Critical thinking


10 nov. 2007, 23h09m

There's a meme going round which asks users to be critical of their top ten most played artists. I'm feeling like a bastard today so here's my attempt.

1. Cardiacs
As reflected in my chart (unlike other conspicuously absent or mysteriously highly-rated artists), Cardiacs are my favourite band. As with anything one loves this much, the flaws are as apparent as the endearing qualities.
My main icky qualm with Cardiacs is their production values. The early cassette albums are badly recorded (yet have a certain charm), while the late 1980s albums like On Land and in the Sea feature jarringly mechanical drum machines which detract from the majesty of the music. Their recent output is mastered too hot (see the Loudness War), making it difficult to listen to for extended periods of time. As inhumanly brilliant as their songs are, I wish those songs could be presented in a way which sounds "real", with room for acoustic atmospherics and real humans playing real instruments. As proved by their live albums, they can / could do it.

2. Eels
Discounting my primary school days listening to Oasis, Eels were the first modern band I discovered back when I was 12. I first heard them playing Cancer for the Cure on Later With Jools Holland, and I was hooked immediately. They practically shaped my taste in music during my adolescence, and I still enjoy attending their gigs and listening to their music when the mood takes me. However, they haven't made a consistently great album since Daisies of the Galaxy. The greatest offender is Blinking Lights And Other Revelations, a sprawling double album which swings from stunning introverted beauty to unadulterated cheese. E, like Bob Dylan, suffers from TPS - Too Prolific Syndrome.

3. Beastie Boys
I must have been really addicted to them a few years ago for them to get this far up my chart. I don't listen to them much now, having found some more skilled hip hop like A Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul. I still appreciate their style, but I feel their MCing lacks true flow and rhythm. The best rapping they did was on Get It Together, having Q-Tip on board really made them raise their game. Oh, and License to Ill is just deplorable, really.

4. Ben Folds Five
My main complaint about Ben Folds Five is that they split up. They had a few dud songs (Video was a bit unimaginative compared to the rest of Ben Folds Five), and most of their b-sides are just live versions of album tracks, but they didn't really hang around long enough to sully their reputation too badly.

5. Tom Lehrer
As a musical satirist, some songs are bound to fall flat, especially half a century after the fact. However, he was another one that quit while he was very much ahead, and the fact that Whatever Became Of Hubert? is no longer funny is of little consequence.

6. Soul Coughing
Speaking of sullying reputations, here's a band that did just that. Egos got in the way, apparently M. Doughty blocked the release of some animated videos because they didn't have his face in them. It's sad that they followed up a great skewed pop album like Irresistable Bliss with a piece of shit like El Oso.

7. Ben Folds
What does a man do after being in Ben Folds Five? Well, carry on in much the same vein but just not quite as good, it would seem. There's a massive dip in quality in the middle of Rockin' The Suburbs.

8. Oceansize
This band have a lot to answer for, in terms of piquing my interest in unusual time signatures. However, sometimes their songs are a bit sprawling, they could stand to be more concise. I suppose it's a matter of taste though.

9. Sonic Youth
I love their songs, when they actually go to the trouble of writing one. Especially Lee Ranaldo compositions like Wish Fulfillment. However, the improvisational aspect of their work means there's a lot of chaff to sort from the wheat, and they leave it up to the listeners to do that rather than doing it themselves. Also, I simply do not understand the love and adoration that gets heaped upon Daydream Nation. I suppose it was an important album at the time, but to my ears the production is thin, the drums sound horrible, and they went on to write better songs.

10. Jeff Buckley
Before the days of Cardiacs, this man used to be my favourite music maker. These days I have little patience for him. I appreciate the harmonic experiments of the four-track demos from Sketches for my Sweetheart the Drunk, but even then it sounds like he was trying to ape Pony Express Record-era Shudder To Think. Also, while it can be emotionally resonant at the right time, I often find myself thinking "get over it!" while listening to some of his more self-pitying songs. And don't get me started on his mother, milking the cash cow that is his legacy for everything it's worth.


  • andyisdead

    man, think less and feel more. you intellectuality ruins the beauty of art

    14 jan. 2008, 20h41m
  • allycraig

    The idea of the exercise was to be critical, I'm not constantly like that. Generally I do feel when I listen to music, then think about why it makes me feel that way. The joy of music is, unlike an animal, it still works after you dissect it.

    16 jan. 2008, 17h19m
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