Sunday, August 21, 2016

Albums Fans Hate, But I Don't

Anyone who is a fan of a band and has spent any amount of time in forums online, or reading the comments on YouTube videos, will know all too well that there hardens a collective thinking regarding that band's career. It starts small, with a few people arguing, but once one side grabs control of the discussion, time weeds out the dissenters to the point where there is a common consensus regarding which albums are the best, and which ones need to be run over on a dirt road.

I've encountered my share of these instances over the years. Usually, I'm the person dissenting from the consensus pick of the best album (a list I'll make sometime), but there are other times when a band has an album that the group-think considers either their worst, or doesn't bother considering at all, that I enjoy far more than the more revered releases. Here, then, are five of those cases:

Scorpions - Humanity: Hour 1

While recent years have found Scorpions retiring, un-retiring, and pulling out songs that weren't good enough in the 80s, there was a bright spot not that long ago. While the band did not earn much good will for bringing in outside songwriters who have written a fair number of pop tracks, I am not one of those bandwagon haters. This album is different than anything else Scoprions have ever made, and that's precisely why I love it. Instead of being the usual one riff song, these are melodic pop/rock gems that could have eased them into the final act of their career with maturity and grace. Instead, everyone but me has forgotten this album exists, even though it is the best written album of the band's career.

Dave Matthews Band - Everyday

I can still remember the furor when Dave Matthews announced this album, written with pop producer Glen Ballard. While it produced hits, the fans hated the slick, electric production, and I can't recall a single conversation about this album in the last ten years that wasn't about how terrible it was, and how we were robbed of "The Lillywhite Sessions" because of it. While that is indeed a shame ("Busted Stuff" is a pale imitation of the real thing), the fact remains that "Everyday" isn't a bad record, it just isn't a Dave Matthews Band record. Ballard's pop sheen helps tighten Dave's songwriting, and for the first two thirds of the album, this is the most focused and effective he's ever been as a songwriter. It's by no means my favorite album from the band, but I still spin it, and I seem to be the only person left who likes it.

Edguy - Tinnitus Sanctus

Edguy fans have seemed to be down on most everything that Tobi has done since "Hellfire Club", only to come around after the fact. The one exception is "Tinnitus Sanctus", which routinely is considered the band's worst album, sans their debut that was hardly professional. While I get why people don't like the darker, heavier, less fun and bouncy style that this album took, I find it amazing that I am not one of them. I usually hate when bands strip the fun out of their music, but there is something about "Tinnitus Sanctus" that succeeds, probably because Edguy is often too far in the happy direction. This is a better balance of light and dark, comedy and tragedy. It doesn't hurt that Tobi wrote some great songs, and this might be the only Edguy record without any tracks I would consider throw-away filler. It's easily my favorite Edguy record, and the only I reach for almost every time I want to hear Tobi.

Green Day - Warning

There are two Green Day camps. There's the one that dismisses everything that wasn't pure punk, and the one that only cares about "American Idiot". What they both leave out is "Warning", which is a fantastic little record that had no audience when it came out, and none today either. It was the segue between the band's two phases, a record that borrowed more from 60s pop than from their punk roots, and as such, no one knew what to make of it. That's a shame, since it's as catchy an album as anything they've ever done, but with a sense of maturity that neither their previous or later incarnations mastered.

Weezer - Make Believe

And now we get to the album that prompted this discussion. In my younger days, I spent a lot of time on a forum dedicated to Weezer, who were a vitally important band to me. One of the things that hasn't changed since then is that while there are fans who will forgive the truly wretched heaps of musical excriment Rivers has put out ("Raditude" anyone?), no one ever seems to forgive "Make Believe". People had heightened expectations after "Maladroit", but I'm not sure why. They thought a bit more guitar distortion was going to change who Rivers was, or how he wrote. It never was. Instead, we got "Make Believe", which ranks at the bottom for nearly every Weezer fan I've ever known. For myself, however, "Make Believe" is *gasp* my second favorite Weezer album. Yes, "Beverly Hills" is godawful, but that's my only gripe. "We Are All On Drugs" is punchy and catchy enough to forgive the lyrics, and the rest of the album is some of Rivers' best melodic writing. It's "The Green Album" with its wings spread open. There's diversity, a few interesting twists, and Rivers' sounding more energized than he had in ages. I get that people wanted something different, but "Make Believe" was a showcase of Rivers' pop sensibilities. It's certainly better than just about everything that's come since, so let's cut it some slack, ok?

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