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Overrated Albums: Poll Winner

I finally closed the poll. And the winner of the coveted prize for most overrated album is:

White Stripes - Elephant

View final poll results here.

Now, I'm sure there was some rigging of the vote by one single person who is so offended by the sound of the White Stripes that he alone counted for 225 of the 226 votes. But that's the nature of polls (see, American Idol last night, for proof of that) and those are the results we shall go with.

wsel.jpgThat's not to say I disagree. Somewhat. I think. The whole White Stripes/Strokes/Hives thing baffled me. I suppose one could make the argument that the embracing of garage rock was in direct response to the proliferation of overproduced teeny bopper bands and flaky, yet hot, blonde singers and/or the rise in popularity of 30 year old men in nu-metal bands writhing in agony, still angry at their mothers for grounding them when they were 12. Who knows?

The thing is, after bitching and moaning for months about how much I hated the Stripes and that whole stripped-down-rock sound, they kind of grew on me. Not so much that I started to actually sing their praises, but enough so that I didn't turn "Seven Nation Army" down when it came on the radio. In fact, songs like "Ball and Biscuit," "I Just Don't Know What To Do With Myself" and "The Hardest Button To Button" remind me of what I first liked about rock and roll all those years ago and yes, the sound is quite reminiscent of sitting in Pat Henley's garage on summer evenings in the 1970's, listening to the band with no name play the same songs over and over again, but enjoying every chord, every beat. The simplicity of "Seven Nation Army" is it's beauty; there's hardly anything to the song, but yet it makes me want to do something - dance, or drum my pencil on the desk or tap my foot at least, much like the repeated chords in the Henley garage did. The band with no name's sound was born of pure desire to just play some music, and that's what I get with the Stripes.

However (there's always a however with these things), White Stripes are not the saviors of rock and roll. They are not the greatest thing since MC5. Elephant isn't so much a triumph of the simple sounds of rock and roll as it is a triumph of style over substance. The album is too simple to be anything more than a big, fat candy bar. Jack White's efforts to be everything to everyone in the re-emergence of pure rock bands is admirable; but his reliance on Meg White's mediocre drumming skills and his penchant for trying to do too much with too little overwhelms the sincerity within. It's a good, fun album. It's good background music for cleaning the house or pretending to do yardwork while you're just drinking beer and neighbor-watching or driving through rush hour traffic with one hand out the window and one hand on the horn. And there's nothing wrong with that. It's good music. It's rock and roll. But it's nothing that's going to change the world. Not even the music world.

I don't think Elephant is the most overrated album of all time. Not even close. But I just surprised myself here by what I wrote about it. I didn't know I liked the album so much until now.

You learn something new every day, even about yourself.

[Just because the poll has ended doesn't mean I'm done - I'll be "reviewing" some of the other overrated albums later today]

Update: Again, don't shoot the messenger! I'm only doing these albums because you people nominated them! If it was up to me, I'd just list every Dylan, Beatles, Eagles, Nirvana, Madonna and Stones album and be done with it. Maybe we should be doing underrated albums instead? Or just underrated bands in general? Anyone?

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Comments

Sweet I won! Damn White Stripes.

The best thing White's done was the production of Van Lear Rose.

"not the saviors of rock and roll"

I have to agree with you on that one, but it is good music. I have the same feeling when listening to the White Stripes. It reminds me of sitting down by the Hudson at my friend Timís house and playing until the NY State Police showed up. Ahh the good old days!

Music for musicís sake. It doesnít have to be overwhelmingly complicated to be good.

I don't understand why this would be an overrated album, because I didn't think anyone rated it particularly highly. I would think that White Blood Cells would be a better candidate. Who the hell is going around extolling the virtues of Elephant?

(Love The White Stripes. Like you said, a big fat candy bar. That's what I want from music.)

I think the White Stripes have been overrated by their haters as much as by their fans (although maybe not so much now). It amazed me how much energy people who didn't like the band used to put into not liking it.

Personally I voted for "Kid A".

Hey, I just went with what was nominated. Don't shoot the messenger!

White Stripes, Coldplay, John Mayer
I'd say they're all pretty good but overrated. Not so overrated that they're the most overrated of all time though.

Too late for the poll, but I'd say Sgt. Pepper is the most overrated album of all time.

Heh, many people said the same things about the Ramones when they first started - nothing special, stripped down rock and roll, bubble-gum pop, etc. Look what they were responsible for in the long run.

(and no, I don't think White Stripes are even close to being near that path, I'm just pointing out the way they were perceived at first)

how can you possibly say that anything by Madonna was overrated? She SINGLE-HANDEDLY saved music in the 1980s, and made some of the best music EVER - stuff that will endure for centuries, just like Bach or Beethoven.

[Well ok her sex book was overrated, but that wasn't music so it doesn't count...]

Great subject matter. Listened to Elephant yesterday unaware of the poll. It's a good album, not great. Now Nevermind IMHO is a great album, just listened to it earlier this week. Forget that Kurt was a freak, the album is golden musically. Sgt Peppers is probably the real winner, every top 100 has it first of Beatles lps, which is ridiculous....

Most underrated album:
Beethoven, Seventh Symphony, Herbert von Karajan conductor.
Really.

I can't believe the giant piece of crap on vinyl that is "Bat Out of Hell" got off so easily.

I could go for a list of underrated albums.

A couple of underrated albums
David Bowie : 1. Outside (people always refer to Honky Dory, Ziggy, Aladdin Sane and Low as the masterpieces, bt this album is the highpoint in showing off Bowie's diversity)
Keith Caputo : Died Laughing (I really enjoy both versions of this album, and it really shows Keiths writing skills)

Underrated Bands
Social Distortion
Sparks

(these are the opinions of the author of this comment and may not represent the opinions of any others than the author, so don't hate me if you think these are in no way underrated by the general public)

Interesting - I hated the Keith Caputo album. Probably because at the time it came out I had yet to forgive him for a) Soul Searching Sun and b) destroying everything that was good about Life of Agony.

underrated is so much better. and here, here for social distortion. i <3 mike ness.

i'm not a fan of criticizing people's art. it's like being a wallflower, sitting on the sidelines and talking shit about everyone else because you can't dance.

Virtually all the contemporary bands I love are severely under-rated in terms of mainstream recognition. It's definitely not because I'm some sort of hipster who only likes stuff that's obscure - I also love CCR and Springsteen and the Stones. It's just that rock & roll has become a tiny, irrelevant sliver of the music industry. And when you filter out all the genres I can't stand - emo, hardcore, "rock", etc., there are almost no opportunities for bands who play music that traces its roots back to people like Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly, Wanda Jackson and The Ramones.

Personally, I can't comprehend how anyone could listen to The Eyeliners or Groovie Ghoulies and NOT go pogoing wildly around the room like a crazy fool...

Underrated band: Queensryche
Underrated album: Operation: Mindcrime

The latter is genius. A concept album with an actual story you can follow and try to decifer. There was some great riffs and guitar solos along with plenty of energy.

I wonder why nobody still will suggest "Forever Changes" or "Nevermind". The first could be elevator music at least on my first hearing, the second pure noise.