Popdose Roundtable: Artists We Used to Love (And Why We Stopped Loving Them)
Jeff Giles: I’m listening to Indigo Dreams, the new album from the BoDeans, and stifling yawns. I used to be a huge fan, and I was thrilled when they announced the reunion in 2004, but their last three albums have done nothing at all for me. I just realized that the last BoDeans record that came with any songs I really liked was Blend, and that was way back in ’96, which makes me very sad. Their music meant a lot to me once.
What about you guys? Which bands have dragged you, kicking and screaming, into indifference, and which records were the ones that did it?
David Medsker: At the risk of being lynched, Crowded House. I love Neil Finn, but I rarely listen to their two most recent albums. I’m worried that the new Kaiser Chiefs record is about to do the same for them. Damn things sound like home demos. I don’t want to hear Kaiser Chiefs demos. I want production. Oh, and here’s another one: Massive Attack. Everything since Mezzanine has left me cold.
Jeff: Yeah, the post-reunion Crowded House records aren’t as…friendly as their older stuff. I wish they weren’t so ballad-heavy. Although I do love “Don’t Stop Now” and “Either Side of the World.”
Scott Malchus: Crowded House’s last album collects digital dust on my iPod.
Chris Holmes: My love of Queensryche hit a big wall on Hear in the Now Frontier, although it was rekindled somewhat with Mindcrime II and American Soldier. Radiohead lost me after Amnesiac, and I remember distinctly listening to Binaural for the first time and giving up on Pearl Jam.
And I have to say that my enthusiasm for Ben Folds isn’t nearly what it once was. The post-Suburbs EPs were the last recordings of his that got me excited.
Jeff: He lost me after the EPs, too — although I still ponied up for the deluxe Way to Normal. Son of a bitch.
Chris: The frustrating thing for me as a fan is I can’t really put my finger on the reason why his new stuff doesn’t resonate anymore. It’s not as if he went off on some weird departure, musically. I feel like there’s no real reason not to love Way to Normal or Songs for Silverman, but I don’t.
Annie Logue: Oh, good lord, I don’t know if I can be friends with anyone who likes the BoDeans. There was a DJ on WXRT who used to go on (and on and on) about how WXRT was the only radio station in the world that played such hip, cutting edge bands like the BoDeans, and I was like, uh, there is a reason for that.
And now I have satellite radio and never have to listen to smug WXRT DJs ever again. (Maybe it’s just that I have come to associate the worst of WXRT with the BoDeans?)
However, I absolutely loved an episode of 30 Rock where Liz and Jenna were talking about their Chicago days, and Liz said something about Jenna dating the drummer for the BoDeans. That’s a slice of Chicago if ever there was one.
Anyhoo, BoDeans trashing aside, I’m quite conventional in that the musical crush who broke my heart is the same one who broke everyone’s heart, Liz Phair. I had a bootleg cassette of GirlySound, darn it! And the record that ruined it for me is the same that ruined it for everyone, the self-titled Liz Phair.
Jeff: Ah, Liz Phair. The one with the post-feminist classic “H.W.C.”
Dan Wiencek: I loved Jolie Holland’s Escondida, which came out around ’04, and have waited more or less patiently for her to make another record as good. Listened just today to her latest, Pint of Blood, and notwithstanding a couple of OK tracks, I am coming to the conclusion that what I am waiting for will never happen. Some folks only have one good record in them.
Oh, and what Annie just said is going in a frame on my living room wall. Nothing quite encapsulates the mediocrity of Chicago radio like XRT’s weird insistence that the BoDeans are a band of consequence.
Jeff: During the mid ’90s, when I was in my BoDeans phase, the stations in my area were proudly breaking local heroes Smash Mouth.
There’s inconsequential and then there’s inconsequential. I’m just saying.
Annie: Smash Mouth played a Boy Scout festival here last fall. I felt bad for them, because it rained something fierce that day. None of the kids I know went. The official count was 1,000 scouts and family members in attendance, but I’ll bet it was a fraction of that.
Matt Springer: I can defend the Liz Phair record. It’s one of my favorites of hers. But I don’t think I’d change anyone’s mind. I’ve been lukewarm on the later-era Ben Folds as well, although not to the point of giving up on him.
I don’t know if there’s any artist where I’ve gotten a record of theirs and thought, “That’s it, we’re done.” I may not like records as much as previous records, and we may drift apart, but somehow I always come back. I’m weak that way.
P.S. YES to everything Annie said about the BoDeans. Although I don’t hate XRT as much as many seem to, there was a time when it wasn’t an hour gone by that they wouldn’t play that goddamned “Good Things.”
Kelly Stitzel: For me, it’s Tori Amos. I’ve talked before about how much her music has meant to me and how huge a fan I once was. But now, my expectations for greatness when she releases a new album are so low they barely exist. And the album that started the indifference? The heinousness that is The Beekeeper, which was released in 2005.
Her new one comes out in September. I’ll give it a try, but I’m not expecting anything good. Especially after finding out her 11-year-old kid provides backing vocals.
Jeff: Tori’s description of the new album:
“It’s a 21st century song cycle inspired by classical music themes spanning over 400 years. I have used the structure of a song cycle to tell an ongoing, modern story. The protagonist is a woman who finds herself in the dying embers of a relationship. In the course of one night she goes through an initiation of sorts that leads her to reinvent herself allowing the listener to follow her on a journey to explore complex musical and emotional subject matter. One of the main themes explored on this album is the hunter and the hunted and how both exist within us.”
Jason Hare: Isn’t that what “Hungry Like the Wolf” is about?
Chris: Holy shit, even Sting thinks that sounds pretentious and boring.
Kelly: See what I mean? It makes me want to fly to Cornwall and shake her until the weave falls out. I don’t even think she knows what she’s talking about anymore.
There are a few others. I absolutely love Tricky’s Maxinquaye and Pre-Millennium Tension, but everything after just falls short of the promise of those first two records. And I’m with Chris on the Queensryche. Oh, and fucking R.E.M. — they just piss me off. I’ve been “Meh” on them since New Adventures in Hi-Fi.
Jack Feerick: I’ll second this. I hate to invoke the myth of the purity of the primitive, but man, when U2 — who for years had been defined as much by their technical limitations as by their abilities — finally learned how to play “properly,” and how to write songs like everybody else, they started, well, writing songs like everybody else. There wasn’t a song on ATYCLB that I couldn’t imagine being covered by Rod Stewart.
Medsker: I completely agree. I’ll take Pop over ATYCLB, and everything since, any day of the week and twice on Sunday.
Jeff: R.E.M. is a pretty great example of what I’m talking about. Sometimes I think they’ve spent the last 15 years shedding fans on purpose — although Accelerate wasn’t bad. By the way, Dan: I’m listening to Escondida now. Sweet and smoky.
Michael: Let me ask you this, though: Would Accelerate stand on its own merit if it weren’t a “return to form” after so many dreadful records?
Jeff: I can’t answer that until I finally invent a machine that will teleport me to a reality where I never had to listen to Around the Sun, but right now, I kinda feel like it would have made a decent follow-up to Automatic for the People. But then, I didn’t love Monster, so…
Matt: But what is the “form” to which R.E.M. was returning, other than good songs? I think their new one has good songs. I think New Adventures in Hi-Fi has TONS of good songs. I think Reveal has many good songs.
Dave Steed: I’m with Parr on this one – R.E.M. is really the only group I’ve ever gone from loving to couldn’t care less, and it also started with New Adventures in Hi-Fi for me. I finally really stopped caring after Up.
David Garza is a good example for me as well — This Euphoria is my second-favorite album ever, a great pop record on Atlantic. He followed that up with one more major label album — which was really good — and then, since being dropped, has resorted to making avant garde noise and bullshit about brown bears and art cloud armies that no one in their right mind could listen to.
He’s put out 20-some releases since the late ’90s and I buy every one of them, simply because he’s a really awesome dude who really loves what he does and I can get behind that, but I haven’t had the desire to go back to anything he’s released in the six or seven years.
Medsker: Up isn’t a great record, but “At My Most Beautiful” made it worth the purchase alone.
Jeff: I’ll see your “At My Most Beautiful” and throw in “Why Not Smile.”
Matt Wardlaw: I never thought R.E.M. would record anything worth listening to ever again — Around the Sun was one of the biggest pieces of shit ever committed to tape — but I actually like both Accelerate and Collapse into Now. They’re back on a good streak…for now. We’ll see what the next album brings.
And Springer, I’ll stand there with you and defend that Liz Phair record. I’d love to hear all of the recordings from the Michael Penn sessions…and now that I’m saying that, I feel like those are floating around out there.
Scott Malchus: I liked Accelerate. They took forever to find their voice as a trio.
In high school and college, I loved everything by Sting. Then he released his quiet storm album, Ten Summoner’s Tales, and everything has sounded the same ever since. Even the way the Police performed some of their songs on their reunion tour sounded more like Sting solo than what I loved about the Police.
Shawn Colvin kind of lost me after A Few Small Repairs. Her holiday album was dreadful and I just couldn’t get into her last two studio efforts. And I was listening to the new They Might Be Giants album after reading Jeff’s article on them, and I definitely went “Meh.” The thrill I got from hearing them back when I was 20 years old is no longer there.
Jeff: Aw, I liked Ten Summoner’s Tales — I thought it was easier to get through than Soul Cages, which, while absolutely a more meaningful and important album, has always felt pretty dirge-y to me.
Actually, I hung on with Sting until Sacred Love. Yecch.
Colvin has definitely gotten pretty uneven over her last few records, but I love “One Small Year” from Whole New You and “Fill Me Up” from These Four Walls.
I have no emotional attachment to TMBG’s older stuff, so maybe that’s why I thought Join Us went down so easy. I don’t know. But I do think the new record has a bunch of solid tracks. I had “When Will You Die” on repeat in the car for about 20 minutes the other day.
Wardlaw: Yeah, Sacred Love was the first really painful listen for me. I think both Ten Summoner’s and Soul Cages are borderline Desert Island Discs.
David: Sting lost me after that godawful “Let Your Soul Be Your Pilot” song. The only song of his I’ve liked since then was “Desert Rose.” And I loved Ten Summoner’s Tales, though I haven’t listened to it in over a decade.
Terje Fjelde: Steely Dan’s Two Against Nature and Everything Must Go torture me. Every single element is played out at exactly the right time and yet everything about them is wrong.
Jeff: There were moments on Two Against Nature that I really dug, but I’m with you on Everything Must Go. That one’s tough, and so are Becker and Fagen’s most recent solo records.
Brian Boone: If a bunch of obsessive music writers don’t like a Steely Dan project, then something is amiss indeed. And for me, the best example is Weezer — from the blue album and Pinkerton to “Heart Songs,” recording for the Marmaduke soundtrack, recording for the Cars 2 soundtrack, recording for the Shrek 4 soundtrack, to being 40-year-old men who call an album Raditude … that band was once my beloved, but now they’re dead to me.
Michael: Yeah, they’re another prime example. There have been moments of brilliance, here and there, but overall they are full of “meh.”
Rob Smith: I’m with the Sting and Shawn Colvin contingent, which hurts a bit, since their music (his through Ten Summoner’s Tales and “Desert Rose” and hers through A Few Small Repairs) meant a great deal to me.
Actually, there’s a lot of artists in the vein of Colvin who once excited me, but who don’t move me much anymore – Mary Chapin Carpenter comes to mind. Melissa Etheridge, James Taylor, Nanci Griffith, Maria McKee all fit into that. My tastes have just changed, I guess.
Paul Simon’s music hasn’t done anything for me since Rhythm of the Saints. Neil Young sorta falls into that category for me, too, and at one time I would’ve bought an album of him flushing his toilet (which is kinda what Are You Passionate sounded like to me). Weezer’s red album was the last straw for me – and they were a band I really liked. A lot. Lucinda Williams lost me there for a while, but her new one won me back.
I am the only person I know (or even know of) who likes Around the Sun? I do. I break it out and listen to it for pleasure from time to time. Now Reveal? THAT sucks.
Steed: Neil Young is weird for me — I love the guy, but even that ridiculously bad album about his car two years ago or so barely fazed me (actually, Le Noise was pretty bad, too). I think it’s because I always trust that he has something good left in him since he often goes off the deep end and then returns back to earth again. I gave up on R.E.M. because I just don’t think they have anything left in them.
Mike Duquette: Full co-sign on Sting post-Brand New Day, Weezer (my oft-repeated joke: the three best Weezer albums are Blue, Pinkerton and everything from the next seven albums that doesn’t suck) and Folds. Though as was stated earlier, I have no clue exactly as to why. His songs (and vocals) started feeling a little off around the EPs (“Rent a Cop” is asinine) and even getting not just someone else, but Nick Hornby, to pen lyrics didn’t do it for me. But I don’t hate any of his works outright.
But that box set he’s working on is likely going to lead to a period of joyful reconciliation!
Dw. Dunphy: I loved Marillion’s Marbles, but found Somewhere Else to be a lot of lists disguised as lyrics. Happiness Is the Road seemed way too long and directionless — trying to be Marbles, but not even coming close.
Since then, it’s been an acoustic versions album and a goat-choking ton of live recordings. I’m shocked they haven’t kicked out a covers album by now. Fanboy that I am, if they record a new album (meaning new material), I’ll give it a try. It pains me though about how unenthusiastic I am anymore.
I’m thirding Queensryche. They actually deserve more of a beatdown for getting my hopes up with American Soldier, then crushing them with Dedicated to Chaos.
Wardlaw: Yeah. The new ‘Ryche reaches levels of suck they’d never visited prior to this album.
Chris: Makes me long for the salad days of Q2K and Tribe. *shudder*
Dave Lifton: I’ve talked about this on the podcast, and in a bunch of other places (cue the jokes about nobody reading/listening):
When I Was Cruel was when Elvis Costello started to lose it with me. It was cold and contemptuous of his audience. I stuck with him for the next few albums and tours, but finally gave up a few years ago.
Dunphy: I’ll agree with When I Was Cruel. It was mostly a middle finger to Cait O’ Riordan. With the exception of two or three songs, the rest is tedious beyond words.
Dan: This is actually the last Costello album I more or less wholly got into. A lot of tunes stood out for me on that record: “Tart,” “Blue Window,” “15 Petals,” “Doll Revolution” (though he did recycle the melody for “Oliver’s Army” a bit, something which no one else has apparently ever heard), the title cut. Kicking Elvis for being bitter is kind of like slagging water for being wet, innit? It’s included with the ticket. Beyond that, I haven’t kept up with him too well. I got Momofuku, but not a lot of songs popped out for me on that one.
Lifton: My problem was that it came at the end of a period in which he was so much more open and even warm, like ending the Costello/Nieve shows with “Couldn’t Call It Unexpected #4″ a capella. I thought there were some good songs on When I Was Cruel when I heard the acoustic live versions, but he buried them with awful arrangements and a horrible guitar tone that he’s still using. Then came the double ripoff of Cruel Smile and the Rhino reissues, followed by North, and a handful of concerts I attended where I thought he acted like a pretentious dick.
Ken Shane: For me, Get Happy!! was the last Costello album that I truly loved. Yes, there have been many really good moments since, but not an album that I love nearly as much as those first four.
For me and Sting, it ended after The Soul Cages, which I think is his best album.
Springer: The last Costello album I truly connected with was actually Momofuku, which inspired me to go back and really give his aughts output a closer listen.
I’m on Lifton’s side with When I Was Cruel, although I don’t think I felt that way at the time…but even in the initial blush after release, there were songs and whole stretches that were more annoying than compelling. The whole “Dust…”/”…Dust” bit is lazy, pretentious and annoying by itself. And yeah, listening to it now, production-wise it does seem really dense in a bad way, like there’s a lot going on but you can’t hear much of it. Having said that, there are (as always) some good songs.
Overall, though, I felt pretty excited/engaged by going back and giving his last ten years or so a second look. I like The Delivery Man; I think Momofuku is just a damned strong set of songs with a loose but engaging vibe. It’s a no-bullshit great rock record with some country/acoustic touches, and adding Jenny Lewis/Jonathan Rice to the mix kinda forced him to step up his game, I think. I’m finding now that I’m drawn into National Ransom, moreso by the songwriting than by the whole Americana/vaudeville approach to arrangement and performance. And even something like My Flame Burns Blue or The River in Reverse has a lot to it that I think I may have not given enough of a chance when it came out.
Not to slag on anyone who has abandoned the guy — to each his own, and so on — but I do think Costello is an example of an artist who requires some work to maintain a relationship with. He’s got the constant stylistic chameleon/shifting going on, and sometimes there’s stuff he does that even if I try, I just can’t get into it (North). But I do find that if I try to meet him halfway and understand what he’s doing, it’s more often than not a rewarding experience. I say that as opposed to an album like When I Was Cruel, when you do give it a good college try and emerge realizing it’s just a kinda lazy, shitty record overall with some nice moments.
Ted Asregadoo: Oh, I have a few artists I could mention. Here’s a list:
Kate Bush after The Sensual World
R.E.M. after Out of Time
Elvis Costello after Painted from Memory
The Cure after Disintegration
Medsker: Oh, man. Automatic for the People is up there with Lifes Rich Pageant as my favorite R.E.M. album of all time.
Agreed on Kate and the Cure, though. And my wife chimes in: “Depeche Mode.”
Michael: The Cure is a definite, though I can hang through Wild Mood Swings.
Depeche Mode is a tough one for me. Every time I count them out, they surprise me.
Johnny Bacardi: From ’88 to ’92, I worked at a small town FM station with a wide-open format, and the BoDeans were one band we played a LOT. I went to see them in Nashville sometime in the early 90′s in a small hall with no air conditioning in August…it must have been 250 degrees in there.
That said, the last BoDeans album I wanted to listen to more than once was Home…and that was a long time ago. The “Closer to Free” song was catchy, but that’s about it for me since.
As to the question, Neil Young comes to mind — I haven’t liked an entire album of his since…oh…Freedom, perhaps, and I rarely even listen to that one. Which is not to say that there haven’t been good tracks on the ones since, but anymore I buy Neil out of habit when I do buy. For that matter, in the ’70s, I was a rabid Frank Zappa fan, but got tired of his act not far into the ’80s. Zoot Allures was the last record I was enthusiastic about.
And for what it’s worth, The Beekeeper was the first Tori Amos album I actually liked! OK, her solo debut had some good cuts, but for some reason (many reasons, actually), subsequent records left me cold until a chance hearing of “Sweet the Sting” and “Sleeps with Butterflies,” both of which I love, along with four or five other tracks. Which is four or five more than I liked on the other albums put together.
Oh, and while I’m ‘fessing up, regarding R.E.M., I liked Up a lot, and I don’t care who knows it.