2008: The Disappointments

Last week I wrote about the comebacks of 2008, artists who I didn’t expect much from surprising me with a really solid effort, or in some cases, a game-changing release. Today I’m looking at the other side of the coin – the five biggest disappointments of 2008..

It's not about what I want, it's about what's fair!

The Pretenders: Break Up The Concrete

It’s not a bad album, per se, but it’s really a Chrissy album, in’nit? There are some sprightly moments in “Don’t Cut Your Hair” and “Boots of Chinese Plastic”, but they sound like retreads from the first post-mortem Pretenders bands. Other parts could be stabs at alt-country or torch song collections. There’s no cohesion, no sound, no band identity – so why use the legendary moniker? After being thrilled that Martin Chambers had finally been brought back to the fold last time around – he’s only one of the ten best rock drummers ever – I am even more pissed off that he’s once again been relegated to…well, what do you call someone who is no longer a “pretender”, the real deal? I’m glad Chrissie is still making music, but this is like Mick or Keith calling their solo work Stones albums.

Matthew Sweet: Sunshine Lies

Unlike many, I’ve been staying in Sweet’s corner through most of the post-Altered Beast time-line. Not that any of the subsequent records were at Girlfriend plateau, but 100% Fun, Blue Sky On Mars and In Reverse all contained stunning material. I thought that Kimi Ga Suki and Living Things didn’t measure up, but his work with Bangle Susanna Hoffs on Under The Covers seemed to rekindle his spark. I was jazzed to hear the new one…and so let down when I did.

Absolutely love that Richard Lloyd and Ivan Julian are back to dance the classic three guitar tango, and anytime Ric Menck is around good things happen. So what went wrong? Sadly…when the production is on, the songs aren’t worthy, and when the songs are good, the production just lays there. He never seems to hit on all cylinders, and the effect over the course of an album is…meh. I won’t give up on him yet, but this to me is another unfulfilled promise.

Weezer: The Red Album

I don’t even know where to start. Was he pissed that Fountains of Wayne stole his thunder? Did the under-appreciated video collection not resonating with fans irk him? Perhaps it was Ben Folds completely co-opting the college hipster crowd (again) while he was…uhhh….going back to college? Maybe it’s simply that red is a much harsher color than blue or green, his other color-oriented album titles that worked. Whatever the reason, Rivers Cuomo’s batting average is way, way down on this one.

“Troublemaker” sounds like a something The Presidents of The USA could do in their sleep, and the less said about “The Greatest Man” the better. Maybe it’s just a bad joke, after all, most songs sound like a swipe at another band (“Everybody Get Dangerous” = Red Hot Chili Peppers, etc.); only “Dreamin” is a keeper. If indeed this is their experimental album, I recommend that they blow up the lab and start from scratch.

Louis XIV: Slick Dogs and Ponies

I won’t expound as much here, let’s keep it simple. The Best Little Secrets Are Kept was a stunning, rocking, fun record that signaled a new band exploding onto the scene. Slick Dogs and Ponies – an aptly named collection of songs – completely deflates the balloon, shoots the clown and pisses in the birthday cake. I haven’t seen a reversal this drastic since Badger went from One Live Badger to White Lady, and if you get that reference, you know how much this album bites it hard.

The Kinks: Picture Book

You have no idea how much it hurts me to include this on my list. The Kinks are my favorite band of all time, and that’s a lifelong subscription, folks. But after waiting so many years for something like this, frankly I’m appalled that it seems to have been created for the casual fan rather than the Kinks Kompletist. It’s not a bad price for six discs, a book and a longbox if you are just discovering The Best Band Ever…but fans are scratching their heads.

Let’s get real here – who is buying Kinks product today except the hardcore followers, and hasn’t that Kult of Krazed Konsumers proven time and time again that they will pay the money if and when a new Kinks release is available? Where are the bevy of alternate takes, rare live cuts, unreleased songs and rough demos that would have turned this set on its ear? Except for Disc 5, you’re pretty much set if you bought the Velvel reissues a decade ago and even those were skint on bonus tracks. Arguably even with six discs you can’t capture the Kinks career; any fan will easily have a dozen glaring omissions.  Sad to say I can’t recommend getting this unless you (1) weathered the recent financial storms intact and (2) figure it’s time to move from vinyl to this “cd” format you’ve heard so much about.

I’m hoping that true upside comes out of this – new fans catch on to the brilliance of the band, and the very existence of the box set itself was just to prime the pump for the long overdue reunion tour. God Save The Kinks regardless.

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Next up:  Several of the “just missed” albums of 2008

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