Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Album Rankings: 100-91

100. Tenacious D: Tenacious D

Okay, okay. They are crass. They are juvenile. They are downright satanic. But they are funny, and more importantly, their music is catchy and surprisingly intricate. The songs on this album are brilliant, but I gave a huge deduction for their betrayal of their acoustic roots; they never, ever should have even considered full band arrangements on these songs. Their whole shtick is that two guys with acoustic guitars can rock harder than nine-piece heavy metal bands, but they apparently don’t really believe that, because there was way too much distortion on this album. Listen, JB and KG, you are better than that! Get back to acoustic rock and roll and leave the electric guitars to the Jonas Brothers. Do you really want to be associated with them?

99. No Doubt: Tragic Kingdom

This was a favorite of mine when I was 12 or 13. As I listened to it for the first time in years, I realized that Gwen Stefani’s voice gives me syphilis. She just sounds like she’s trying too hard! The rest of the band is pretty good, and the songs are very catchy. It’s just that they need an attractive singer with an attractive voice. Don’t get me wrong, though. This is a good album. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be on this list.

98. Simon and Garfunkel: The Concert in Central Park

Simon and Garfunkel have a lot of great songs, and Paul Simon’s solo career has spawned a good number as well. (Art Garfunkel’s solo career has been less successful musically, although I’m pretty sure that his hair has been a principle inspiration for the wonder that is Phil Spector.) Many of these great songs appear on this album, including probably my favorite Paul Simon song, “Fifty Ways To Leave Your Lover.” That being said, there is too much of Simon’s solo stuff, and the album suffers from quality issues from the crowd. All live albums have this problem to some extent, but many are made enjoyable because you get to hear entertaining banter between the crowd and the performers. No such luck with this one. Just applause and yelling, which makes this a low-quality greatest hits album with annoying pauses in between songs.

97. Björk: Vespertine

Björk was at her best when she did dance music, but that was just for one album, and then she decided to start experimenting. Though a couple good songs can be found on Post and Homogenic, they are, for the most part, horrible. I am unequivocal on this point, despite what crazy hippies may say (and we all know that crazy hippies are the biggest followers of Björk). Vespertine actually came through with lots of interesting and relatively catchy songs. I haven’t listened to any of her albums after this one, but I think it shows the first real effectiveness of the direction she started taking with Post. To me, Björk is kind of like Schoenberg: she started off doing things that were relatively standard, but then started pushing the boundaries of music. This analogy completely breaks down, however, when you consider how many tickets Björk sells compared with the amount you hear any Schoenberg work being played by a symphony orchestra. Of course, one is a relatively attractive, eccentric female and the other was bald, cocky old guy.

96. Ben Folds: Rockin’ The Suburbs

I don’t really have much to say about this one. I don’t follow Ben Folds at all and I don’t really know anything about him other than that he plays piano and sings. Years ago, a friend gave me this album. It’s got some catchy songs with some catchy piano licks. Sometimes I think they’re a little too catchy, but that’s okay, I guess. It’s the lyrics that weird me out. Sometimes I think they are songs about nothing. But they’re catchy, and catchy goes a long way.

95. Elton John: Greatest Hits 1970-2002

I saw Elton John play live a few years back. It was a good time, and he’s definitely the biggest name I’ve ever seen play. His songs from the seventies are great, but in his later years he has become a little overproduced for my taste. I have a feeling that if this was a Greatest Hits album from 1970 to 1985 or so, it would have scored much higher. But despite growing up knowing most of his best songs, this is his only actual album (or compilation, as the case may be) that I own. So it gets ranked, but loses points for the more recent hits he’s written.

94. Please Please Me: The Beatles

I’m not really sure whether or not I agree with the lack of comma between the two iterations of “please.” I mean, I think that it works without the comma, but that first please is a nonessential part of the sentence, which I generally (but not always) think should be divided from the rest of the sentence with a comma. I guess it’s okay, but I always question it. I digress.

The reason a Beatles album ranks this low is because of the abundance of covers. The Beatles didn’t really hit their stride until they did all original music a few albums after this. Of course, without the covers, we never would have gotten “Twist and Shout,” which, as everyone in the world probably already knows but I will mention it here anyway, was done in one take at the end of a day’s recording, so John Lennon’s voice was shot.

A fun anecdote about this album: when I was sixteen or seventeen, I was in Sunday School and for some reason I mentioned the Beatles’ first album, Please Please Me. Everyone in the room was shocked. They thought I was being a smart ass and that The Beatles would never name an album so suggestively. Despite my protests that I was not, people thought I was being a jerk. I mean, I was a jerk, but in that case I was innocent.

93. Al Green: Al Green’s Greatest Hits

Here’s the thing about Al Green: he is super awesome. If you try to dispute this, you will probably be struck by lightning, especially because he went from soul to gospel later in his career. Speaking of his gospel music, “Belle” is one of the greatest songs on this album. In fact, I’m recanting on the qualification. It is the greatest song on this album, and if you don’t believe me, then you clearly hate your family, friends, and community.

92. Billy Bragg: Workers’ Playtime

Billy Bragg’s delightful British accent tickles me to death. About half the album is brilliant, while the other half is incredibly generic. I understand that this album was considered a betrayal for his fans, due to the addition of other instruments besides guitar. I can definitely empathize with that, but since these are the only Billy Bragg songs I’ve heard are right here, I can’t say I’m upset. I think the sparse keyboards, bass, and drums are charming. As is his accent. Did I mention that already?

91. Flight of the Conchords: Flight of the Conchords

I am remarkably generous to place this album on the list at all, and as I type this I wonder if it was a mistake (for those who may be wondering, Paul Simon’s Songs from The Capeman was unlucky #101). But one thing I’ve learned is that I should never doubt my gut, especially when it suggests that I eat disgusting but delicious foods. The reason I may not agree with my gut is that I haven’t really listened to this album more than once. I rated it based on the TV show, from which all of these songs were drawn. Oh well. It’s just how it’s going to be, because I am incapable of deleting anything I ever write. When FOTC are on, they’re really good (“Robots,” “Hiphopopotamus Vs. Rhymenocerous,” and “The Most Beautiful Girl (In The Room),” for example), but sometimes their songs are stupid and not compelling musically or comically. I still like them. It just might not be fair to put them on this list. (I am listening to the album now, though. I inspired myself!)

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