The 411 Music Top Five 10.16.13: Top 5 Worst Concept Albums
Posted by Jeremy Thomas on 10.16.2013
From KISS' Music From "The Elders" and Metallica & Lou Reed's Lulu to Billy Idol's Cyberpunk and more, 411's Jeremy Thomas counts down the top 5 worst concept albums of all time!
THE TOP 5 WORST CONCEPT ALBUMS
Criteria: Concept albums. When done right, they can be among the greatest albums ever; when done wrong, they just seem pretentious. Last week we looked at the best concept albums in history and this week, the focus was on the worst.
Honorable Mentions: Michael Jackson – Ben, Styx – Kilroy Was Here, Stevie Wonder - A Journey Through the Secret Life of Plants
5. KISS - Music From "The Elder"
How this one doesn't at least rank on anyone's list of bad concept albums is beyond me. Now I like KISS, but I am not a member of the KISS Army nor am I someone who bemoans anything that is not strickly "Rock & Roll All Night" range. That being said, I don't see how anyone can really show anything but derision for this 1981 LP, which saw the band tell a ridiculously bad story about a young hero who is trained to fight evil. The band went...well, it almost defies description, so you'd probably be best served to just listen below. Suffice it to say, it was one of the worst moves made by a band who have been so tacky as to sell coffins with KISS emblazoned on it. That says a lot.
4. Billy Idol – Cyberpunk
I like Billy Idol as much as the next guy; he's an important part of rock music without a doubt. But he made a huge, huge misstep when he decided to record an album inspired by William Gibson's Neuromancer. First off, he completely missed the point of Neuromancer. Second, this was Idol trying to sound important and instead just sounding like a completely pretentious ass in his own style. Some people have the intellect to pull of a concept album and I'm not saying Idol is stupid man. But he should know that he should box in his own weight class, musically speaking. This wasn't doing that.
3. Lou Reed - Metal Machine Music
I'll be frank; I don't think this one merits explanation. Just listen to fifteen seconds of it--any fifteen seconds at all, at any point in the LP--and you'll realize why it's one of the worst concept albums of all time. There are people who honestly believe that Reed made this album to piss off fans and critics, and it's pretty hard to disagree.
2. Garth Brooks – Garth Brooks in…The Life of Chris Gaines
This was doomed from the start. To be fair, it was ambitious but even the most brilliant musicians on the planet have a difficult time when they adopt entirely new personas. And while I give Garth Brooks a lot of credit as a country artist (a genre I am not keen on), "brilliant" is not a word I think of with him. That being said, I actually like a fair amount of his country music. But as an alternative rock artist? Yeah, not so much. Brooks made up the persona of Chris Gaines and recorded an album under that name and...it didn't work. And I don't just mean it failed. It absolutely bombed. Brooks was already on his way toward retiring, but the way this album crashed and burned made the end of his career a certainty. Few albums can claim something like that.
1. Lou Reed and Metallica - Lulu
Yes, Lou Reed got two albums on this list. I try to keep my lists to one per artist, but good Christ did he earn his double placement. Listen, both Metallica and Lou Reed are both incredibly talented acts. Putting them together should have been a work of genius. However, we got the classic lesson here that just because two great acts get together to collaborate doesn't mean the end result will be worth listening to. Really, who thought that an album based around two plays written by a nineteenth-century German man was a good idea? 'Cause it wasn't. And I get what they were going for and it's great that there are like four people out there that love this LP. More power to you all. I'm firmly on the side that wonders if Metallica and Reed were just trolling their fans here. Either way, as a concept album and as music at all, this was trash.
The Final Word
As always, the last thoughts come from you, the reader. We're merely unpaid monkeys with typewriters and Wikipedia. Here's what you need to do: List your Top Five for this week's topic on the comment section using the following format:
5. Artist - "Song": Why you chose it
4. Artist - "Song": Why you chose it
3. Artist - "Song": Why you chose it
2. Artist - "Song": Why you chose it
1. Artist - "Song": Why you chose it