Nobody can kill it every time. Sometimes there’s a blip – even from the best bands. What’s important is that the low point remains just that, and a group can pick themselves back up again, and never, ever look back. From Guns ‘N’ Roses, to Lou Reed, to Manic Street Preachers, here are the top seven lamest albums by otherwise exemplary acts.
7. Queen – ‘Hot Space’
The moment when Queen turned disco, and nobody was happy. Aside from stand-out David-Bowie-featuring single ‘Under Pressure’, ‘Hot Space’ was a hot mess. Queen ditched their usual no-synths policy in favour of funk and R’n’B, but Brian May and Roger Taylor were not impressed with the new direction. Luckily, the following album ‘The Works’ put things back in proper order, featuring now-classics like ‘Radio Ga Ga’ and ‘I Want To Break Free’.
6. Bruce Springsteen – ‘Human Touch’
No E-Street Band, no New Jersey, and a better album of his own released on the exact same day. Maybe in a different life ‘Human Touch’ might have received a better welcome, but with ‘Lucky Town’ exploring social commentary and a stripped-back sound, the bombast and guests of ‘Human Touch’ just seemed production-line.
5. Manic Street Preachers – ‘Lifeblood’
‘Lifeblood’ found the Manics in reflective mode – less ideologically-focused than its predecessor ‘Know Your Enemy’, and without the group’s usual lush-yet-impassioned sound. Instead, the album replaced strings with synths, and politics for personal thoughts. Which meant, unfortunately, that MSP went MOR.
4. Lou Reed – ‘Metal Machine Music’
Sometimes, the best way to get your own back is to keep a straight face. Often acknowledged as a record that was filling a contractual obligation, or, less cerebrally, a practical joke, Lou Reed’s fifth solo album consisted mainly of feedback and guitar effects. Theories about the album abound. In the liner notes, Reed has claimed that it was metal, critics have suggested that the album is proto-experimental, or an early incarnation of punk. But nobody has yet to claim that it’s pleasant to listen to.
3. U2 – ‘October’
After a brilliant start with ‘Boy’, follow-up ‘October’ almost stopped U2’s career in its tracks. While its heavy-handed spiritual content might be down to the fact that they had to write quickly, as the group has booked studio time ahead of Bono’s lyrics being stolen by fans. Bono admitted the challenge with the album in 2005: “Can you imagine your second album — the difficult second album — and it’s about God?”.
2. The Beach Boys – ‘Keepin’ The Summer Alive’
The cover image says it all. The Beach Boys trapped inside a snow globe on a tropical island, trying to keep their California campfire lit while winter swirls around the outside. The last album to feature Dennis Wilson, ‘Keepin’ The Summer Alive’ does exactly the opposite of what the title suggests. The studio needed the band together, Brian Wilson wished to record covers, and, needless to say, nobody got what they wanted.
1. Guns’N’Roses – ‘The Spaghetti Incident?’
A strange twist from GnR – a punk and glam covers album including tracks by The Damned and Marc Bolan. Oh, and a secret Charles Manson cover that Axl insisted on including. Poor form, mate.