Tis' an exciting time of year for music critics. From January through November, carpel-tunnel prone wordsmiths like us often are faced with editorial pressure to “go easy” on certain releases. Or perhaps we are encouraged to throw praise upon hyped albums that probably never deserved it.
But now is that beautiful month when all such sins of withheld-expression can be forgiven. Because as end-of-the-year-lists are pieced together, it's finally acceptable for writers at last to divulge our feelings about the music that we consumed over the past year.
That “comeback” Limp Bizkit record that we really used as aural punishment for our misbehaving dog? Our apologies. Travis Barker's “innovative” solo release for its choice of guests that in reality was as groundbreaking as Sporty Thievz' “No Pigeons”? Again, please forgive us. It's these sort of misdeeds we want to get off our chest. So, in the rant-like spirit of this shit-talking season, we're unloading on the albums of 2011 that were just flat-out disappointing. We wouldn't lie to you.
10.Lou Reed and Metallica
If we were to merely compile a list of the year's straight-up worst albums, it'd be hard not to place this oddball pairing right at the top. A joint Rock and Roll Hall of Fame rendition of “Sweet Jane” was the instigator behind these 87 minutes of your life you'll never get back. It's hard to say this album had potential, but you'd have to think something could be cooked up that would be even remotely better than this. Frankly, so much hatred has been dumped on this collection of Reed's deranged “poetry” atop Metallica's cheeseball riffs that even talking about it probably gives it too much credit. So, we'll stop.
9. Jessie J
Who You Are
One of pop music's more enduring — and pathetic — trends is the game of mimicry. Here's the formula: artist becomes successful, label signs similar artist molding him or her in the exact image of previously successful artist, new artist fails to live up to expectations. Something about U.K. pop star Jessie J, whom Interscope has tried absurdly hard over the past year to promote as a more sophisticated Katy Perry with a slightly daring Gaga edge, felt different, though. Something could have been there. Alas, it was not to be. Jessie J's debut album Who You Are was so devoid of hooks that a new single “Domino” had to be rushed out after its release. Take her B.o.B.-featuring single “Price Tag.” In all honesty, this track sounded better when that one shy girl on The Voice sang it looking as excited as a decapitated deer on the back of a flatbed. Not to mention, there was also that whole “gimp house band” performance at the VMAs. Ouch.
8. Red Hot Chili Peppers
I'm With You
When John Fruiscante parted ways with these perennial punk funkers following 2006's unambitious double LP Stadium Arcadium, it probably went without saying that any new Chili Peppers LP was going to be a downgrade. But for this year's I'm With You, newcomer guitarist Josh Klinghoffer was now in the fold. Things could be reenergized, right? Wait, what? It's the same-sounding record they've put out for a decade? Anthony Keidis is still longing to have sex with a girl on a beach in SoCal while Rick Rubin surfs in the nearby waves giving him a big thumbs up? Hell, at least Flea and the dude who looks like Will Ferrell are still kinda cool.
Damon Albarn is a forward-thinking dude. Back when he was fronting Blur, what lunatic could have predicted he'd soon invent a cartoon band and simultaneously commission the National Orchestra for Arabic Music and Snoop Dogg on a single album? Nonetheless, Gorillaz have proven themselves to be Albarn's brilliant chemical experiment. However, he is forever searching for more ways to artfully break the mainstream mold. Well, this one didn't work, ol' Damon boy. On this road-recorded album, tracked entirely on an iPad, it appears the wily Brit's grand ambition got the best of him. In reality, it's more an atmospheric soundtrack than a true collection of songs. The few cuts that actually do feature Albarn's weaselly croon are also drowned in squelchy midi-synths. In the end, Albarn's ambition to display technology's new potentials only highlighted its glaring limitations.
Blink-182 make the sort of music critics don't/shouldn't normally like. But their bratty, I-just-ditched-class-to-chug-slurpees anthems of unfiltered adolescence, ignited by 1999's mainstream breakthrough Enema of the State, and glorified with 2001's Take Off Your Pants and Jacket, made us all laugh once again with that skater-punk in the back of the classroom who blew shit up in chem class. It was with a sea of bright-eyed, youth-yearning optimism that we listened to this new album from Blink, the first from the three SoCal bros after six years away. Sadly, Neighborhoods proved that all that still remains of Tom DeLonge, Mark Hoppus, and Travis Barker's former glory is an overused batch of recycled power pop chords; even worse, these forever-young mallrats went all grown-up on us, singing about raising kids and the anxiety of realizing you can't be young forever. What gives, bro?
Check back tomorrow morning for the albums that made us more crestfallen than the kid whose scoop of ice cream slides off the cone.