By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
Afew years ago, former New Times Los Angeles music editor Keven McAlester (who once held down the same post at the now-defunct Met) came up with a system to determine the worst albums of the year, a scientific formula that separated the chaff from the wheat with such precision, its findings were incontrovertible, removed from the realm of opinion and chiseled into cold, hard fact. When McAlester left to work on a documentary about Roky Erickson, his so-called Crit and Shap poll went with him. Now, in honor of its founder, we have resurrected it from its temporary grave, put the formula--which has to do with a little thing we refer to around the office as "addition"--back to work. (To pay further tribute to Kevvy Kev, his own bottom-10 list has been tacked on at the end.) So here they are, the worst of the worst. Enjoy, because we didn't.
2. Limp Bizkit, Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavored Water (Interscope): About as good as you'd expect with that god-awful name; Fred Durst's mother must be proud. Rap-metal has finally reached its low point. And that, my friends, is saying something. --Zac Crain
3. (tie) Everlast, Eat at Whitey's (Tommy Boy): The only thing I can't figure out is whether anyone actually thinks the former Erik Schrody possesses a shred of talent, or if everyone just feels sorry for him because he's got a bum ticker. The latter I can almost understand--only a few of us actually enjoy kicking a man when he's down--but the former doesn't add up no matter how you play with the numbers. He can't sing, can't rap--hell, the man can barely talk in a straight line. For once, I actually agree with Eminem. --Z.C.
Radiohead, Kid A (Capitol): It's either the best album of the year (audacious, ambitious, awesome) or the worst (audacious, ambitious, aw-shit), like it matters either way: What the little boys and girls don't know and can't hear won't hurt them, especially after they bought the disc the week of release only to sell it back the next. Kid A does sort of grow on you after a while, like back hair or fungus; one listen reveals its genius, while the very next reveals its garrulous, if furtively so, wankery. Too bad "Optimistic" doesn't rock on disc the way it does on TV, when MTV2 cranks up the, ah, "single" every now and then live-it-live style; you just know deep down Thom Yorke would love to shake his spastic ass in studio as well as on stage. So-called "rock" record due next year. Start holding your breath...now. --Robert Wilonsky
5. Everclear, Songs from an American Movie, Vol. 1: Learning How to Smile (Capitol): Art Alexakis needs to get back on the drugs; staying clean has sapped him of any original thought. When he's not ripping off his own stuff, which he does most of the time, Alexakis steals from the '70s: Van Morrison's "Brown Eyed Girl" is butchered on Learning How to Smile, and "AM Radio" is nothing more than a karaoke version of "Mr. Big Stuff." The worst track on an album full of throwaways is "Honeymoon Song." Drummer Greg Eklund sings, "We stepped off the plane into a warm sunny day, and we both got leid." The yucks don't stop there, unfortunately: In the liner notes we learn that Alexakis is an Aries who loves fluffy things and the word Constantinople. I guess it sounds funnier when you've fried half of your brain cells. You'd hope so. --Dave Lane
6. Backstreet Boys, Black & Blue (Jive): There's a good reason 'N Sync's March-released No Strings Attached sold about 800,000 more copies in its first week in stores than the Backstreet Boys' third album did last month: tunes. For the first time since breaking America's heaving teen-pop constituency wide open in 1996 with their self-titled debut, the Boys didn't pony up the songs to justify the lifestyles, offering instead half-baked slow jams and lukewarm rockers that forced Max Martin's hooks to play second fiddle to a grasp for a maturity that is a systematic impossibility. Not as bad as the Spice Girls' funereal Forever (but more disappointing considering the precedent), Black & Blue broadcasted the sad shapes of Kevin's, Brian's, A.J.'s, Howie's, and Nick's hearts like a Times Square Jumbotron on election night. Good golly, svengali. --Mikael Wood