as impenetrable now as it did six years ago. Like its predecessor Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes, Return To Cookie Mountain is an album weighed down by excess; the product of too many voices all competing for the same space. The melodrama of ‘Wolf’ aside, every track here overstays its welcome, lingering on like a drunken mate at a party long after the rest of the guests have gone home. Oh, and dudes, if you’re going to get David Bowie to cameo on your record, why put him so low (pun intended) in the mix? The Metal Machine Music sample is even worse. Sampling feedback? Now that’s just taking the piss. – Darren Levin

48. Neil Young – Harvest (1972)

Time does funny things to some records. Blasted on its release as a lazy distillation of his dullest moments, Harvest stands as by far Young’s weakest album from the prime of his life. Yet, it’s likely his most well-remembered. Compared to the broad canvas of Young’s earlier works, Harvest feels like Young giving in. It retains the tragedy of ‘Needle and the Damage Done’, and it’s hard not to acknowledge the anthemic qualities of ‘Heart of Gold’, but it’s a record that’s all too insipid and dull (‘There’s A World’ and ‘A Man Needs A Main’, for example, bury their inadequacies under strings). There’s a reason Neil himself is embarrassed of this record, and its lasting memory must make him burn. – Max Easton

47. Arctic Monkeys – Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not (2006)

Was rock really so ailing in 2006 that this was held up as the Holy Grail? Yeah, maybe, but it hasn’t aged particularly well. If Alex Turner’s thorny, rambling, jaded-beyond-his-years wit goes a long way, the music tends towards angsty MOR rock, all crusty hooks and sullen shades of grey. As instantly catchy as ‘I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor’ still is, it’s hard to separate from the angular post-punk revival that quickly became a pale imitation of itself. Arctic Monkeys are better than this album, and their unfussed progression has been rewarding to watch. But this will always be the seismic debut, even if Turner himself told us not to believe the hype. – Doug Wallen

46. Dizzee Rascal – Boy In Da Corner (2003)

Let the record state that I don’t hold Dizzee Rascal himself responsible for his appearance on this list. For an 18-year-old novice, Boy In Da Corner is pretty damn good, albeit more of a hard-drive dump than an album. The real villain in this piece is the British music press, who couldn’t believe their luck when a brash young kid from the London estates burst forth with an authentic, non-embarrassing hip-hop album. Of course, they raised him high; like Rafiki presenting Simba at Pride Rock, the new high priest of grime.

Boy In Da Corner has some great ideas, some great production, and some great verses: The ‘Big Beat’-sampling ‘Fix Up, Look Sharp’ almost – almost – single-handedly rehabilitated Billy Squier’s reputation, ‘I Luv You’ and ‘Jezabel’ exhibit Dizzee’s precocious eye for narrative detail, and ‘Jus’ A Rascal’ features some high-end, chest-puffing braggadocio. These songs, though, are the tent poles that hold up a saggy marquee – Edward Sharp-Paul

45. The Doors – LA Woman

How could anyone drop the needle on LA Woman and nod approvingly through the flat grunts and swirls of ‘The Changeling’, stiff as brand new leather pants? How is anyone’s primary reaction to this not, “Good god, get this man some Mylanta”? The whole thing sounds like cheap background tracks for a party scene in a groovy B-movie that nobody remembers.The one keeper here is ‘Love Her Madly’, which is a bloody stupid song (what is the point of the questions in the chorus? Are they rhetorical? Does Jim know what rhetorical means?). Fictional Lester Bangs was right – drunken buffoons, masquerading as poets, and there’s no poetry here at all. (And you can’t blame the smoking habits of its original fans for its overrated status – it’s actually worse when you’re high.) – Caitlin Welsh

44. Red Hot Chili Peppers – Californication (1999)

Guilty not just of popularising its title portmanteau and resorting to the dire rhyming of “Entertain ya” and “Pennsylvania”, Californication swapped the raw, prankish, manic verve of a genre-mashing party band for radio-conquering sensitivity and reserve. While there’s traces of their roots on the ‘Give It Away’ flashback of ‘Get On Top’, other songs go completely into chart ballad mode (‘Scar Tissue’ and folk weepie ‘Road Trippin’). There’s still a considerable tug-of-war between placid and volatile – from the rap/New Age dichotomy of ‘All Around the World’ to the dark bridge on ‘Otherside’ and the momentum-spoiling chorus of ‘Parallel Universe’. But this is very much their version of a pop record, with the biggest creases ironed out and Anthony Kiedis shifting from clown to crooner. – Doug Wallen

43. The Stone Roses – The Stone Roses (1989)

“The future of music!” they said. “The ‘60s ideal of the guitar combo plus the dancable rhythms of tomorrow, all wrapped up in effortless cool!” The thing that everyone seemed to overlook when assessing the importance of the Stone Roses’ debut was that they only remembered to write half a dozen songs for it. And look, the actual songs are really good – ‘I Wanna Be Adored’, ‘She Bangs the Drums’, ‘Made of Stone’, ‘I Am the Resurrection’ etc – but they’re surrounded by drivel like ‘Don’t Stop’, which is previous track ‘Waterfall’ played backwards, which totally doesn’t suggest that they had no tunes lying around. That’s still better than ‘Elizabeth My Dear’, a badly-scanning re-write of ‘Scarborough Fair’, and noodly go-nowhere grooves like ‘Shoot You Down’.

And before you chime in about ‘Fool’s Gold’, it wasn’t on the original album but was tacked onto the CD (and the band didn’t even realise what they had: it was originally a throwaway b-side for the vasty inferior ‘What the World is Waiting For’ before someone sensibly suggested flipping the sides). And it’s admittedly great, especially considering that it’s two basslines and a sweet drum loop. – Andrew P Street

42. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – The Boatman’s Call (1997)

By 1997 Nick Cave was certainly not averse to romance. However, the gutted outpouring on 1990’s The Good Son and the putrid despair of his Murder Ballads of 1996 still retained traces of his warped mind. The Boatman’s Call then, with all its conventional love and flaccid accessibility, feels by comparison, a little limp. While there’s no doubting the record’s understated beauty, it’s more the fact that this (and not one of his other fucked up masterpieces) is one of Cave’s most lasting impressions on the bulk Australian musical psyche that’s unsettling. After all, no one likes it when the short fused psycho at the party falls in love and goes home. – Max Easton

41. The Happy Mondays – Pills ‘n’ Thrills and Bellyaches (1990)

Pills ‘n’ Thrills and Bellyaches’ greatest attribute was its timing, landing just as the baggy/acid house movement was ready to move overground. Bands like 808 State had already founded the principles of the sound, radio was starting to get curious, and all that remained was for someone to step up and make The Album. Pills ‘n’ Thrills and Bellyaches became something else, though, taking the sounds of Britain’s second Summer of Love and repackaging them for the football hooligan set.

The beats were buoyant, occasionally even mesmerising, and Shaun Ryder’s asthmatic bark was built for sing-alongs, easily replicated even in an advanced state of inebriation – probably because they were recorded in the very same state. And therein lies the problem: As good a band as The Happy Mondays were (and for a while there, they were on fire), their songs still lived or died depending on whether the tone-deaf waster out front could think of something halfway coherent to mumble about. When he was talking about his baggy pants (‘Loose Fit’), it was all good, but the family cat dying (‘Grandbag’s Funeral’)? No dice. – Edward Sharp-Paul

NEXT PAGE: Selections 40-31

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