Public Enemy 1989

Trashed! Public Enemy

 

Pioneering hip-hop legends Public Enemy always could divide opinion. Back in 1990, at the height of their popularity, they celebrated this fact on their third album, Fear of a Black Planet. The track Incident At 66.6 FM, which samples a radio phone-in during which the presenter cheerfully laughs off one caller who invites the band to “go back to Africa” while another refers to their fans as “scum”.

Nearly three decades on from that, they’re the uber-influential elder statesmen of rap, continuing to inspire musicians working across genres. Their material is considered uplifting enough to be chosen as theme music for British Paralympic coverage, they’re well enough established to have been inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and they’re popular enough to have sold millions of records worldwide.

Doesn’t mean everyone likes them though. Opinion is still divided, as these ruminative and considered one-star Amazon reviews show.

“dull, dreary, repetitive dribble”

That’s the title an anonymous UK reviewer give to his/her review of PE’s debut, Yo! Bum Rush the Show. This seems pretty decisive, but he/she immediately gets oxymoronic:

“Never have i had to endure such a droll album.”

So either they don’t like their albums amusing or entertaining, or they don’t know what droll means. Undaunted, they go on to fall back on their maturity to emphasise their credibility:

“at 29 yrs old i really am past this rubbish with a more mature ear able to appreciate a far greater spectrum of contempary [sic] sounds”

Ooh, so close to pulling it back there. Drat! RH has better luck using good old-fashioned sarcasm and irrelevant references:

“Why have I been wasting my time listening to Charlie Parker and Claude Debussy all these years? What ever made me think that Aretha Franklin and Gundula Janowitz could actually sing? I must have been high. THIS is the great work of true musical genius that all mankind has been waiting for.”

Gunula Janowitz, as we all know without resorting to Google, is one of the highest regarded opera singers of all time. RH is on safe ground suggesting that she (and Aretha) can sing, so that proves Public Enemy are shit.

VV is another grown-up who disapproves of PE. Admittedly, his 2003 review of It Takes a Nation of Millions… gets off to a dodgy start with the title, “You call this music? Maybe on Planet Suck-ville”, which could have been written by six-year old, but VV soon more than redeems himself. He takes maturity to new levels with this statement:

“Bashing the government is not cool, I don’t think George Bush is listening to this record right now. And if our president can’t listen to it, who should be allowed to? Certainly not you.”

No, you’re right, VV, bashing the government is not cool. Conformity, compliance and respect for authority are what’s cool. That real rock and roll. What was Chuck D thinking of? Leave that nice Mr Bush alone. And he’s not even listening anyway, so there!

At the other end of the maturity spectrum is J, reviewing Fear of a Black Planet in 2010. He’s just desperate to hear naughty words being uttered:

“Funny that there’s an advisory label on the cover but they beep out the cuss words on Fight the Power. Wish I knew this before I bought the CD.”

He feels so cheated he awards the album the lowest, one-star rating. J would appreciate HJ’s review and the way it cleverly hints at a swear word:

“Anybody who likes this type of music should see a psychiatrist… when they called it rap they left off the C”

See what he did there? Not everyone goes to the trouble of using such ingenious wordplay in their negative reviews. KR just says Public Enemy are “Not a patch on NWA. Lyrically or musically”, an anonymous Nation of Millions reviewer in 1999 says it’s “just plain bland” and MS went full street in 2005:

“This album is WACK and BORING! BORING! BORING! BORRRRRING!”

At least KR got his point across with his crazy urban slang. Not everyone manages that trick.  Here’s TA‘s review of Black Planet in its confusing entirety:

“Head Cruncher by TA, February 15, 2005

“I wish I could put into words the disdain I have for RAP. But I can’t so all you get is the title. Music????? Don’t make me laugh.”

“All you get is the title” – Does anybody have any idea what that means? And what about the last bit? “Music????? Don’t make me laugh.” Maybe TA finds it all a bit too droll as well? Maybe they should take a leaf out of that 29 year-old anonymous UK reviewer from earlier and try something else from the “spectrum of contempary sounds”

Finally, here are two conflicting but equally scornful reviews of PE’s peak output. First up, DW on Nation of Millions:

“Let’s not beat about the bush. This album is a pile of tripe. Some prat with a silly watch and some other guy are angry and shout a lot instead of inspiring people to change things for the better. Maybe I’m too white and middle class to get what they are trying to say but whatever my social and economic background I just couldn’t find any redeeming qualities in this album.”

While AKR says, of Black Planet:

“The irony being that P.E.’s core audience were white suburban kids (remember John Connor from Terminator 2?), not angry urban black youths.”

Now I don’t know who to believe here – DK or AKR. Sure, you have to admire DW’s withering description of Flavor Flav as “some prat with a silly watch”, but AKR has cold hard facts on his side; young John Connor from Terminator 2 was a white kid and he did wear a Public Enemy t-shirt. You just can’t argue with that. And that means Public Enemy are sell-outs! Don’t believe the hype!

 

Trashed! The Velvet Underground & Nico

Trashed! The Pixies

Trashed! ‘Odelay’ by Beck

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Arctic Monkeys - Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not Sleeve

Trashed! Arctic Monkeys – ‘Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not’

Arctic Monkeys’ 2006 debut, Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not, was and remains the fasting selling debut album in British music history. On its release it was rapturously received by the music press and won the 2006 Mercury Music Prize for Best Album, among many, many other accolades. It has gone quintuple platinum for sales in the UK and has sold more than three million copies worldwide.

Naturally, a bunch of whippersnappers with regional British accents having success like this was always going to annoy people of a certain mind-set, and some of these reactionaries have taken to the reviews section of everybody’s favourite online retail giant to vent their fury. And please note, there are A LOT of these reviews and some of them get VERY angry!

For example, here’s RW having his say on Whatever People Say… in a review from 2006 entitled “Look who escaped from the zoo!”:

“Arctic monkeys is an apt name for this band of slouching, knuckle dragging, ‘pop-punk’ apes. They certain [sic] sound as if they are stuck somewhere prior to evolution, strumming on bananas and hurling their own ‘shit’ (the music) everywhere!”

It was nice of RW to explain his ‘shit’ metaphor for us there. He obviously felt that the meaning of ‘strumming on bananas’ was self-explanatory though. RW continues:

“This is undoubtably [sic] the worst album i have heard this year and ranks in my top 3 worst ever. I know that everyone has their own opinion but honestly, if you’ve got half a musical brain you should be able to see the artic [sic] monkeys for what they really are.”

What’s that then, RW?

“The Arctic Monkeys aren’t musicians, they are bullshit-merchants… delivering easy listening music for the affluent hip”

Ah, OK. Fair enough. Thanks.

SS seems to agree with him anyway. His 2006, one-star review is titled “The media say this is good, So thats why I buy it”, to make sure everyone knows that he’s immune to the hype surrounding it.

“I feel shame and pity for all you people going out to buy this album! I am very bitter! All the good bands before the monkeys who received little to no recognition must be turning in their graves!”

This kind of assumes that everyone who was ever in an underappreciated band before the Arctic Monkey, died prior to 2006, which seems unlikely to me. Anyway, SS is our trusted and impartial arbiter, unimpressed by hype and able to focus on the music itself with searing, brutal honesty. He continues:

“Don’t get me wrong I like what I have heard of the songs”

Huh? You like the songs? What was all that “I feel shame and pity” talk about then? Why the one-star rating?

Maybe it’ll become clear as the review continues (spoiler: it won’t):

“I cannot understand why it is going to be the fastest selling debut album ever beating Definitely Maybe (what is going on?). The monkeys are overrated beyond belief a good band yes but why so big I’m sure they even have to ask why themselves that.”

Still, overhyped and overrated are recurring themes in the one-star reviews, as if they’re the fault of the band.

“The most over-hyped band that I can ever remember. Arctic Monkeys – see Roget’s thesaurus for drivel, pants, mince, torture, white noise.”

Says KP, whose thesaurus seems to be broken. Ch meanwhile says:

“IT IS NOT BETTER THAN THE BEATLES”

Which may be true, but seems like a slightly unfair standard to be setting. JA is similarly furious at not having his high expectations met:

“Lyrics? You can barely hear them and they’re hardly Larkin or Plath.”

I don’t know, you get yourself a few thumbs-ups from the NME and all of a sudden you’re asked to hold your own against two of the 20th Century’s greatest poets and the most popular band of all time. Doesn’t that seem a little harsh? It gets worse too. An anonymous review from 2006 says:

“The hype for this album is quite shocking, because it is not the best album ever nor ever will be!”

Now I get this sort of cynicism, I really do. Hype can be very off-putting to a certain sort of music fan! By 2006 I too was already old enough and cynical enough to be unimpressed by this sort of hysteria and to have heard it all before. I might never have bothered with Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not if one friend in particular hadn’t kept bugging me to give the album a chance. But to dock an album points just because other people like it seems perverse!

For instance, this is how DFAW closes his 2006 review:

“2 stars rather than 3 to balance the hype”

Anyone see the irony here? If that’s not allowing yourself to be affected by hype, I’m not sure what is.

Aside from those reviewers queueing up to trash the Arctic Monkeys for not having created the greatest album of all time, you also get some downright weird reviews. Like BJ, a 2007 American reviewer who wrote:

“Wow, I was appalled and ashamed. These songs, besides all sounding alike, sound like they’re written and performed by a group of hooligans who can’t strum their wee wees.”

Or CS who dredges up this little yarn from his limited imagination:

“It’s your girlfriend’s best friend’s sister’s wedding, the dj turns off spandau ballet for a short interlude- a few lads who the bride used to go to school with have formed a band and are going to play a few numbers. The dj calls everyone to attention and the band run us through ‘fake tales of san francisco’, ‘When the sun goes down’ and ‘I bet you look good on the dancefloor’ (Aunty Maud particularly liked this one- ‘But’, she added, ‘why does he sing in such a funny voice?’. The crowd applaud generously and scuttle off in search of sausage rolls, champagne and a dance with a bride’s maid, while the dj puts spandau back on- right from the point where he left it.”

OK, mate! Or finally, and weirdest of all, F24 who was so utterly furious about the Arctic Monkeys back in 2006, he left a 571 WORD, one-star review/rant about their debut album entitled, a tad melodramatically, “I have stared directly into the void of the human soul”. It’s almost all wrong too, and here are some of the highlights:

“The Arctic Monkeys are a Frankenstein’s monkster [sic] of record Company cynicism. They seem like the product of market research, focus groups, bar charts, pie charts and a few too many listens of ‘Up The Bracket’.”

And…

“And that Voice! All the charm of syphilis straight from the back streets of some Yorkshire town.”

And…

“It’s so forced and contrived, it screams ‘middle class boys overcompensating’ or should I say ‘MIDDLE CLASS BOYS OVER COMPENSAATIN”

And…

“So not only is it irritating, it fails to connect on any sort of emotional level. Of course, emotions are for ‘gurls’. These guys probably worked in coal mines before they got signed, and you don’t talk about your feelings down there.”

And…

“Not that it matters but they’re horrible people, arrogant, mysoginistic, homophobic, unintellegent, illiterate morons who would probably call Liam Gallagher ‘ded braaineh’.”

And…

“This album is the lowest common denominator of 21st Century culture. It may not seem like it but it’s afraid. It’s afraid of it’s own feelings, it’s afraid of alienating people by talking about something that no one knows about.”

And…

“Yes, everyone has fallen out with a bouncer, everyone has had a bigger guy push them around. Everyone has also eaten muffins, tripped on a loose paving flag, drank water, watched adverts for shampoo and tied their shoe laces. It does not mean that songs about such things are an incicive comment on modern life. May their fall from grace be quick and painful. Whenever it is I hope I’m still alive.”

Phew! Such anger! 12 years, five further Arctic Monkeys albums on and still no sign of that “quick and painful fall from grace”, I wonder if F24 is still alive and waiting for it. If he/she’s got that wound up back then about an indie album that no one forced him to listen to, considering the shit that’s gone down since, my guess is sadly, probably not.

This blog post is dedicated to his memory.

 

Trashed! ‘Disintegration’ by The Cure

Trashed! The Velvet Underground & Nico

Trashed! ‘Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols’

Trashed! L7 – ‘Bricks Are Heavy’

For a brief period in the early-nineties, L7’s abrasive, metallic, punk-rock sound crossed over into the mainstream. They’d already released two albums of their ferocious grunge before they recorded Bricks Are Heavy with Butch Vig. That LP, and in particular, its lead single, the slacker anthem Pretend We’re Dead chimed with the zeitgeist, got a lot of airplay, caught imaginations and become a surprise global hit.

No one would claim that L7 achieved universal popularity, but they were loud, brash, self-deprecating and funny and they put out some of the most memorable tracks of the brief period when grunge was everywhere. L7’s contribution to that particular phenomenon is often overlooked these days but Bricks Are Heavy is an essential album of the genre; solid quality from start to finish and with some moments of real inspiration.

However, that’s not enough for some folks. And some of them have registered their displeasure via the medium of the Amazon review.

Some reviewers, like N in 2018, get straight to the point

“I HATE IT”

That’s the title and those are her capitals. The entire review reads:

“Wasn’t the music I thought it would be. Please take it back.”

No explanation of what she was expecting or why she bought it in the first place, but she gets across her opinion pretty succinctly. As does S, who dismisses Bricks Are Heavy, with the exception of Pretend We’re Dead, as “90s dirge”.

SBS employs a different tactic, lulling the reader in with a little praise to reassure everyone that he’s a considered and reasonable person:

“I respect that this band was an innovator in the grunge movement”

It’s a two-star review, so you know there’s a ‘but’ coming:

“But the songs are not that strong making this more form over substance.”

There it is! In fact SBS is so reasonable that he offers L7 some useful retrospective career advice:

“This band would have been better off steering towards a more melodic direction (the naysayers will call that going “pop”, “selling out”, “going commercial”). When you are a band, a good band, it’s not because you’re in a certain genre, or you are a pioneering feminist movement or anything else. Good songs/musicianship/arrangement are just that. Grunge is fine music but there’s only so much that you can do with it. This band should have taken a hint from what Joan Jett did and sprout some wings and develop and progress. They should have pursued the nuances of the bandmates and pulled from the grunge.”

No doubt L7 will be kicking themselves for not having received the benefit of SBS’s wisdom back in the ‘90s and transformed themselves into a completely band. Too late now, sadly.

CW is also dishing out free advice; this time to potential buyers:

“Save your money and down load from I TUNES”

As is an anonymous reviewer from 2000:

“Save your pennies… you will be bored with the CD within a few spins.”

That review finishes with this cryptic sentence:

“Courtney Love is still the girl with the most cake.”

Now that’s one to ponder. CLD is also pretty thought-provoking in her review from 2003.

“Feminism is more than just tampons and big boots…”.

And that’s just the title. CLD goes on to credit herself with having her finger squarely on the pulse:

“British fans of the feminist Riot Grrrl movement will, or indeed, should know that it’s taken a good while for this pretty underground phenomenon to reach our shores and get anywhere near the level of recognition it should. L7, along with the likes of Bikini Kill, Babes In Toyland, Luna Chicks have been battering away at their guitars and rambling into mic’s about the life of your average everyday riot grrrl for a good few years with only a few of us finely tuned individuals paying much attention.”

Just to reiterate, this was written in 2003, several years after every single one of the bands CLD lists had split up and more than a decade after Riot Grrrl movement peaked. Truly CLD is a “finely tuned individual”. She reckons that “L7 had all the balls but not much originality”, gives Bricks Are Heavy zero stars and recommends that “beginners to the scene” look elsewhere because “the joy is found more in the message than the musical content here and we wouldn’t want to put you off!”

But if you thought CLD was patronising, B’s 2013 review takes condescension to a new level. Look away Riot Grrrls, here’s the title:

“There’s a reason why women and conventional anger is a difficult combination”

Ouch! The review itself says:

“The songs on “Bricks are Heavy” are not genuinely hard or even remotely emotional or “beautiful”; rather they are extremely conventional hard rock with a different lyrical attitude.”

“The vocals of Donita Sparks, Suzi Gardner and Jennifer Finch are extremely bland and lacking in any sort of feeling whatsoever.”

And:

“the moodiness is so superficial”

Before this knockout closer:

“Women singing with an angry tone is awkward for biological reasons, and Sparks, Finch and Gardner do not even since [sic] with an “angry” tone here, rather L7 offer ordinary hard rock songs devoid even of hooks.”

B is all over the place here and leaves a lot of questions hanging. Are L7 attempting to sing in an “angry tone” or not? What’s so different about their “lyrical attitude”? And, most importantly, what are these “biological reasons”? We may never know, but it’s safe to conclude that B is just the sort of clueless, misogynistic dipshit that L7 would’ve really enjoyed eating alive.

l7-banner

Trashed! The Velvet Underground & Nico

Trashed! ‘Loveless’ by My Bloody Valentine

‘Fuel My Fire’ by L7 covered by The Prodigy – Magnificent Cover Version No.18

 

Trashed! The Velvet Underground & Nico

The Velvet Underground & Nico is undoubtedly one of the most influential LPs of all time. Released in 1967 as the band’s debut album, it launched the long careers of Lou Reed, John Cale and Moe Tucker.

It has become an enduring icon and a phenomenon. It initially sold only 30,000 copies, but has been certified platinum in the UK since. Brian Eno famously said that “everyone who bought one of those 30,000 copies started a band”.

The Velvet Underground & Nico is the 13th best album of all time, according to Rolling Stone Magazine, behind only artists like The Beatles, Stones, The Beach Boys, Elvis, Miles Davis and Dylan. Pitchfork rates it as the best album of the 60s. NME puts it third. The Observer rated it at number one in a list of albums that changed music and everyone, EVERYONE since has cited it as an influence.

But of course, not everyone likes it. And some of those who don’t have kindly spent some time providing considered and informed counter-arguments to all the glowing reviews on Amazon.

In fact there are A LOT of negative reviews. They can be roughly divided into three categories:

  1. Reviews by The Velvet Underground/Lou Reed fans who don’t rate this album
  2. Reviews by people who dislike the Velvet Underground.
  3. Reviews by people who hate The Velvet Underground and refuse to believe that anyone else really likes them either

Velvet Underground.jpg

So, let’s have a quick scoot through categories 1 and 2 before we get to the one that’s the most fun – category 3.

1. Reviews by VU/Lou Reed fans who don’t rate this album

PP considers Lou Reed’s Transformer to be a “masterpiece” while The Velvet Underground & Nico is mainly dreadful”, virtually tuneless rubbish and, in a meaningless reference to the album’s sleeve art, “definitely a banana skin”.

BBB5 also reckons Reed is a brilliant solo artist”, but just can’t see many people, in the 21st century, listening to this album and finding it a pleasurable experience”, because it’s “a pile of junk” and “nothing more than Andy Warhol’s joke, and he’s laughing at us all from beyond the grave!”.

Another, Anonymous reviewer reaches a similar conclusion. He/she grudgingly concedes that Lou Reed’s “talent developed gradually and is only slightly in evidence here” and that TVU&N is influential, but suggests that that’s the only reason people own it.

He/she then ponders:

“How much owners of this formerly obscure artifact from an excessive era really do listen to it? I mean even those owners who profess to be passionately devoted to it. I doubt very often.”

Any idea? Don’t worry, Anonymous isn’t going to leave that question hanging:

“I doubt very often. I imagine very seldom.”

So now you know.

2. Reviews by people who dislike The Velvet Underground

Typical for this category is this Anonymous reviewer:

“A good example of an album which is overrated to a degree that is surreal. One suspects that this has little to do with the music, and more to do with the mind set of the overrater [sic] on first hearing it.”

He/she doesn’t bother to explain what he/she meant by that second sentence before going on to criticise the singing, musicianship and compositions. But then, judging by the fact that the review is nonsensically titled “overrated overhyped overhere [sic]”, this reviewer just likes putting words together without worrying too much about what they mean.

JF describes it as “Tedious and limited” and ponders, “How this ever achieved cult status is a miracle”. For B, it’s “more about the cover than the music”.

WW is also unimpressed:

“After reading reviews in Amazon and references in Rolling Stone, I was sure I was going to love this album. I didn’t. It was poorly engineered, consisted mostly of disorganized sounds and didn’t seem to have any redeeming features.”

…but philosophical:

“On the bright side, it wasn’t very inexpensive, so my experience didn’t cost much.”

For AFABR, writing in 2005, it’s just too damn old:

“This was a classic in its day. Listning [sic] to this album in 2005 is truly painfull [sic]..it’s almost 40 years old. You do the rest of the math…..”

Meanwhile, PP doesn’t care about its age, just that it’s “virtually tuneless rubbish”. DB calls it “dated”, another Anonymous reviewer says “musically it is not up to scratch” and PM confesses to finding it “interesting but not my cup of tea”, which is fair and reasonable, but not as much fun as those in the next category…

3. Reviews by people who hate The Velvet Underground and refuse to believe that anyone else really likes them either

In his review of TVU&N, titled “The most over rated band/album of all time”, JC explains:

“This is the most self-indulgent of all albums.”

Before taking a deep breath and blurting out:

“It just has enough pretentiousness about it to be one of those things that people who want to appear cool and ‘with it’ will band about in conversations like they have this hidden knowledge of music and that these awful bunch of albums in some way define them as being more music obsessed more music knowledgeable and more ‘cool’ than you.”

Picture poor JC, constantly put down by pretentious Velvet Underground fans. He can’t take it anymore! He snaps:

“The only reason any C thinks it is a classic is because when your [sic] stoned off your Ts it probably does sound profane and remarkable but otherwise in the real world with a cup of tea maybe it just doesn’t have the same impact.”

No doubt he means profound rather than profane, but you’ll have to guess what he means by ‘C’ and ‘Ts’. He concludes his ranted review by saying “I’ve got proper music to be listening to”. Let’s hope he had that cup of tea and calmed himself down after writing this.

But there’s certainly no shortage of reviewers who agree with him. Like BD, who wrote this one-star review in 2007:

“VU remain amongst the darlings of the average bo-bo pseudo-intellectual, an acquired taste handed down from generation to generation.”

Not sure what he means by “bo-bo”? But BD obviously believes he’s seen through the hype. As does this Anonymous reviewer in 2001:

“This album is one of those records that is bought by sophomores in college who want to look cool. It is soooo avant-garde and so hip to buy an album all the other cool people say that you should have.”

Along the same lines is EF, ranting in 2006:

“I don’t understand why this band is so revered, and why it’s almost a necessity in certain social circles to pretend you like this band if you really don’t. This is not for listening to, this is for displaying on your shelf so you can look cool in front of your hipster doofus friends.”

SW, writing in 2004 is similarly nonplussed:

“For all of the hushed, awed appraisals of the 1967 VU release “The Velvet Underground and Nico,” I really doubt that anyone truly enjoys this album–those who claim to are simply falling victim to “Well-I-guess-I’m-supposed-to-like-this” syndrome.”

Finally, there’s SMR’s review, and subsequent debacle, which might shed some light on this whole ‘pretentiousness’ issue. In 2014, SMR wrote:

“There’s nothing in the world worse than people striving to be “avant-garde” It invariably leads to suffocating pretentiousness (like this junk). I truly believe that deep-down many of those who praise this album to the high-heavens are doing so to be “fashionable” and “more sophisticated”—it makes them somehow “superior” to us average bourgeois slobs with no “taste”—-YUCK…BARF!!”

This prompted RH to step in and take issue. He replied to SMR’s comment to point out:

“The Velvets practically created so many genres that it’s unbelievable. The Doors wouldn’t exist without them, nor would a good majority of the bands that have come out since.”

Predictably, SMR doesn’t like The Doors either. He replied that “the ‘mythologizing’ of Jim Morrison and The Doors has gone beyond the absurd”, but concedes that “they had a unique dramatic quality”.

Then comes a twist, with a third participant, G, coming out of nowhere to stick his oar in. He takes issue with both SMR’s dislike for The Velvet Underground and any tolerance for The Doors, replying to these comments with this pompous and ridiculously optimistic plea:

“But you do understand that the Doors suck, right? By all means like their music but at the same time wrap your mind around the fact that they are a pretty terrible group. I hope you do the opposite of that with VU. While understanding the music is not to your taste realize that they made great music and were one of the few truly watershed artists of the 1960s.”

Got that? So G will condescendingly allow you to enjoy The Doors, but insists that you must acknowledge that they’re shit. You must also concede that The Velvet Underground’s music was objectively great, whether you like it or not. G, who let’s remember, no one was talking to in the first place, has come blundering on to the scene to declare himself the unarguable arbiter of good musical taste.

Maybe it’s people like G that are the problem? Maybe all these negative reviewers are lashing out at the Velvet Underground because they’re sick of being lectured on them by dicks like G. If so, I can’t say I blame them.

Trashed! ‘Loveless’ by My Bloody Valentine

Trashed! The Pixies

Trashed! ‘Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols’

Trashed! ‘Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols’

Never Mind The Bollocks is everything a ‘seminal’ album should be – powerful, influential, controversial, timeless. It’s an iconic, genre-defining masterpiece held up as an inspiration for most of the great bands that have followed in the decades since, as well as several of the shit ones.

Forty years on from its release, it’s always included in greatest albums lists for its cultural significance, its furious power and its fearlessly abrasive attitude. It’s also stacked with genuinely great songs. No matter how many times you’ve heard it, you can’t listen to it again without being affected by it one more time.

It goes without saying that Never Mind The Bollocks isn’t meant for everyone. The whole point of the Sex Pistols was to upset and antagonise and their only proper album encapsulates this. It polarised opinion in 1977 and it’s doing the same thing now.

Nowadays those who feel confused or offended by the Sex Pistols have the opportunity to get their opinions out via online reviews. And boy do they take that opportunity!

“TOTAL PISS…..god save my ears”

That’s the title of a review from one anonymous Amazon UK commenter. The review, that’s heavy on anger, but light on punctuation, gives Never Mind The Bollocks the minimum one star, stating:

“the sex pistols the worst band in the world a bunch of spotty bums “playing” instruments they haven’t got a clue how to play and just winging [sic] and making a dreadful sound.”

The review continues (unedited):

“the sex pistols surely did pull the wool over peoples eyes in the late 70’s when real music was happening i bet they thought lets make an album of bollocks say a swear word on television and then we will have huge success… and one other thing jonny rotten can’t sing”

Predictably, the ‘they couldn’t sing or play their instruments’ cliche is a recurring theme from the negative reviewers. JJW is among the most vehement in taking this line:

“I have never accepted “punk” as a form of music because it takes NO TALENT WHATSOEVER to play a generic pair/trio of chords. Just learn to play guitar for a few months and you’ll be able to “play” this garbage effortlessly.”

JJW may not be sure how many chords you’d need to master to play the Sex Pistols’ music, ‘effortlessly’, but he’s absolutely certain that it would take “NO TALENT WHATSOEVER”. Some people call that the democratising power of punk, obviously not JJW.

Over in America, HC isn’t a fan either:

“I hate the Sex Pistols. I bought the album and then sold it the next day.”

This might seem like HC hasn’t given Never Mind the Bollocks the chance to grow on him, but it’s understandable when he explains the peculiar effects it has on him:

“I can’t listen to that annoying whine without gritting my teeth and stabbing my ears.”

Nasty! Considering that, it sounds like getting rid of the album was the only sane course of action for HC. But not only is he unable to appreciate it, he’s unable to appreciate why anyone else would appreciate it:

“You Pistols fans think you’re any better than the 12 year old girl next door with the Sum 41 shirt? They’re a joke and so are you.”

Wait a minute – so is it the Sex Pistols, Sum 41 or the 12 year old girls next door with Sum 41 shirts who are a joke as well as us? And who dragged Sum 41 into this anway? We may never know.

There’s another confusing one-star review from Anonymous in the USA:

“Basically if you think you’re punk cuz you listen to this, well you’re nothing but a stupid trendy poseur who says all the punk things, listen to all the punk things, and conforms to all the punk things.”

Right, so if you listen to punk, speak like a punk and act like a punk, you’re not a punk, you’re a “stupid trendy poseur”. Got it, thanks.

NU is aggrieved that the Pistols released an album at all:

“This band never intended to release an album but sold out and the result is that loads of people were conned into buying an L.P. that had a load of dross plus the singles that they had already bought.”

Before making this shocking admission:

“In the iPod era this album would have died a speedy death as people would only want the three songs and if they flet [sic] the need to have the album for completeness they would just download it for free.”

Now what sort of a comment is this? NU seems to be advocating a sort of Darwinian attitude to musicians and their output, where only those who can muster more than three great singles per album should be allowed to survive. Harsh! And NU gives Never Mind the Bollocks the minimum one star rating as a result.

Other one star reviews come from AML, who adds, oxymoronically that he/she would rather have given it:

“at least minus 10 stars”

…from PV, who inexplicably felt that this insight was worth sharing:

“Deffo not a SP fan,was asked by a bride if I could play SPs at her wedding found this collection all the known numbers are on it.”

…and from TWG, who refuses to let his loose knowledge of the facts stop him from sharing his opinion on the band:

“Johnny Rotton [sic] is a fool of the highest order. He murdered his girlfriend and was always a pathetic washed up junkie.”

As well as getting this completely wrong, TWG also insists on making this dubious claim:

“try playing this in a crowd and everyone will go silent, in an embarressed [sic], awkward way (I have actually seen this happen, even when half of the crowd had an affiliation with punk music).

Really, TWG? Did that happen? Or did you just make it up?

Finally, we come to AKRAKR seems to be slightly obsessed with the Sex Pistols, having posted at least half-a-dozen reviews of them on the US Amazon. In one of his/her first reviews AKR acknowledges the band’s historical importance:

“Cheers to the band for pretty much starting the punk rock genre…”

But there’s a ‘but’ coming:

“but really at this early stage punk rock is really awful. The Sex Pistols have a really annoying singer, unmemorable songs, and a pretty stupid name too.”

In various later reviews AKR refers to them as “the $hit Pistols”, “the Linkin Park of the 70s”, “manufactured corporate trash”, a “cr@ppy piece of $hit band”, and “a blatent [sic] marketing scam dreamed up by a bunch of fat, balding, cigar smoking record company executives in suits and ties”.

AKR‘s exhaustively explains his/her objections to the band over several reviews. These include “a horribly irritating singer” with a voice that’s “literally painful to listen to”, “absolutely boring and rhthymically corrupt songs”, that they were “utterly hypocritical” and, just to hammer the point home, “IT’S NOT EVEN GOOD MUSIC, FOR GOODNESS SAKE!” With one exception:

“Don’t get the CD, but if possible get their decent hit “Anarchy in the U.K.” I do like that one.” 

And if you think that’s giving mixed messages, the last review I can find from AKR finishes with this advice:

“DON’T BUY THIS! If you really must buy it, destroy the CD right afterwards.”

Yeah, good idea AKR, that’ll show those cigar chomping record company execs!

 

The Sex Pistols covering ‘Substitute’ by The Who – Magnificent Cover Version No.29

Trashed! ‘Loveless’ by My Bloody Valentine

Trashed! The Pixies

Trashed! ‘Loveless’ by My Bloody Valentine

My Bloody Valentine are widely regarded as one of the most original and ground-breaking bands of all time. They inspire rare levels of devotion in their fans and are cited as an influence by thousands of subsequent artists in various genres. Pitchfork names Loveless as the best album of the nineties, Rolling Stone had it at number 219 in its “500 Greatest Albums of all Time” and The Irish Times puts it as number 1 in the “Top 40 Irish Albums of all Time”.

MBV are critically acclaimed and loved intensely for their melodies, musicianship, beauty and phenomenal power and Loveless is viewed by many as their timeless masterpiece.

But of course, not everybody likes it. Some people just don’t see the appeal. And some of those that have remained unimpressed have been good enough to share the benefit of their experience in online reviews over the years.

LE heads his/her one-star review of Loveless “A new definition for ‘terrible'” and speculates that This has to be one of the worst albums ever recorded in the history of time”.

Anon, is of a similar opinion, also giving Loveless the minimum one star and a review entitled “A very bad album”, which concludes by comparing it to “a load of poop on a chair”. LB’s 2009 review states that the album is “The worst crap ever”.

HHB, continues the ‘crap’ theme with this considered, if grammatically suspect, advice:

“really really crappy don’t do this to yourself forget this crap and this stupid type of music”

Fair enough, HHB, doesn’t like it. This was flagged up in the title of the review (HHB‘s capitals) – “STUPID CRAP FROM THE DUMB BORING EARLY 90S” – but of more interest than that is this fascinating simile from the beginning of the review:

“This music is so stupid and weird not in a good unique way but just an uncomfortable way like when you are at someone’s house and you don’t like them and want to go home but you can’t and you probably have to spend the night in their living room…”

Huh? Does this happen to anyone else? HHB uses this as an example of something that’s “stupid”, “weird” and not “unique”, so it seems to be a regular occurrence for him/her. HHB doesn’t expand on this in the course of the review, which is a shame because it seems like he/she has a story to tell.

NS also has a story to tell and isn’t as shy as HHB. His/her review takes in Mozart, acid house and the Berlin Wall. Here’s a (small) excerpt:

“All notion of talent is historical, but some people certainly rely much more on contextual receptivity than voluntaristic [sic] genius. MBV are the former. Just like Mozart’s 2nd rate elevator work hypnotized his contemporaries who basically wanted music to sound pretty and dainty while they ate bonbons and powdered their wigs, MBV released a record during an age where, mindbogglingly people were willing to hear anything that sounded like apathy, but loud.”

Phew! NS is quite the iconoclast. Not content with having a pop at My Bloody Valentine and the early-nineties (again!), he/she has dragged Mozart into it as well. The review continues at length in the same vain – including the descriptions “passive-aggressive neuroticism” and “formally formless” – before concluding:

“Some people think this is the apex of music: music as music, pure music, a religious experience, the sublime that blows you away. Others like me simply keep powdering their wigs and eating bonbons.”

By the time I’d read the whole review I felt like I’d been forced to spend the night in the living room of someone I don’t like.

Predictably, NS’s gibberish provoked some reactions.

MF wrote, “I thought Pitchfork wrote impenetrable, dull reviews that manage to say little to nothing about the music. But this review…Jesus Christ.”

Whilehit back with, “The powdered wig may be interfering with your hearing”.  AM replied simply, “Are they particularly sour bonbons?”

NS may be wordy, but he/she has nothing on an anonymous review of Loveless from 2004 entitled “Quite possibly the worst album I’ve ever heard”. It goes on for more than 700 words. What’s wrong with succinctly comparing it to “poop on a chair” if that’s how you feel? Some of the highlights of the review include:

“just because something is unique doesn’t make that thing good”

“the most gut-wrenching horrific unattractive pile of terrible sounds that I have ever experienced”

and

“I cannot physically stand to listen to this album.”

Finally, if you feel like that last reviewer made a misstep in purchasing Loveless, wait until you hear from TM.

TM‘s 2010 review includes this line:

“I thought from the band name that they’d sound like My Chemical Romance, how wrong I was!”

A good thing, surely? But no! On closer inspection TM is disappointed by this, and has given Loveless two stars.

C responds to TM, asking:

“What on Earth possessed you to think it might sound like My Chemical Romance? Just because both bands have names that start with ‘My’?”

It’s a fair question and nicely put. But sadly it’s now seven years since C asked it and TM is yet to reply. Fortunately, My Bloody Valentine fans are a patient bunch.

The Mary Chain, My Bloody Valentine, Dinosaur Jr & Blur – ‘Rollercoaster’ 1992

Trashed! The Pixies

Trashed! ‘Odelay’ by Beck