We’re all aware of those ‘artists’ whose back catalogues are pure anathema to us that suddenly bring out one excellent track that makes us think, “Where the hell did that come from?” But what about those consistently great bands or artists who serve up a stinker? That one bad apple that threatens to turn the rest?
Here’s 10 artists and bands we have nothing but respect for that danced into the doggy-do on the rarest of occasions. It’s all subjective of course, but here are some rare chinks in some otherwise immaculate armoury from pop’s illustrious history.
The Beatles – ‘Yellow Submarine’ from ‘Revolver’
‘Revolver’ for many is the greatest album The Beatles ever made, bridging the gap between the rock ‘n’ roll mop tops the world fell in love in the early 60s with the more experimental group of the later decade that would push pop boundaries. It’s easy when explaining this to forget the Goonish and daft ‘Yellow Submarine’. For all the magnificent accolades the band have received over the years, being the most famous exponents of one-dodgy-track-per-album syndrome is probably the least welcome; think ‘Within You Without You’ on Sgt Pepper, ‘Revolution 9’ on the White Album… think pretty much anything sung by Ringo and you’re immediately reaching for the skip button.
Jimi Hendrix Experience – ‘EXP’ from ‘Axis: Bold as Love’
Comedy dates, as does technology – and comedy based on new technology is doomed to appear old hat before it’s even left the pressing plant. Hendrix might have been the best guitarist the world has ever known, but ‘Axis: Bold As Love opening track ‘EXP’ – a song that mocks up an interview about flying saucers complete with sped-up voices and experimental stereo panning – proved Jimi was wise not to give up the night job for a new sketch-writing career. Even the most hardy Jimi fan would surely drop the stylus on second track ‘Up From the Skies’ for ever more. And really, why did that generation think sped-up voices or people being hastily chased around a field in a milk-float at twice the normal speed was so funny anyway?
Simon and Garfunkel – ‘Why Don’t You Write Me’ from ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’
One of the great things about’ Bridge Over Troubled Water’ is the fact it contains some of the duo’s most poignantly beautiful songs – from the title track to ‘The Only Living Boy In New York’. And the second great thing about Bridge Over Troubled Water is the cover illusion: if you look at it when you’re stoned, Paul Simon’s hair turns into an Art Garfunkel military moustache. Well, it did in my student days anyway. The only thing wrong with ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ is ‘Why Don’t You Write Me’ – a farcical nothing of a tune where Paul Simon has a stab at reggae and fails dismally. He later nailed it with ‘Mother and Child Reunion’ which just goes to prove that nobody is perfect, not even Paul Simon.
David Bowie – ‘Kooks’ from Hunky Dory
Let’s get this straight, even the worst track on David Bowie’s masterpiece Hunky Dory is going to be better than most bands’ best, but still, there’s no escaping the fact that ‘Kooks’ is a little bit annoying. It’s bouncy, flouncy, silly and contains the couplet: “Don’t pick fights with the bullies or the cads / ‘Cause I’m not much cop at punching other people’s dads”. Oddly enough, it grows on you like fungus, and despite being the most frivolous track, you may end up loving it more than your own mother.
Pixies – ‘La La Love You’ from’ Doolittle’
For the four albums they were together initially, Pixies barely put a foot wrong, influencing everyone from Nirvana to Radiohead, and even now – after a recording hiatus of around two decades – they sound mega fresh all over again with songs like ‘Blue-Eyed Hex’ and ‘Bagboy’. ‘La La Love You’ is not just the stupidest track on the otherwise unimpeachable ‘Doolittle’, it is without doubt the crappiest thing they ever put their name to. This doesn’t stop them playing it live now and again.
Nirvana – ‘Endless, Nameless’ from ‘Nevermind’
While still alive, Kurt Cobain might have vied for the title of world heavyweight champion of self-sabotage, but when the opportunity presented itself he just couldn’t stifle his innate gift for delivering an irresistible hook or 12. ‘Endless, Nameless’, a protracted, almost unlistenable, metallic, screeching, cacophonous bastard of a song, was an angry riposte to the masses who liked “all our pretty songs”, though you’d have to leave the CD running a whole 13:51 after ‘Something in the Way’ to hear it (it was the secret track). The aural offensive didn’t work, so next they tried releasing ‘In Utero’ – bristling, corrosive and full of unrelenting bile – but those damned sheep seemed to like that one too!
Blur – ‘Far Out’ from ‘Parklife’
‘Parklife’ was one of a few albums that helped define a generation when it landed in the mid-90s, but the sub-Syd Barrett sketch of ‘Far Out’, written and sung by Alex James, stood out as most irritating track. At only 1.32 long it was containable, though Blur re-recorded and then sent a full version of the song into space aboard Beagle 2 in 2003 to annoy the shit out of any extraterrestrials hanging out in the cosmos (Beagle 2 never made it to Mars, and one suspects it might have self-destructed). No war of the worlds has yet ensued, unless those aliens have spent all this time regrouping in anticipation of a deadly cosmic attack. At least there’ll be plenty of fried cheese if they obliterate James’ farm first.
Björk – ‘It’s Oh So Quiet’ from ‘Post’
After the excellent reception ‘Debut’ received, Björk developed her own sound as a solo artist further on ‘Post’, a stunning follow-up that cemented her reputation as one of the most transcendently original artists of the 90s. ‘Army of Me’ did good business as a single release in ‘95 and ‘Isobel’ did OK too; then somebody had the bright idea to bring out ‘It’s Oh So Quiet’ – a Betty Hutton cover – for Christmas, and the world went mad for it. Few songs inspire the gamut of emotion of ‘It’s Oh So Quiet’, and in such a short time period too. Love turns to ambivalence which quickly turns to hate after approximately 11 plays, and within months Björk had gone from indie darling to beating the shit out of reporters on the ITN News, such was the pressure of her new found fame (it was the tune’s fault!) Word has it, Björk hates it too.
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – ‘Mermaids’ from ‘Push the Sky Away’
Not averse to the odd clanger, or indeed a whole album of clangers in the shape of ‘Nocturama’, Nick Cave is one of the most consistently prolific songwriters of the last 30 years and we’re lucky to have him. Latest album ‘Push The Sky Away’ broke new ground for the Bad Seeds as they expanded their sound around a looser, more improvisational framework of songs, and while it worked so well, ‘Mermaids’ was still a bit of a stinker. “She was a catch, we were a match,” croons Cave, “I was the match that would fire up her snatch.” Somebody might need to go back to Lyric School.
Daft Punk – ‘The Game of Love’ from ‘Random Access Memories’
Purists of the electro genre might not have been too taken with Daft Punk’s latest on account of so many real musicians being involved, but you couldn’t but admire the feat of craftsmanship and the talent of the players involved. At times the virtuosity was spellbinding, but second tune ‘The Game of Love’ was just too smooth to get a grip on, and the moment they left the sexy disco for the more dubious surrounds of a yacht you knew something slimy might be waiting for you in the cabin. This overly slick stomach turner might have been the cause of antipathy from some quarters, which is a shame as there are so many gigantic moments elsewhere.
Which albums would have neared perfection if it wasn’t for that one interminably crummy track? And do you agree with these choices? Over to you…And let us know using the hashtag #songsthatruinalbums