I’m kicking off a new series on Friday Night Lists, all about music. I’m a longtime musician–vocal and instrumental–and an avid fan of almost every type of music. The most common question when people look through our CD collection is, “How many people did you say live here?” So I thought I’d share a few lists that have been stewing in my head for a while.
Obviously, I have very definite opinions about stuff, but I’m always willing to be talked down from wherever I’ve treed myself lately. Please, try to convince me I’m wrong! Until then…
THE FIVE MOST OVERRATED BANDS EVER
- Led Zeppelin–They’re good instrumentalists, I’ll give them that, but DEAR GODS THE SCREAMING. Robert Plant sounds like a cat in heat being skint. And just because you CAN play the same song for fifteen minutes doesn’t mean you should. I’m looking at you, too, Phish.
- Wings–Paul, you know I love you. I really do. But after The Beatles broke up, you went a little mad. Synthesizers aren’t a step on the Stages of Grief. If I ever have to hear that Christmas song again while I’m shopping for gifts, I swear, there will be blood.
- Rush–I’m not picking on the ’70s, really, I’m not. Lots of great bands came out of the ’70s (seriously). But Rush has only has two things going for it: concept albums (which almost never work the way you mean them to) and the utterly inimitable voice of Geddy Lee. And by “inimitable,” I mean, I’m glad nobody else can sing like him.
- The Stone Roses–The biggest of the bands to come out of the Manchester movement in the ’90s, they seemed to think that massive distortion and a whiny, mumbly frontman somehow equaled “cool and inscrutable.” I don’t want to scrut them or anything else. Just ghastly.
- The Rolling Stones–If I want to listen to music influenced by American blues and R&B, I will listen to ANY OTHER BLACK MUSICIAN EVER. If I specifically want to hear blues miraculously done well by a pasty Brit, I’ll listen to Clapton. If I want to watch someone strut bizarrely around the stage or play drunk/stoned off his ass, I’ll hire a chicken and Slash. They wrote some good songs, but every single one of them, I like better when covered by somebody else.
Now, if you haven’t stopped reading out of sheer fury yet, here are five bands that are/were huge that totally deserved it:
- The Beatles–The single best assemblage of songwriters in rock & roll history. From their delightfully proto-punk early garage-band sound, to jangly fun teen pop, to wild concept albums like Sgt. Pepper, to the incomparably elegant simplicity of songs like “Yesterday” and “Let It Be,” they deserved every superlative in the book.
- Pink Floyd–Every time I put on one of their albums, I’m immediately struck by how far ahead of their time they were. I’ve done that for over 20 years now, and I have every reason to think that they’ll still sound that way in another 40. “The Wall” is the concept album that made everyone else want to try one, and some of David Gilmour’s guitar solos bring tears to my eyes every time I hear them. Not to mention the fact that they put on a HELL of a show–I had the great good luck to see them on the Division Bell tour. Staggeringly weird, beautiful images and insane production values. Incomparable.
- U2–Say what you want about Bono’s politics, or which of the sounds they’ve attempted over the years may have been ill-advised, but they execute like professionals every single time. The best of their stuff is the simplest, the most stripped-down. And time and time again, they changed the direction of modern rock. Another phenomenal show, as well.
- R.E.M.–I’ll admit to major bias here; they’re one of my all-time favorite bands. But they’re another group that consistently shaped the sound of musicians around them for decades. Michael Stipe’s voice isn’t perfect, and his lyrics are more like abstract word paintings than poetry, but Peter Buck and Mike Mills are virtuosic in their skills, and Bill Berry is a freaking metronome with improv chops to boot. Again, their simplicity is their strength, and even the songs you love to hate, you find yourself singing along with.
- Metallica–Say what you will about metal, but its mainstream acceptance today owes itself entirely to Metallica. Whether they’re better than Iron Maiden or Black Sabbath or any of the bands that came before them isn’t my department. I’m not even a big fan. But they radically changed the landscape of acceptable music and opened the front door for Punk and Industrial and host of other genres that we can hear on the radio today.