I’m a little under the weather*, so this will be quick and to the point (and will include quotes by other people). Ten most overrated bands/artists (in my opinion, of course) in no particular order:
1) Radiohead. Note that is is a list of overrated bands, not bad bands. Radiohead was an excellent band, once upon a time, but their last few albums have been merely OK, while the hype surrounding them has continued to be absurd.
2) The Hold Steady. Maybe you need to be drunk to like them? Well, I’m drunk now, and they’re still completely uninteresting, and Craig Finn is still the third best songwriting Finn alive (and not really close to #1, Neil Finn).
3) The Doors. How funny that the aforementioned Craig Finn should have the definitive quote on The Doors. Here’s what he had to say about L.A. Woman: “The music meanders, and Morrison was more like a drunk asshole than an intelligent poet. The worst of the worst is the last song, “Riders on the Storm”: ‘There’s a killer on the road/ His brain is squirming like a toad’ – that’s surely the worst line in rock’n'roll history. He gave the green light to generations of pseuds.” That’s the smartest thing you’ve ever said (on record), Craig Finn! By the way, you can throw a dart at a wall full of Doors lyrics and hit something monumentally embarrassing.
4) Wilco. Again, not a bad band by any measure, but certainly undeserving of the enormous hype they once received (not really sure if they still command such respect/attention). If Jeff Tweedy were a pitcher, his ERA+ would be 110: better than league average, but no Johan Santana (or even Carlos Zambrano).
5) Bjork. Yup.
6) Sleater-Kinney. I like a few S-K songs, but what the fuck is the big deal? And the yelping, it really wears thin after like four songs.
7) Rage Against the Machine. Matador Records exec Gerard Cosley said it more succinctly than I ever could: “If I was 11 years old and had never heard any interesting music before, RATM would be kinda exciting. For about 20 minutes.” The revolution will not be televised, and will also not have any melodies, apparently, or anything approaching wit, humor, or subtlety.
8) Ramones/Sex Pistols. These are classic cases of seminal-itis: a band that’s really not that good—but that is very influential—gets overrated because of their effect on so many later bands. Try to forget the context; focus on the songs. Can you really endorse these bodies of work? (Actual good punk: first Clash album, the Saints, and of course the Buzzcocks, whose early singles are fucking gold.)
9) Nirvana. Mostly boring melodies, angst sans any touch of irony, bleurgh.
10) Led Zeppelin. Not quite as embarrassing in the lyrics department as the Doors, but close. They went more for terrible/sincerely inane lyrics than for terrible/faux poetic lyrics, which I guess is better. “But listen to those drums!” I don’t care, drummer. “But listen to those HEAVY GUITARS!” I don’t care, guitarist. This is music for horny 15 year olds written by men who were, at heart, horny 15 year olds.
Feel free to excoriate me in the comments section.