Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The Worst Albums Of 2016

There are two things about being a music writer that make the job enjoyable. One of them is, quite obviously, when a great record comes along and I can't help but share my love for the music. That is what carries me through the dry periods, and makes the time put into this endeavor worth it. But there is also something to be said for music that is not just mediocre, but offensively bad. Records that pool the bile in me are thoroughly enjoyable to write about, in their own way. There isn't anything quite like an album that offends you to the point where words flow out of your mind in a torrent of bewildered anger.

This year had an abundance of those kinds of albums. I narrowed the list down to the five that sparked the harshest criticism from me, but others could have easily been included to make this list even longer. For instance, I would have easily thought The Jayhawks would be on this list, given my reaction to their troubling return from another hiatus, and I was sure that Weezer would make an unprecedented run at their third worst album of the year crown, but neither of those happened. The well was so deep they didn't even make the cut, despite not being remotely close to acceptable.

Here, then, are the five worst albums of the year:

5. Dream Theater - The Astonishing

Dream Theater has long been plagued by sub-standard lyrics, which is highlighted throughout this double sci-fi concept album. The story and the lyrics written by John Petrucci are so bland, trite, and simplistic that they could have come from a teenagers first attempt at fantasy writing. The themes are hammered into your head with blunt writing, and poor James Labrie is left to try to play half a dozen characters. His voice is not versatile enough to make them individual, so we get an incomprehensible mess of a record that tells a boring story in a format that makes it nearly impossible to follow along. Dream Theater had been on a nice run of making good records, after a small swoon, but now they find themselves, like Sisyphus, back at the bottom of the hill.

4. Operation:Mindcrime - Resurrection

I was the one fool who thought that “Frequency Unknown” was a pretty good record. But that didn't carry over to the first album of this trilogy, which was a hot mess, or this second outing, which is only slightly better. I will say that this time there are two damn good tracks on this record, both of which were previewed prior to the album's release. Those are also the only good songs on the record. After a sequencing error for the ages that starts the album with FOUR nonsense tracks before getting to the real music, the remaining songs are a weird mess of styles that are thrown together without a single melody to make them tolerable. Geoff Tate has a terrible reputation these days, and albums like this are why it's well deserved.

3. Headspace - All That You Fear Is Gone

This progressive metal band got widespread acclaim for their debut album, so I made sure to give this follow-up a chance. What I got, instead of great and challenging music, was a masterclass in how not to write songs. These songs jump from one section to the next, from sound to sound, with nary a transition nor explanation. It's the songwriting version of trying to build a wall out of multi-colored Legos. It's just too random, and too poorly written, to want to listen to. It's everything prog is thought of by people who aren't into prog.

2. Megadeth - Dystopia

I've never been a big Megadeth fan, but I can appreciate “Rust In Peace” as a great album, and I've always greatly enjoyed “The System Has Failed”. Since then, Dave Mustaine has been running on fumes, blatantly doing whatever it is he thinks will get him the most attention. Bouncing from thrash to radio rock, it's been shameless, and this latest turn back to thrash is no different. There's no bite to these songs, no snarl, and Dave's laughable lyrics and vocals are just one sub-standard piece of an album that has very little to offer besides guitar solos. Megadeth has been mostly dead for years, and this is not the shock to bring them back to life.

1. Meat Loaf - Braver Than We Are

The combination of Meat Loaf and Jim Steinman should be music to my ears. They are among my first and more enduring musical heroes, yet this album filled me with nothing but dread. Steinman hasn't written any material in ages, and what has yet to be recorded are the scarps at the bottom of the barrel. Unfortunately, that's what we get here, with songs that were never intended to be released in this format being sung by a version of Meat Loaf who sounds positively ghastly. The decline in his voice is almost unbelievable, and on its own would prevent this album from being good. The songs themselves are nothing to write home about, and the few a devoted Steinman fan would have heard before were done better by others. If this is the end of the road for these two, it's a horrible epitaph.

No comments:

Post a Comment