Most overrated album of all time? ’Tis a query for the ages; or at least the decades, when rock and the critics that followed shifted the landscape, and we saw an uptick in those lovable means to quantify LPs — stars, ten-point scales, and our beloved shit lists. The end result is hyperbole, disagreement, discontent, jealousy, and, in fairness, some degree of scholarship.

On that note, the Guardian put together a fun piece, rounding up a bunch of musicians you know and love (or think are, like, totally overrated) to select and explain how albums you know and love are, like, totally overrated. The musician list includes Craig Finn, Eddie Argos, Alex Kapranos, and Peter Hook, while the records blasted therein span treasured works by the Smiths, Arcade Fire, and of course, the Strokes. We organized ’em into a cute little list, but first we thought it’d be fun to see the fiery side of psych-circus ringleader Wayne Coyne as he explains his distaste for Nirvana’s breakthrough, with a little Nickelback on the side.

It’s better to be overrated than underrated. Besides, it’s not the musicians’ fault Nevermind is overrated – it’s the public’s, or the critics’. But you don’t find yourself ever longing to listen to it, because there were – still are, in fact – so many mediocre bands that sound like it, that you’re constantly experiencing it.

I never get out Nevermind and think: what great production, what great songs. Nevermind had a poisonous, pernicious influence. It legitimised suffering. The sainthood of Kurt Cobain overshadows the album: Kurt’s lyrics, his attitudinising and navel-gazing, were hard to separate from the band’s image. You can never just hear the record. For me, Bleach and In Utero are superior. Even the album cover seems cheap: that stupid dollar bill just seems to have been airbrushed in there. If Alice in Chains had done it, we’d have thought it was a joke, but because it was Nirvana we thought it was oh-so-clever. If you think you’re going to hear an utterly original, powerful and freaky record when you put on Nevermind, as a young kid might, Christ you’re going to be disappointed. You’re going to think, “Who is this band that sounds just like Nickelback? What are these drug addicts going on about?”

Here’s the rest of the list…

  • Tupac Shakur – All Eyez On Me … Nominated by Mark Ronson
  • The Beach Boys – Pet Sounds … Nominated by Luke Pritchard (The Kooks)
  • The Stone Roses – The Stone Roses … Nominated by Eddie Argos (Art Brut)
  • The Strokes – Is This It … Nominated by Ian Williams (Battles)
  • Television – Marquee Moon … Nominated by Alex Kapranos (Franz Ferdinand)
  • The Beatles – Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band … Nominated by Billy Childish (prime mover of British garage rock)
  • Abba – Arrival … Nominated by Siobhan Donaghy (former Sugababe turned solo artist)
  • Arcade Fire – The Neon Bible … Nominated by Green Gartside (Scritti Politti)
  • Pink Floyd – Dark Side of the Moon … Nominated by Tjinder Singh (Cornershop)
  • The Doors – LA Woman … Nominated by Craig Finn (The Hold Steady)
  • The Smiths – Meat Is Murder … Nominated by Jackie McKeown (1990s)
  • Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band – Trout Mask Replica … Nominated by Peter Hook (ex-New Order and Joy Division)
  • Velvet Underground and Nico … Nominated by novelist and music lover Ian Rankin

Head over for their detailed explanation, and feel free to play “rock star for a day” with your nominations for overrated LPs. Your scorn is welcome here.

Comments (55)
  1. Ferris  |   Posted on Jun 19th, 2007 +1

    While Nevermind certainly has been overplayed and influenced an entire generation of shitty bands, it sounds more like Wayne is judging it based solely on aspects of its (unfortunate) legacy rather than on its own merits. He’s totally right…it’s hard to listen to the album anymore because of its generational baggage. But goddam, if you can get past that, it’s a motherfucker of an album that rightly (or wrongly) has influenced every band since. It’s probably impossible to be a 14 year old kid these days and not have heard Teen Spirit a million times on the radio, but for my money, there’s no greater first four chords to kick off an album.

  2. KingHater  |   Posted on Jun 19th, 2007 +1

    It’s so refreshing to hear somebody state the obvious about the quality of “Nevermind” and the overstated cultural influence of Kurt Cobain. Nice. Honesty’s the best policy.

  3. Finchmeister  |   Posted on Jun 19th, 2007 0

    Pretty much everything by Radiohead-Nominated by Me

    Who can take any of this too seriously?

  4. love wayne..but this reads like a whole lotta sand in the vagina.

  5. bp  |   Posted on Jun 19th, 2007 0

    One of the louder voices in my head is suggesting we take these comments w/ at least a grain of salt-flavored sour grapes.

  6. Missed it...  |   Posted on Jun 19th, 2007 0

    Totally missing the point on Nevermind… You have to think back on the feeling that you had the first time you heard that album. It was unlike anything out there. It was mind-blowing and totally original.

    Think of “My Generation” by the Who… Tame now, but that must have blown people’s minds in the early ’60s. Of course, things are not going to seem as ground-breaking now…

    That would be like slamming Zeppelin, because every Hard Rock band that followed them for twenty years has ripped them off. Faulty logic at best by Wayne…

  7. cara  |   Posted on Jun 19th, 2007 0

    i nominate stereogum

  8. word_virus  |   Posted on Jun 19th, 2007 0

    Heeeyyy Stereogum, any chance you guys can make the action word (aka verb) portion of your posts the hyperlink? Making “Head over…” the clickable part instead of “Guardian” would save me precious minutes while trying to read your site at work. kthxbye.

  9. in the name of efficient procrastination, word_virus, let it be done.

  10. Jonathan  |   Posted on Jun 19th, 2007 0

    How can some one say Neon Bible! The album came out a few months ago. Yeah VU and Nico is overrated (White Light/White Heat is better and really underrated) but Is This It come on how is that “overrated”. Anyway i am shocked no one said Ok Computer or Loveless (despite the fact they are both truly mind blowing). To me the most overrated album (that is not on the list already) is Exile on Main Street by The Rolling Stones, why? Because I cant stand them, and because it really isn’t good, at all

  11. annie onymous  |   Posted on Jun 19th, 2007 0

    up until now i liked mark ronson…but now i hate him.

    and i hated the kooks, battles and scritti politti but i dont hate them now.

  12. Jeremy  |   Posted on Jun 19th, 2007 -1

    Substitute “Flaming Lips” for “Nirvana” and NO ONE for Nickelback because the Lips’ music hasn’t had the kind of influence needed to breakthrough to mainstream crap (not that that’s a bad thing, obviously)– Wayne is clearly talking about his own band. So busy lately hugging giant bunnies and blowing fucking bubbles that they haven’t managed to make decent music in years.

    Christ Wayne, you wrote “She Don’t Use Jelly.”
    And how are you still relevant?

  13. Paul  |   Posted on Jun 19th, 2007 0

    This is really lame.

  14. matt  |   Posted on Jun 19th, 2007 0

    i agree with ferris.

    SAVE FERRIS

  15. nick  |   Posted on Jun 19th, 2007 0

    kudos to craig finn for the safest choice… does anybody over 20 like the doors?

  16. matt  |   Posted on Jun 19th, 2007 0

    mr. jeremy also had a good point

  17. Jeremy  |   Posted on Jun 19th, 2007 0

    sweet validation!

    thanks.

  18. Um, yeah, it was mind-blowing and original if you’d never heard the Pixies and/or Husker Du.

    To the rest of us it was a glossy rip-off.

  19. i love the guy from scritti politti calling neon bible overrated. he couldn’t think of anything else in all the music ever? just the follow-up to a big hit?

  20. Kapranos makes a good point about Marquee Moon: “…it’s incredible. Then your attention wanders.” Pretty true IMO.

    However, I find the panning of Dark Side pretty weak. If you deconstruct most albums to their base ideas, yeah, it’s going to look pretty dumb on paper, but that album sounds fucking amazing. And what has Cornershop done other than “Brimful of Asha”, and what have they done that will blow my mind more than Dark Side?

  21. billy  |   Posted on Jun 19th, 2007 -1

    The Scritti Politti guy has it right. Arcade Fire is overrated, over-hyped. They’re a band that people like because they think it makes them cool.

  22. tn  |   Posted on Jun 19th, 2007 -2

    you guys say mind-blowing too much. pretty much all pink floyd is terrible, as is led zeppelin. except that black dog song. that’s pretty good. i’d nominate U2 as a band, and anything they released after joshua tree (which is not to say that what the released prior was anything all that special).

  23. Ju Bean  |   Posted on Jun 19th, 2007 +1

    Gotta agree with tk. on that one.

    How the fuck did “Dark Side of the Moon” make it on to this list? The album is an event and to this day, almost 35 years after its release, it still sells almost a half-million copies every year. So if that makes it overrated, then for its creators, it’s the gift that keeps on giving.

  24. Agreed on Sgt. Peppers. It’s probably the weakest Beatles album as far as the quality of songwriting goes. The Beatles themselves have said it’s overrated. Remember though, that Strawberry Fields Forever and Penny Lane were done in the same sessions and instead used as a single, so it could have been better.

    Agree on Pet Sounds, too. Just too much mythology surrounding this one. Listening to it without knowing the backstory makes you think “What’s the big deal?”

    Nevermind is still a good record to listen to even if what followed in it’s wake was garbage. Ditto for Is This It.

    I nominate Wayne’s own The Soft Bulletin. I like the Lips, but the guitar heavy Transmissions and Hit to Death are much better records.

  25. historyman68  |   Posted on Jun 19th, 2007 0

    Jeremy, you are getting very defensive about Nevermind. No need for ad hominem attacks on the Lips.

    Keep in mind, Nirvana hated Nevermind and regretted the production on it ever since it was released. Read their interviews – I think Cobain would agree with most of what Coyne said.

  26. frankie  |   Posted on Jun 19th, 2007 0

    the feeling i had the first time i heard ‘nevermind’ is that i had heard it all before and done BETTER. i didn’t feel like a revolution was coming. i felt like nirvana were in the right place at the right time. no more, no less.

  27. The Dude  |   Posted on Jun 19th, 2007 0

    I have to agree: Wayne is missing the context of Nevermind. I was in college & spending all my time at our kickass radio station at the time and, thanks to Bleach and the sub pop singles, we saw Nevermind coming a mile away.

    Remember: mainstream music really sucked at the time and was dominated by hair bands, awful pseudo R & B junk, and other things I have tried to blot from my memory… bands like Nirvana just did not get played. The Pixies didn’t get played, the Replacements, etc…. Sure a song or 2 from Depeche Mode would, but for the most part it was all “College Music” and the Mainstream ignored it.

    And then Nirvana kicked them all in the god-damned teeth. Kicked those stupid Warrant/Poison/ whatever’s teeth all the way down their lazy leather wearing throats. Suddenly it was alternative and our bands were getting played.

    Wayne may not like Nevermind, but it was the album that allowed ‘College/Alternative/indie/whatever to be heard far & wide.

  28. fatso  |   Posted on Jun 19th, 2007 0

    ya, i agree with everyone else that coyne kind of misses the point about ‘nevermind’. it’s initial appeal was that it was like nothing else most people (or at least most people i knew) had ever really heard. as a teenager i never knew that music could sound like that… that noise could be so melodic. because of that, i don’t think you can really over-rate cobain’s influence (but perhaps that particular record is over-rated, which i think is coyne’s point).

    but to be fair, i’m sure cobain would agree with everything coyne said. the glossy production and the near-instant marketing of ‘grunge’ following ‘nevermind’ and the other earl grunge records ruined what was a good (not great) record by saturating the cultural landscape with nirvana and all its clones. i often think pearl jam suffers a similar backlash, as they’re a band that has gotten better over time (minus the odd mis-step) but they’re constantly denigrated among the indie and artsy crowds not for their own merits, but because of all the knock-offs. anyway, ‘in utero’ is miles better that ‘nevermind’ for my money.

    yes, the doors are remarkably over-rated. ‘pet sounds’ though? that’s over-rated? that seems like a massively under-rated record to me…

  29. A  |   Posted on Jun 19th, 2007 +1

    I really disagree with the VU and Nico nomination.
    It seems like the main grievences against them were that Andy Warhol was involved, which doesn’t seem at all like a valid reason to hate them, just because Ian Rankin apparently doesn’t like Warhol.

    The other complaints are that they viola and guitars sound out of tune, which was sort of the point, since using unusual tunings is part of what makes the Vu distinctive.
    I also don’t think Nico’s voice is flat at all, and the random lyrical objection, (FYI there are much less asthetically appealing words then ermine furs adorn imperious)just seems picky.

    I think Ian Rankin completly missed the point of what made the VU and Nico good.

  30. Bono  |   Posted on Jun 19th, 2007 0

    Wayne Coyne wrote, “The sainthood of Kurt Cobain…” He really means ‘martyrdom’. There’s a difference.

  31. A: Although Nico’s voice does kind of grate on me in some tunes, he does seem to completely discount VU just because of Warhol, who instead should be given credit for bringing these guys to any sort of prominence, given their subsequent output and influence.

    My vote for overrated album goes to, let’s see, “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” would work. For whatever reason, I can’t stand Elton John.

  32. Finally some more people that think Arcade Fire is overrated. Don’t get me wrong, I think their music is decent. Heck I even bought their albums. But they are crazy hyped. Good. But not THAT good.

  33. Evan  |   Posted on Jun 19th, 2007 0

    There is no such thing as complete “originality.” Everything has to come from somewhere, music and everything else doesn’t materialize from nothingness. It’s an evolution.

  34. bingo t. klown  |   Posted on Jun 19th, 2007 -2

    I guess it’s in the definition of the word overrated. Obviously top 40 music is overrated by the public since most of the time it’s shite. Critically overrated? depends on the source of the criticism; Rolling Stone, Wire, USA Today, Pitchfork…I mean there isn’t really a consensus among them is there (even NME straddles all sorts of music).

    That said, though not a FF fan, I have to agree that I think Television is way overrated. They are one of those bands that people like to name drop because of their supposed connection to the punk/new wave art scene of NYC in the 70′s and for being more underground than the Ramones, Blondie and the Talking Heads. I didn?t like it when I first heard it and when everyone started name-dropping them again back when the Strokes were first breaking I went back and listened to it again and it still sucked. That album is so bland that it makes those overplayed dinosaurs like the Doors, Zeppelin and Pink Floyd seem exciting.

  35. Jeremy  |   Posted on Jun 20th, 2007 0

    Nah, I’m not defensive about Nevermind, it’s certainly far from Nirvana’s best. I jus think it’s ridiculous for Coyne to make comments like that when his band more or less sucks ass. I mean, take away the bunnies and bubbles and mushrooms and what have you got? It’s great that Wayne is, you know, just so different and full of joy that he can hardly contain himself on stage, but the music on its own sucks.

  36. Ferris  |   Posted on Jun 20th, 2007 0

    I don’t think anyone’s gonna argue that Nirvana weren’t in the right place at the right time, or that elements of their sound were present in earlier bands. And don’t get me wrong, I love me some Pixies (never got into Husker Du; might have been because I bought Land Speed Record first), but neither one of those groups have anything come close to the visceral zeitgeist of “Teen Spirit.”

    Uh…did I just say that?

  37. benj  |   Posted on Jun 20th, 2007 +1

    its absolutely hilarious that someone from ‘scritti politti’ thinks that anyone else, anywhere is over-rated! yeah, they were the second coming of the beatles until…um…someone heard them.

    the doors have got to be the all time most over-rated band ever. the arcade fire is a silly nomination, and no they are not a shitty band that people only like as some kind of pose. i saw them just over a month ago, and it was the best live rock show i’ve seen in years. neon bible is a good album, not mind-blowing, but it hasn’t been highly rated enough in the first place to call over-rated now.

    as far as nevermind, i understand the point about its influence being so ubiquitous, but that undermines WK’s point in the first place. in fact, it pretty much rules out the idea that the album is over-rated. first of all, yes Kurt was heavily influenced by the Pixies, but the Pixies make a different brand of rock than Nirvana. they were more arty and abstract, Nirvana was more punk and tuneful. they borrow the Pixies’ formula of soft verse followed by insanely loud chorus, but applied it differently. and as far as husker du, yes they were earlier and similar, but the truth is all of their albums sound like crap, really, like crap and don’t hold up nearly as well as nevermind. incorporating good production into punk music was a major, major innovation on the part of Nirvana, aside from merely catching the zeitgeist in the content of the songs, the sheer sound of it was something unheard before. plus, if you have ever tried to sing and play guitar simultaneously at high speed / volume, nevermind is the album on which Cobain perfect a seemless way of doing so that is the main think lacking from all of the copycat bands.

  38. Jay  |   Posted on Jun 20th, 2007 0

    I disagreed with Ronson when he said Pac isn’t better than Biggie or that he never “said anything particularly clever.”

    But I lost all respect for him when he called Eminem the Dylan of rap.

    He’s clearly one of those who thinks rap is little more than a platform for funky beats and cute punchlines. Shame too, because I’ll never be able to listen to “Ooh Wee” in good conscience again. He can have a grand MC Lily Allen and Maroon 5-flavored Smiths records, but I’m through tolerating his bs.

  39. Ferris  |   Posted on Jun 20th, 2007 0

    Benj – great point about production. You can make the argument (convincingly) that the shitty production lends ambiance (and maybe even makes it sound better), but it doesn’t change the fact that a lot of punk recordings just sound terrible. See: Land Speed Record.

  40. dan  |   Posted on Jun 20th, 2007 0

    I like to post the 100th post or so because then by the end nobody will read it anyway so I can do whatever I want, bitches.

    Kurt Cobain was killed by his gay lover.

  41. Mike  |   Posted on Jun 21st, 2007 0

    Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain

    If one album defines mediocrety, it’s this one.

  42. Magister Ludicrous  |   Posted on Jun 21st, 2007 0

    Having witnessed Kapranos & Co.’s execution of “Not Great Men” on Austin City Limits awhile back, I can attest to the fact that they most definitely were not influenced by Gang of Four. Probably never even heard of them.

  43. Watcho!  |   Posted on Jun 21st, 2007 0

    I think Wayne’s comments are fair. He’s not dissing Cobain or Nirvana, just saying that (now) the album is judged by something other than the notes played on the two sides. This is probably easier understood by those of us who remember Nirvana as a living thing, and Nevermind as the middle chapter.

    That being said, the Flaming Lips are so much more than “hugging bunnies and blowing bubbles,” although that assertion is pretty funny. In 2007, the Lips spread a message about life, and Nirvana, sadly, is colored with death. It’s easy to see why Kurt’s fans might find Wayne’s comments upsetting.

  44. Kyle  |   Posted on Jun 21st, 2007 0

    Mr. Coyne is getting caught up in the baggage of Nevermind, not the actual album. There are so many songs on that album that, to this day, sound oh so relevant (think Lounge Act, Breed). I know everybody is tired of Nirvana, but well, there is a reason we always here about Nirvana. Also I can’t believe the Cornershop dude thinks Dark Side of the Moon is overrated… schmuck.

  45. robroyfingerhead  |   Posted on Jun 22nd, 2007 0

    “crooked rain, crooked rain?” what in the holy fuck are you talking about??

  46. a17  |   Posted on Jun 23rd, 2007 0

    Franz played “Not Great Men” at ACL? Was it on the TV broadcast? (Or is that some sort of “covers band” sarcasm I’m not getting?)

  47. Let Kurt rest in peace. The music speaks for itself. It touched a generation. It’s not for everybody. It wasn’t meant for everybody.
    BTW…Enough with the action figures and lunchboxes. Let him go. Remember him by playing the music at high decibels.
    http://mybigmouthstrikesagain.blogspot.com/

  48. Jeff  |   Posted on Jun 25th, 2007 0

    If Wayne Coyne doesn’t hear “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and think “what a great song,” then I submit Wayne Coyne has no fucking idea what a great song is.

    If you hear a song several thousand times over a decade and a half, and you still turn it up when it comes on the radio, it’s a great song. Another 30% of nevermind is great or near great, and the rest is utterly forgettable.

    Also, knocking a rock album because “it legitimizes suffering” is like knocking grass because “it’s frequently green” and “contains chlorophyll.”

  49. ElleDriver  |   Posted on Jun 25th, 2007 0

    Has it been mentioned yet that Cobain once named the Lips as one of his favorite bands?

    Touchy, touchy Nevermind fans here. Seriously.

  50. I love how this site becomes more and more a celebration of which albums NOT to like. Snideness is the new wisdom.

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