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Any music fan, no matter whether they are a novice or a professional, has heard
hundreds of albums proclaimed as “great” or “classic.” Oftentimes, these
statements drive a music fan to buy said album, and also blindly follow the
blanket statement that it is truly a great album. Recently I’ve thought of albums that
achieve this word-of-mouth status and began to think critically about how great
these albums truly are. What I’ve discovered is that many “great albums” are
mediocre at best, and overshadow some of artists’ superior works.

Red Hot Chili Peppers:  Blood Sugar Sex Magik
This album contains several of RHCP’s most famous radio songs, and they are
famous for a reason. “Under the Bridge” is an astounding song, “Give it Away”
defines the band’s sound, and “Breaking the Girl” and the title track are irresistibly
catchy. But for every classic song, there are five dull, meandering tracks that make
the album far too long and boring. Even the jams that the band utilizes so
effectively in concert drag on without excitement. Also, while songs like “Sir Psycho
Sexy” contain the graphic sexual content that Anthony Kiedis is famous for
including in his lyrics, they are too direct to be humorous, leaving themselves
there primarily for shock value. For a much better and more indirect portrayal of
Kiedis’ sexual escapades, give “Purple Stain” a listen.

Check this out instead: Californication (1999)

R.E.M.: Monster
The band’s 1994 effort is, to me, a clear example of good intentions gone wrong.
Inspired by his good friendship with Kurt Cobain, Michael Stipe and company set
out to integrate the early 90s grunge sound into their arsenal by creating a heavily
distorted, guitar laden album. Changing styles was certainly not new to the band,
whose sound had altered drastically since their debut album,
Murmur. The album
contains some classic R.E.M. tunes (“What’s the Frequency, Kenneth?,” “Star 69,”
“Circus Envy”), most, like “King of Comedy,” miss the mark badly, suffocated
under Peter Buck’s fuzzed out guitar. If the album represents one positive, it is that
the evolution of Buck’s guitar work culminated in 1996’s
New Adventures in Hi-Fi,
one of the most underrated albums of the 90s.

Check these out instead: NAiHF, Automatic for the People (1993), Document

Nirvana: Nevermind
The classic great album argument: does importance alone make an album
great? One could argue, and I certainly wouldn’t oppose, that
Nevermind is one of
the most important albums in rock history. The actual music of the album, in my
opinion, lands far down the list of great music of the 1990s. To the mainstream,
the album was a fresh new sound. In reality, Nirvana and its contemporaries had
been making music like this for much of the late 80s. That it became so popular in
the face of the American landscape makes it the landmark album that it is today,
but it isn’t even the best of Nirvana’s career.
In Utero takes that title, as its
brooding underside makes it one of the most complete, haunting, and incredible
albums of the decade.

Bob Dylan: Modern Times
This album made my list of the Top 10 Albums of 2006. If I had a chance, I’d move
it down, if not off, that list. If only I’d discovered Tom Waits’
Orphans earlier…

The album garnered much critical praise, but upon further inspection, why? Much
of the album is not Dylan’s original work. And for an artist trying to pass something
old off as his own, the music is rather boring. Aside from “Thunder on the
Mountain,” “Someday Baby,” and “Workingman’s Blues #2,” Bob sounds as old as
he truly is (gasp!). “Spirit on the Water” and “Beyond the Horizon” sound like
something Abe Simpson would play on the radio at the Springfield Retirement
Castle. Dylan’s career revival that began in 1997 has produced much better
material than this antiquated collection of other peoples’ music.

Check this out instead: Time Out of Mind (1997)
Great albums, revisited: Are they really that good?
It might be time to rethink which record is really the
Red Hot Chili Peppers' best album.
March 28, 2007
E-mail Matt Berry at
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