Rock and roll over

In today's music business, tomorrow's revolution is yesterday's fad

6. The Dance, Fleetwood Mac, Reprise Records (16 points)
Those who have praised this reunion have done so because of what was, not because of what is; they hear pristine echoes frozen in time, classic-rock memories that have held on for two decades. They don't hear a Lindsey Buckingham who has lost his voice or a Stevie Nicks grasping for one final comeback; they don't see a band standing in front of the ATM machine, gouging the faithful for every last cent. This debacle of a live album denigrates the memories of Rumours and Tusk; it saps their power, the perfect way they told of imperfect relationships. The harmonies have turned to mush, the crystalline production to cracked pavement, and all we're left with is this tin souvenir of a night when five rock and roll veterans went looking for their legend and found only stolen cash. (Wilonsky)

7. Fat of the Land, Prodigy, Maverick Records (15 points)
Firestarters? These boys would be hard-pressed to muster a spark with a blowtorch in a fireworks factory. The techno Monkees perverted most of the rave scene's most positive ideals, replacing its pacifist politics with violent, macho fantasies ("Serial Thrilla," "Mindfields") and its non-aggressive sexuality with the same old predatory disco bullshit ("Smack My Bitch Up"). Still, nobody cared, and that was the real testament to how insubstantial the group was: Why get bent out of shape about a bubblegum band? C'mon, Madonna, level with us: How much did your Maverick label pay NOW to instigate this recent controversy? (DeRogatis)

8. The Colour and the Shape, Foo Fighters, Capitol Records (13 points)
If the Foo Fighters' 1995 self-titled debut proved that former Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl could play guitar and sing, this follow-up shows that he can't handle being a democratic bandleader. Sharing songwriting duties with the rest of the group, Grohl struggles to come up with compelling material: Such songs as "My Poor Brain," "Enough Space," and "Hey, Johnny Park!" sputter with stop-and-go guitar chords, pointless lyrics, and throaty, half-hearted screams. Guitarist Pat Smear and drummer William Goldsmith had the good sense to jump off this sinking ship. (Jeff Niesel)

9. Peace and Noise, Patti Smith, Arista Records (11 points)
Doped up on the nice cover art and the memory of her good records, now 15 years past, aging reviewers drooled over her for, essentially, showing up to the studio, being sad about people dying, and not hiring Puff Daddy. But the songs are draggy, content-free jingles gussied up with minor-key guitars, and the band's no more than serviceable. And as for the star, she's barely functional and trading on her iconhood--if she weren't the person who made Radio Ethiopia, nobody would care. You had a swell career, Patti, and we're all very proud of you. But it's the tragedy of the music business that performers who should get nice pensions get record deals instead. (Douglas Wolk)

10. Bridges to Babylon, Rolling Stones, Virgin Records (11 points)
Except in Rolling Stone, a magazine perennially bowled over with misguided loyalty, Bridges to Babylon got pretty bad reviews all around. But it's still overrated, because no review was bad enough. Bridges lacks all traces of the Stones' twin strengths, bonhomie and foreboding; in their place are tired riffs, dumb lyrics, and a kind of greasy professionalism. That ripped-off chorus of "Anybody Seen My Baby" (which had to be credited at the last minute to k.d. lang) is merely symptomatic of the record's innate cynicism: It should have been titled An Excuse to Tour. (Arnold)

11. Sound Verite, Make Up, K Records (10 points)
There is a special place in hell reserved for these tuneless, grooveless, useless poseurs. Especially for calling their inept fake soul "gospel yeh-yeh." They wouldn't know gospel if their bushes were on fire, and yeh-yeh requires actual songs, not to mention the ability to sing them. Extra demerits for former Sassiest Boy in America Ian Svenonius, an unbelievably irritating frontman who sounds like a squeaky gate, and who incidentally is under 30 like I'm over 90. (Wolk)

12. 24 Hours a Day, Bottle Rockets, Atlantic Records (10 Points)
Two words: Molly Hatchet. (Keven McAlester)

13. Trailer Park, Beth Orton, Heavenly Records (10 points)
It's impossible to hate Beth Orton, such an inoffensive, harmless, Cockney sort. Likewise, Trailer Park, her debut, isn't worthy of much emotional energy--it's simply rather null, though Orton's musical ennui (less a conscious effort at hipness, more a general malaise of musical personality) is ultimately grating. There's no crime in being dull. The crime occurs when dullness is hyped as genius simply by dint of cool associations. Orton has sung with the Chemical Brothers, William Orbit, and members of Primal Scream. OK, fine. If a not-unintelligent singer-songwriter who sounds like a monotone Carly Simon on downers floats your boat, then Trailer Park is your desert island disc. (10 points) (Katherine Turman)

14. Whatever and Ever Amen, Ben Folds Five, 550 Music/Sony Records (nine points)

Past the age of 16, cleverness is more a liability than an asset, proof of superficiality instead of true smarts. And so it is with Ben Folds and his intentionally misnamed trio. From the title alone, you know that "One Angry Dwarf and 200 Solemn Faces" is bound to be as wordy as Elvis Costello at his worst. But even when Folds tackles a powerfully primal subject--a guy taking his girlfriend to an abortion clinic--he proves himself to be an emotional geek. "She's a brick and I'm drowning slowly," he sings, and the mixed metaphor would be easier to take if the guy singing it weren't so smug and creepy. (Moerer)

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