Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The Worst Albums of 2012

The Worst albums of 2012:

I find it sadly ironic that some of my favorite artists released some turds this year that do nothing beneficial for their legacy. Anyway, they must be mentioned nonetheless so we can learn from their mistakes, and hope for something more worthwhile from them in the future. I would also like to note that just because I have named the following as the worst 2012 had to offer, they are actually kind of far from my least favorite albums of all time, not to mention that the albums I've listed herein could actually be better than a few titles I have purposely neglected to listen to. Likewise with any form of criticism though, it is simply a matter of opinion. Ain't that great?

Marilyn Manson- Born Villain
Shock rockers’ relevance with a mass audience wasn’t designed to last, and all Manson’s new album does to prove that notion wrong is to misguidedly try to re-shock an audience that has long since ditched him. It’s a sad case, but realistically true. It’s especially disheartening considering the man is a highly intelligent social critic, even though you may or may not choose to acknowledge it. It’s just too bad he would rather dwell in artsy-fartsy purgatory when there’s so much political and popular discourse to dissect and hold up in front of his audience to see how ugly it truly is. Manson’s strengths have always relied upon him doing just that sort of thing, and it worked brilliantly in his trilogy of Antichrist Superstar, Mechanical Animals, and Holy Wood (In the Shadow of the Valley of Death), but it may just be that political rantings seem too clichéd to him. His loss.

Whatever his reason for settling for mediocrity may be, it just didn’t translate into a relevant album that Manson fans know he needed to create in order to keep his career alive. In its defense though, it is loads better than anything he has done post-Holy Wood. But whatever Manson chooses to do for his next album, he damn sure better come out swinging like his own life depends on it.

Ministry- Relapse
Ministry’s turbulent sound has never been easy to digest, but this album might as well be the musical equivalent of a nut log covered in Gouda cheese. When Ministry announced their retirement in 2007, it was very fitting considering critics like myself were thankful that there was at least a few musicians in the industry who knew when to quit on a high note before they got overly stale. But, in true Al Jourgensen fashion, he decided to piss all over that favor, and actually named this year’s comeback album, Relapse. As if he didn’t already know that Eminem beat him to that idea a whole three years ago. 

As fast and furious as the Bush trilogy was, at least there were a bounty of memorable tunes that I actually knew lyrics to and frequently sang in my head. I’ve listened to Relapse at least 4 times this year, and I can only recall just “Ghouldiggers.” From there, Jourgensen & Co. relentlessly pound out millions of quickly-strummed notes, sometimes all at once, and employ a drum machine that is stubbornly stuck on a full-thrash setting. I speculated in my original review that former band mate, Paul Barker, was perhaps the system of checks and balances that a thrash junkie like Jourgensen needed to prevent Ministry’s work from becoming stunningly monotonous. Since Barker jumped ship in 2003, some of Ministry’s works have become mostly an endless blur of fury that ends up signifying very little.

Justin Bieber- Believe
As much musical potential as I see in Bieber, I just don’t believe he has come close to reaching it yet, despite what Bieber himself thinks. Mostly because of the huge albatross of corporate and popular expectations weighing down this potential like a lead millstone. I recently read that he will be releasing a more intimate acoustic album in the same style as the sort of material he put out when he was first being discovered by Usher (just for kicks, imagine Bieber’s own version of American Recordings). However, since he’s still the property of Island records, who knows how intimate this acoustic album could possibly be. Until we know for sure, all we have to base his legacy on as of now are lyrics like, “Swag, swag, swag on you/ Chillin’ by the fire while we’re eating fondue.” Not to mention how his prominent tabloid relationship with Selena Gomez was probably more note-worthy than his music.

Apparently in the world of pre-teen, teen, and tween bubblegum pop naivety, whoever has the ‘swag’ has the power to deprive them of their money and dignity. Listening to Believe only made me believe that I was slowly being lowered into a vat of pink taffy whose sticky-sweetness threatened to make me feel sick, then consume me whole. I know that sounds a bit dramatic, but until you’ve heard the thing for yourself, all you have to do is just believe in me rather than Bieber.

Green Day- ¡Uno!, ¡Dos!, & ¡Tré!

As Green Day gets older, they remain the same age, much to the delight of their loyal fans, but much to my own chagrin. At least with albums like Warning and their rock operas of American Idiot and 21st Century Breakdown, as mature, yet pompous as they were, they sounded like Green Day were growing up and acting their age. However, with this album trilogy, they not only failed to maintain an air of maturity, but they actually managed to regress musically too.

As sappy as I felt Justin Bieber’s lyrics were, they actually seemed appropriate for his age considering Billie Joe is now 40 years old, but still writing like he’s a sexually confused/frustrated/longing 16 year-old. Not that there’s anything wrong with trying to console or relate to your target audience of high schoolers, but for God’s sake, if you’re going to do it, do not say things like, “Won’t you be my bloody valentine?” or “Everybody’s drama queen/ is old enough to bleed now.” Those could just as easily be a lyric from the bottomless pit of emo alternative metal bands who wish to share their most sappy sentiments with teenagers who probably have bigger things to worry about like math homework or even if they should bother combing their hair today.

As loyal as Green Day fans tend to be, their loyalty is tested to the extreme with this latest “collect-‘em-all!” trilogy that tests how willing true fans are to separate themselves from at least 30 dollars of their money. I’m not sure if I can recall an instance where a band felt the need to take advantage of their fanbase’s loyalty to such an extent, but I am thankful I merely streamed the material instead. To separate myself from such an amount of money in order to hear a power pop first part (with far more emphasis on pop than their signature power style), a decent, yet also half-assed garage rock second part, and finally an anti-climactic mix of the first two parts in ¡Tré!, would certainly make me more than willing to publicly damn them, and let them know just how I feel with the sheer pomposity of their latest work.

But to save you and myself from an endless self-important rant on Green Day’s decline, I feel compelled to remind everyone, including myself, that this trilogy was merely the product of Green Day having actual experimentation fun in the studio for the first time since 1997’s Nimrod. If this trilogy is what they needed to do in order to recharge their batteries for a better album the next time around, then I guess I can condone this abundant display of mindless indulgence for now. Other than that, I don’t see myself revisiting this chapter in Green Day’s career anytime soon, or ever again for that matter. 

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