Stone Temple Pilots

Core (1992)

Sure, they weren’t on the level of the great grunge Gods.  But that doesn’t mean they weren’t any good.  Plenty of bands have sounds similar to another band.  The difference in judging seems to be that when you don’t like the second band, they’re “unoriginal” and “posers”.  When you DO like them, you prefer to call them whatever-band-they-sound-like-esque.  Kind of a silly way to go about reviews, don’t you think?  This is a great album.  Yes, great.  Not good.  Great.  Got it? Good.  And in the name of all that is good and sacred, if that sounds familiar, Denis Leary deserves to be ripped…see “Bill Hicks”.
(“Sex Type Thing”, “Creep”, “Plush”, “Wicked Garden”)

Grade: A-

8/10/12: “Sex Type Thing” is either a rightfully vicious, sarcastic put-down of scumbag rapists/sexists/misogynists or it’s pro-rape.  I’m gonna give them the benefit of the doubt that they’re not TOTAL SCUMBAGS and assume the former.  I’ve heard “Excitable Boy”, and I don’t think Warren Zevon is pro-psycho-killer-turned-grave-robber.  Call me crazy.  As for the music, it’s no more derivative than Zep was and it’s more consistent than anything Zep except ‘Zoso’.  Suck it Trebek.  Grade: A

Purple (1994)

I really like this band.  To hell with the critics.  If they don’t know the difference between an album full of good riffs and a talentless, worthless copycat, that’s their problem.  This is a great album, surprising even me (a fan already) and making me wonder if this band perhaps DOES deserve to hang out with the Gods of Grunge.  Alice In Chains was never this consistent, Soundgarden only did it once.  Pearl Jam?  Ok, that may be pushing it a bit too far.  Nirvana??  Alright, alright…I was just speculating.
(“Lounge Fly”, “Still Remains”, “Interstate Love Song”, “Big Empty”)

Grade: A

Tiny Music… Songs From The Vatican Gift Shop (1996)

Meaningless great hooky riffs are their style, not melodies.  So when they lose them and try to go soft, they become mostly dull, hokey, and boring.  And completely irrelevant, except for “Trippin’ On A Hole In A Paper Heart”, which has some great meaningless hooky riffs. 
(“Trippin’ On A Hole In A Paper Heart”)

Grade: D+

No. 4 (1999)

“Down” and “Sour Girl” are the only songs worth your time.  And you’ve heard “Down” before, in various (and superior) incarnations.
(“Sour Girl”)

Grade: C-

The Sundays

Reading, Writing, And Arithmetic (1989)

Pretty voice, to be sure, and powerful too when the occasion calls for it.  The problem, as usual, is in the songwriting.  This is mostly useless, but has a coupla moments that somewhat redeem it (not enough).
(“Here’s Where The Story Ends”)

Grade: C-

Steely Dan

A Decade Of Steely Dan (1985)

Yes, I LOVE greatest hits albums.  Sure, you miss out on some interesting filler and the occasional underrated song, but at least (if the artist is halfway-decent) you get a good product worthy of many replays.  This fits in nicely with that theory.
(“Bodhisattva”, “Do It Again”)

Grade: A-

2010: (Tasty) Grade: A

Sting

Fields Of Gold 1984-1994 (1994)

I understand ending a band on a great high note when you’re ending your musical career entirely.  I even understand making music in a solo career or another band after that…if that first project became everything you wanted it to be, you wouldn’t let it fall into decline just to make more money.  So I understand why Sting ended the Police after ‘Synchronicity’.  This is horribly average compared to the Police’s best-of.  But Sting, even on his own, has some undeniable talent.
(“Fortress Around Your Heart”)

Grade: B

Bruce Springsteen

Born In The USA (1984)

Yes, it has hits galore.  Yes, I recognize their validity.  But I question their quality.  “Born In The USA” is almost undeniable, with the drums pounding out the rhythm for Springsteen’s powerfully delivered lyrics.  My favorite is the much more sedate “I’m On Fire”, which features the creepy and haunting lyric “Sometimes it’s like someone took a knife baby edgy and dull and cut a six inch valley through the middle of my skull”.  Wow.  But the rest just don’t resonate the same way.  It’s a very good album, though, and a nice piece of history.
(“I’m On Fire”, “Born In The USA”)

Grade: A-

Tunnel Of Love (1987)

I’ve never really had much belief in Springsteen’s myth.  After all, if he WAS the next Dylan, he would be as marginally interesting as that vastly overrated “artist”, whose career should have died a dignified death in the 70’s.  So, having said that, where does this much more talented artist fit in the musical landscape?  Well, ‘Born In The USA’ made him a superstar.  This is a relatively minor and laid-back effort.
(“One Step Up”)

Grade: B-

Sponge

Rotting Pinata (1994)

Another band with hit-plus-filler, this one escapes a truly dismal grade by virtue of their hit and a little bit of interesting music also.
(“Plowed”)

Grade: C-

Spirit

The Best Of Spirit (1973)

“Mechanical World”, written in part by future Heart (Huh?? Something here is kind of weird) bassist (for Heart’s famous commercial-sellout years) Mark Andes, comes out of nowhere and mesmerizes you with its changes in tempo, instrumental mastery, and air of lonely beauty.  The rest is written by others, and doesn’t hold a candle to Mark’s early-life peak achievement.
(“Mechanical World”)

Grade: C+

Soundgarden

Louder Than Love (1989)

Big Dumb Album.

Grade: D

Badmotorfinger (1991)

A quantum leap up from ‘Louder Than Love’, this album is quite respectable, if not fully likable.  In retrospect, it fits nicely in the middle of a BAD record(‘Louder Than Love’) and a GREAT one (‘Superunknown’).
(“Outshined”, “Rusty Cage”)

Grade: B-

2012: I grew up in the 80’s, so the thought that this music gets better with age because of all the sh1t I hear these days is inapplicable.  The sh1t from the 80’s doesn’t get any better.  Upped a grade for sonics alone.  Grade: B

Superunknown (1994)

Fourteen out of fifteen.  That’s a pretty good ratio.  Where the HELL did this come from?  The lyrics are often puzzling, but the music more than makes up when necessary.  Where else can you find a song about a guy who plays at being a drummer with some spoons and a few plastic barrels that is actually GOOD?  It’s quite good, actually.  Some of these hooks are downright dangerous- they’ll dig into your inner musical junkie and demand satisfaction from time to time.  And you’ll enjoy every minute.
(“Fell On Black Days”, “Head Down”, “Like Suicide”, “Fresh Tendrils”)

Grade: A+

Down On The Upside (1996)

It was impossible to follow ‘Superunknown’ with anything as good…that was probably a once-in-a-lifetime album by an otherwise maddeningly inconsistent, occasionally really bad band.  So they put out something with almost as much material as ‘Superunknown’, and at least can’t be faulted for trying.  I’m a big fan of quitting at your peak, but in this case I’m somewhat glad they didn’t, as this is a decent album, with a coupla songs that could have fit on ‘Superunknown’.
(“Blow Up The Outside World”, “Applebite”)

Grade: C+

2012: See ‘Badmotorfinger – 2012’. Grade: B-

Smashing Pumpkins

Gish (1991)

I had almost completely forgotten about this album, just like ‘Siamese Dream’.  Unlike ‘Siamese Dream’, however, this one does let up a bit after the first two songs.  The rest is basically filler…very good filler, but filler nevertheless.  That being said, I can listen to the entire album without pain and without falling asleep.
(“I Am One”, “Siva”)

Grade: B

2012: Very good filler…hmmm…if it’s very good, how can I call it filler?  I can’t. 
STUPID STUPID!  Grade: B+

Siamese Dream (1993)

Wow…I had almost completely forgotten about this group for a long time…I used to play this almost every day, but I grew sick of it, and my liking of it plummeted.  Listening to it now, I realize how good, nay great, an album this really was/is.  It begins with a flourish, and unlike ‘Gish’, it never lets up after that.
(“Today”, “Cherub Rock”, “Luna”)

Grade: A

Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness(1995)

A great album to impress your girlfriend with if you don’t have a “sensitive” side but want to pretend you do.  Or, the Luther Vandross of Alt-Rock.  Otherwise it’s spotty.
(“1979”)

Grade: C+

2012: Two things…I ripped the riff from Tom Servo, and “1979” is very good.  Grade: B-

Adore (1998)

A promising beginning to the album, but the excitement of that quickly fades as the songs go on, sixteen of them total.  The “sound” of the Pumpkins is there, this is not a failed departure.  This is a failed Pumpkins album.  This would appear to be the end…a pity, because I believe from the sound of the album and all the usual layers of music that Billy Corgan really tried this time out.  D’Arcy and James Iha cannot be blamed for this failure, as Corgan goes to pains to label each and every song as his.  Note to Billy- when the album is weak, don’t prove it’s your fault of your own free will.

Grade: C

2012: “Perfect” is the ultimate ITune grab.  Grade: C-

Sonic Youth

Daydream Nation (1988)

A horrible, boring record.  Period.

Grade: F

Washing Machine (1995)

Up until the very end, an effort worthy of Daydream Nation’s complete and utter failure.  Then they hit you with a song that has riffs galore, intriguing vocals, and fascinating lyrics.  I’m shocked.
(“The Diamond Sea”)

Grade: D

Skinny Puppy

Rabies (1989)

This one captured my attention on a late night drive to a club with a then-friend of mine and his then-girlfriend.  I may have been drinking before listening to it.  I cannot justify its existence when I’m sober.

Grade: D

Skid Row

Slave To The Grind (1991)

As far as 80’s hair-metal bands went, I never really hated these guys even after their very brief musical reign was overthrown by Seattle.  The reason?  Because as is shown here, they can actually rock hard, even if their intent is far greater than their ability.  They also can write “Monkey Business”, a song that declared that they weren’t intending on fading away like the more balladish-pop-metal of Poison, Bon Jovi, Winger, etc etc.  Unfortunately for them, they did fade rather quickly, as former fans switched allegiance to their grunge band of choice.  And after listening to this entire album hoping for more “Monkey Business” type music, I discovered that while the rest did rock, it didn’t rock in a very catchy way.  At least they separated themselves slightly from the hair bands.  Even if this did only that, I suspect they would crack a tiny smile even as they bombed away.
(“Monkey Business”)

Grade: D+

Paul Simon

Negotiations And Love Songs (1988)

I’m not a fan.  If you are, you’ll probably enjoy this very much.  What I hear is a load of pop-ready singles that make no lasting impression and (with one exception) make me look forward to the next song.  Or next album.  By someone else.
(“Kodachrome”)

Grade: C-

Silverchair

Frogstomp (1995)

Let me start off by saying I am truly embarassed to own this album, and I would probably toss it if it didn’t have some sentimental memory value.  Actually, that’s not completely fair.  It would be embarassing if I LIKED this album, but I don’t hate it.  After all, they’re just a bunch of teenagers.  And as far as stupid things go, making a cr@ppy album is very much on the harmless no-foul side.  And, ok, I admit it…a few of the hooks actually semi-hook me.

Grade: D

Simon and Garfunkel

Greatest Hits (1972)

There’s something about Paul Simon that just pisses me off.  I’m not sure exactly what, or why, but it brings down all these songs a notch or two.  Maybe I just hate his voice.  Then again, Art Garfunkel’s vocal contributions in general don’t do much for me either.  I’m confused, a little, but I know I’m probably never gonna play this whole album ever again.
(“Bridge Over Troubled Water”)

Grade: C

The Rolling Stones

Let It Bleed (1969)

Moments of genius, moments of stupidity.

Grade: B

Sticky Fingers (1971)

I was a bit excited to discover this album in a nearby library, so that I could check it out and listen to the entire thing, knowing all the time I was mainly just using it as a means to get my kiss-a$$ review of “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking” in print.  It starts off with a signature riff, one of Keith’s best.  And when I say best, I’m putting it in “Satisfaction” territory.  It doesn’t stop there, though.  Richards plays some amazing guitar while Jagger comes up with some nice lyrics and even goes Led Zeppelin for a while with his perfectly timed recitals of the song’s name in conjunction with Richard’s riff work.  Ahhh…I feel better now.  On to the rest of the album.  Not a great album, but a good one.  Other songs you might find interesting include “Brown Sugar” (although I’m rather sick of it) and “Bitch” (Which I don’t think I’ll EVER get sick of).  Yes, there’s some cr@ppy filler and a cr@ppy-as-usual blues cover.  So it’s pretty much half of a great album.  Which is all you can really hope for these days.
(“Can’t You Hear Me Knocking”, “Bitch”)

Grade: B

Hot Rocks(1964-1971) (1986)

This could easily be an A+ if it was just comprised of better selections.  As is, there’s loads of good music here, nothing truly revelatory but pretty d@mn good.  Only “Heart Of Stone” and “As Tears Go By” make me wince.
(“Gimme Shelter”, “Street Fighting Man”)

Grade: A

Flashpoint (1991)

Doesn’t sound that bad, and I usually think that live albums tend to suck.  Unfortunately, the song choices are somewhat suspect, and it IS a live one, so it’s not quite as good as it could be.  If you love the Stones, you’re gonna buy it anyways.  If you’re more of a casual fan, I’d recommend withholding purchase unless you spot it in a bargain bin in a few years.

Grade: C

Forty Licks (2002)

A very expansive greatest-hits package, this is separated into two cd’s worth of music.  The first disc is a wonderful collection of some of the Stones’ best early-to-middle period songs.  The second disc relies heavily on later material, and consequently suffers from the decline of the Stones in their later years.  If you want to buy one Stones album, ‘Hot Rocks’ is the way to go.  I’m sure there’s a later-period-only best-of out there somewhere that you could buy if you wanted a complete overview of their catalog.  I personally find a lot of their later material embarassing by their standards.
(“Street Fighting Man”, “Honky Tonk Women”)

Grade: B+

2010: (Chock-full of too much goodness to resist) Grade: A

Salt

Auscultate (1995)

I enjoyed “Bluster” very much from the first time I heard it on the radio.  So, guess what happened?  I bought the album!  Thinking there would be more good songs! (Well, “Honour Me” isn’t bad).
(“Bluster”)

Grade: D+

R.E.M.

Murmur (1982)

This is the world at large’s full-length introduction to Michael Stipe and company.  I find it a bit boppy and very non-threatening.  I don’t know what the hell Stipe is talking about, a pattern which would continue over their next few albums and, let’s be honest, their entire career.  The man seems to enjoy writing lyrics that make you think.  Which is a good thing, in general.  But when I put on my favorite artists, I want to KNOW what they’re talking about, and be able to just sink into a bubblebath with a contented sigh, and enjoy it.  Besides, I don’t think on command, thank you very much.  Unless this really is just a jambly mess of chaos.

Grade: C

2010: Stipe gets even more twitty in retrospect.  Grade: C-

Eponymous (1988)

They weren’t very good at all until ‘Document’.  Three of the good songs on this best-of-up-until-’88 are from ‘Document’.  And thus this album is elevated from mediocre to pretty good.
(“The One I Love”)

Grade: B

Out Of Time (1991)

“Losing My Religion”.  No.  I will not listen to that song ever again.  Michael Stipe has always been a pretentious twit, and here his music and lyrics combine to full twit-effect.  What about the rest?  Well, it’s not bad…better than I would have expected after the first single.
(“Texarkana”, “Belong”)

Grade: B-

2011: He does mean well in a lot of ways…and True Believers are hard to find.  Grade: B

Automatic For The People (1992)

“Everybody Hurts” has achieved the same status as Zeppelin’s “Stairway To Heaven”, both as a prom song and a song that has been played continuously and mercilessly since its release.  It’s a very good song, but how many times can we keep playing the d@mn thing and still enjoy it?  With that noted, my two favorites here do NOT include that song.  Btw, Andy Kaufman stinks.
(“Ignoreland”, “Drive”)

Grade: B-

8/20/12: Not to be morbid, but he certainly does by now.  Oh shut up, he’d say it himself if he wasn’t dead.  Grade: B

Monster (1994)

Nice hardish rock guitar throughout on this album, beginning with the killer riffs on “What’s The Frequency, Kenneth?”.  Most of this rocks pretty hard…there’s certainly filler but it’s more tolerable than it could be.
(“What’s The Frequency, Kenneth?”, “Star 69”)

Grade: B

8/20/12: All the meaning in the world didn’t save any of their other albums from being worse than this, and all the meaning in the world doesn’t make this any better than it is.  Perhaps they should, with some exceptions, find another medium with which to bore the life out of their clientele.  Thank you, Diane.
Grade: B+

New Adventures In Hi-Fi (1996)

Slow I don’t mind, pretty I don’t mind, mournful I don’t mind.  But put them all together and add a dose of poor songwriting and it makes for a dismal bit of filler, broken up occasionally by a decent song.  Is it worth your money?  I don’t think so.
(“E-Bow The Letter”)

Grade: C

2011: Moving away from both rock and pop is very dangerous for your career.  This does both.  It’s intentionally obscure and minimalist in the same way as ‘Murmur’, except here you can actually understand what the heck they’re talking about.  Not their best album by a long shot, but in some ways this is their triumph…Peace, Love, and Community over Money.  For once, I applaud.
Grade: B-

Reveal (2001)

REM goes easy listening/cocktail lounge act.  At least on parts of it.  It’s laughable, because you expect at least a stab at innovation from them each time out.  And because Stipe has to be the frontman for this occasionally annoying, horrible synth-sound album.  He’s always been a bit full of himself, but he seems to be losing it.  Where the hell is Peter Buck and his bag of riffs?  I guess Michael decided he WANTED to actually make a semi-easy-listening, mostly hookless quiet album.  I hope he likes it, because I sure the hell don’t, and thankfully the album-buying public seems to agree with me to a certain extent.  Stop with the synth moves, guys.  You have no clue what to do with them.  Either get back to GOOD pop music, or (my preference) straight out rock, e.g. ‘Monster’.
Grade: D

2011: “Any sort of commerciality” and “Doing whatever the fck we want” went to war…they raised the stakes, forcing the other side to, forcing the other side to, and so on…they won.  Grade: D+

In Time: The Best Of R.E.M. 1988-2003 (2003)

It’s a good thing that 1988 was when they started to rise above persistently meaningless mediocrity.  It’s a bad thing that they didn’t take all the good sh1t and put it here.
(What’s The Frequency, Kenneth?”, “Orange Crush”)

Grade: B

Rage Against The Machine

Rage Against The Machine (1992)

I’ve always liked good rock with meaning more than good rock without.  So that’s not a problem here.  And I enjoy Zach De La Rocha’s lyrics and performance.  The backup from his musical mates is impressive as well.  All that being said, I’d love to love this album, but the songwriting just doesn’t hold up throughout.  A solid effort, though, and worthy of a follow-up.
(“Killing In The Name”, “Bullet In The Head”)

Grade: B

The Battle Of Los Angeles (1999)

The synth attempt on track eleven is silly and sad.  They have one method of delivery, and frankly sound really boring/annoying/silly when they try to “branch out”.  On another note, “Born Of A Broken Man” is a completely obvious(and sad, there’s that word again) ripoff of Jesus Jones’ “Right Here, Right Now”.  It actually brought back some memories that left me humming inside my head.  The rest(“Guerilla Radio” excepted) is so formulaic and repetitive on this, their third album featuring the same music (hello, AC/DC) that I have no choice but to say that this year’s model is easily the worst of the triplets.  I see why they broke up.  Quite frankly, I’m sick of them and am glad that the band (except Zach, maybe?) made the right decision.

Grade: C-

Red Hot Chili Peppers

BloodSugarSexMagik (1991)

Lots of songs here.  Going through them all, I found a few keepers.  But something about the Peppers just rubs me the wrong way, and even the keepers don’t do all that much for me anymore.  The filler is torture.
(“Under The Bridge”)

Grade: C

What Hits!? (1992)

A collection of music one track more than ‘BloodSugarSexMagik’, it boasts one less interesting song.  If only grading was always this easy.
(“Higher Ground”)

Grade: C-

2010: (I’m overcome by their average-ness) Grade: C

Ruff!