Take these records, please

Or: Yes, it was as bad as you think

Making a list of the worst records of the 1990s takes just as much effort as compiling a concise countdown of the best records of this past decade, maybe more. Sometimes, a few slip through the cracks, such as on Jim DeRogatis' run-down of the most influential discs of the '90s ("The show-me slate," December 30), which featured not only Arrested Development, but also P.M. Dawn. Of course, DeRo is a big fan of Kid Rock, so it could have been worse. Not much, but still.

Fact is, every year bad records outweigh the good ones by a ratio that even a team of researchers at MIT would have trouble figuring out. Every Monday, we patiently await the week's mail crate full of albums, and every Monday, we end up back in our cramped cubicle muttering to ourselves about the taste of music business execs, or lack thereof. I won't bore you with a list of all the terrible discs we've received this year, because that would take more time and space than I'm willing to commit. Similarly, I won't try to be completely inclusive when my attention turns to the decade as a whole.

This was the decade that the alternative became the mainstream and everything went to hell. There are only twenty-something records on this list, but there could be hundreds more -- hell, we could've come up with 20 records just released in Dallas that are worthy of our scorn. As it stands, three made the list, and you probably already know which ones I have in mind. You, unfortunately, would be wrong, at least partly.

Alanis Morissette set the standard for late-'90s dreck.
Sheryl Nields
Alanis Morissette set the standard for late-'90s dreck.
Pretty much any Sonic Youth record could have made this list.
Sheryl Nields
Pretty much any Sonic Youth record could have made this list.

We won't get into all the atrocities that many an indie label has slung at us, and there are enough to fill this entire paper. You've heard of all of these albums before, and judging by the letters we receive, you own most of them. Suckers. You probably won't agree, but then again, you never do. So enjoy, or don't, really. I never expected you to in the first place.


Extreme II: Pornograffiti
Extreme
A&M Records, 1990

Took a minute to remember just how much we loathed this record back in the day. Then we recalled how singer Gary Cerrone further sullied Van Halen's already damaged rep, and it all came back. To fully explain the breadth of depth of this album's ability to, uh, suck would take "More Than Words." Actually, that's all you need to hear. Everly Brothers, my ass.

Unforgettable
Natalie Cole
Elektra Records, 1991

This is probably Natalie Cole's last chance to sing with her dear departed pop, Nat King Cole, because when she dies, she's going straight to hell. Apparently, grave-robbing isn't a punishable offense if you're in the music biz.

Tin Machine II
Tin Machine
Victory Records, 1991

You could sub this one out for David Bowie's 1993 solo joint Black Tie White Noise, and it wouldn't make a damn bit of difference. In fact, Bowie, like the Rolling Stones, overstayed his welcome a long time ago. Moralists tried to keep this disc, with its naked-ancient-statue cover art, out of stores. If only they knew they were doing everyone a favor.

Some Gave All
Billy Ray Cyrus
Mercury Records, 1992

Here's where Nashville bought in, selling the house so it could buy the farm. One mullet + one pair of tight jeans + one "Achy Breaky Heart" - any semblance of musical ability = huge success. God help us all.

The Sign
Ace of Base
Arista Records, 1993

No one needed a new version of ABBA, but God bless 'em, Ace of Base tried to give it to us anyway. And unfortunately, a few people actually did need a new version of ABBA. Even thinking about this record gives me a headache.

The Spaghetti Incident
Guns N' Roses
Geffen Records, 1993

If you've been wondering why it's been so long since GN'F'nR has been in the spotlight, take this bad boy out for another test drive.

Supermodel to the World
RuPaul
Tommy Boy Records, 1993

No need for too much explanation here, though I would like to point out how appalling it is that Tommy Boy Records released this catwalk crap. For shame. Then again, this is the same label that just signed Pimpadelic.

Hell Freezes Over
The Eagles
Geffen Records, 1994

If any band ever made a promise that I wanted kept, it was the Eagles' declaration that they would reunite when and if hell froze over. The bastards. For the record, Satan is still hot, the Eagles still aren't, and the only place we want to see one of the Eagles is on The Drew Carey Show, when guitarist Joe Walsh makes one of his frequently hilarious guest shots.

Mind Blowin'
Vanilla Ice
SBK Records, 1994

Sure, you could take your pick when Robbie Van Winkle's pseudonym is attached, but this is the real shit sandwich. Ice ditches the shellacked high-top fade and Hammer-approved genie pants for white-boy dreads and predictable pot references. You know, 'cause he's keeping it real. You'll need to roll one up to get all the way through this crime against recording equipment.

Bringing on the Weather
Jackopierce
A&M Records, 1994

Hey, you knew this was coming, right? Beloved by SMU frat-rats and their dates, Cary Pierce and Jack O'Neill get folked-up with the help of producer T-Bone Burnett. With Bringing on the Weather -- their major-label bow -- Jack and Cary finally get to foist their sensitive navel gazing on an unsuspecting nation, and Pierce gets enough extra scratch to grow his hair out nice and purty.

Under the Table and Dreaming
Dave Matthews Band
RCA Records, 1994

Take one South African bartender, add an idiosyncratic lineup (fiddle, alto sax, etc.), steal the Dead's mojo, and you have a band that world-beat the charts to death in the latter half of the '90s. The 1996 follow-up, Crash, may, in fact, be worse, but this is where it all began. The fact that this glorified bar band can sell out New Jersey's mammoth Meadowlands Stadium still wakes me up at night. If this disc is in a potential mate's CD collection, find the nearest possible means of escape. You don't want to get too much patchouli oil on your clothes.

Voodoo Lounge

Rolling Stones
Capitol Records, 1994

Bridges to Babylon

Rolling Stones
Virgin Records, 1997

The Stones' lack of relevance probably dates as far back as 1980's Emotional Rescue, but the band's pair of albums in the '90s is where it all went south in a hurry. And that doesn't even bring into play the three live discs they've issued in 10 years, only one of which, 1998's No Exit, was salvageable by any stretch of the imagination. Hanging it up now might rescue a sliver of the band's dwindling reputation, but it's so far gone that a time machine is required to fix what's wrong. Fact of the matter is, they've been heading in this direction since Brian Jones left the group. The only thing remaining worth mentioning is Keith Richards' increasingly indistinct interviews, which amount to a series of noises and cigarette smoke.

Home
Deep Blue Something
Interscope Records, 1995

Again, if this didn't make the list, we'd be more shocked than anyone. Along with Jackopierce, Deep Blue Something's Home gave the country the impression that anyone in Dallas could handily have his ass kicked. Gone were the days of J.R. Ewing ruthlessly lording over an oil empire. Please welcome the new sensitivity, courtesy of the Pipes brothers. Now don't let the door hit your ass on the way out. Or do, actually. We don't care.

This Fire
Paula Cole
Imago/Warner Bros. Records, 1996

What hell hath Lilith Fair wrought? More than three years later, you still can't get away from Cole's shrill "I Don't Want to Wait," the unfortunate theme song to the WB's Dawson's Creek. And "Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?" As far away from this piece of shite as possible. Think Sarah McLachlan, only worse. If that's even remotely possible.

Yourself or Someone Like You
matchbox 20
Atlantic Records, 1996

A bland band from Florida makes a mayonnaise-and-mashed-potato sandwich on white bread in the middle of the road, proving that what passes for alternative these days only means "alternative to good music." In an attempt to make up for their inescapable lack of personality, singer Rob Thomas takes to wearing eyeliner. Ooooh, scary! If you want to know why the radio sucks these days, begin the list here, but don't leave off Third Eye Blind or Korn.

The Dance
Fleetwood Mac
Reprise Records, 1997

Who exactly thought this was a good idea? Memory collides with reality and the USC marching band, and the result is uglier than one of Stevie Nicks' dresses or Mick Fleetwood's can't-keep-up-without-coke face as he overexerts himself behind the drum kit. If the Eagles didn't prove that reunions are bad, then this surely did.

Three Dollar Bill, Y'all Limp Bizkit
Interscope Records, 1997

With his band's metal-hop rendering of George Michaels' "Faith," singer Fred Durst began his short climb out of a 20-foot toilet (one of the group's stage props on the 1997 OZZFest tour) and straight into Interscope Records' boardroom. Christ, Michaels' original was annoying enough, and Durst and crew did little more than burn through the bridge, throw the chorus into the mosh pit, and add one line, "Get the fuck up!" No, Fred, get the fuck out.

When We Were the New Boys
Rod Stewart
Warner Bros. Records, 1998

Did we really need to hear Rod Stewart covering Oasis? Or Primal Scream and Skunk Anansie, for that matter? When We Were the New Boys was bad in theory, even worse in actual practice. Stick to soccer, Rod. Or getting it on with inexplicably beautiful models. We'll let you decide.

Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie
Alanis Morissette
Maverick Records, 1998

Morissette's second album -- or fourth, if you count her post-You Can't Do That on Television Debbie Gibson impersonations -- is even worse than Jagged Little Pill, saved only by the fact that no one else gave a damn about her vacation to India either. She was tired of dealing with success or some shit, and so were we when this disc came out. And maybe, so was director Kevin Smith, who cast her as God in Dogma, blessed and cursed with a voice that makes mortals' heads explode. Amen, brutha.

A Thousand Leaves
Sonic Youth
Geffen Records, 1998

Pretty much like all the other Sonic Youth records, except marginally worse. I still haven't figured out why anyone gives a shit about Sonic Youth. They experiment with their own experiments, making music that can only be called such because it comes on a compact disc. Save yourself a few bucks and hang out at a construction site for a day or so. Or just lop off your ears, because you won't need them if this is in the stereo. And you definitely won't want them.

Wide Prairie
Linda McCartney
Capitol Records, 1998

You can't libel the dead, something a number of critics failed to realize when this posthumous collection came out. We're not saying she wasn't a great mother, a loving wife, and a dedicated vegetarian. And she did have quite the eye when it came to photography. But as a musician, she manages to prove only that, yes, even Paul McCartney songs can be unlistenable on occasion.

In the Life of Chris Gaines
Garth Brooks
Capitol Records, 1999

The only thing Brooks should take away from this experiment gone awry is one of those nifty photos from the CD booklet. Thanks to a generous amount of airbrushing, Brooks appears with his original number of chins for the first time since he was tipping cows in Oklahoma. Only country musicians need to create a false identity for themselves to step outside of the box. Betcha this one magically disappears from Capitol's back catalog in a year or two.

The Fragile
Nine Inch Nails
Interscope Records, 1999

Fuck Spin. They may think this is the album of the year, but if they calmly and carefully removed themselves from Trent Reznor's poop chute, they might see and hear things a little differently. Actually, The Fragile would probably sound about the same way. Nine Inch Nails fans waited five years for this?

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