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.
1. The Dandy Warhols, Thirteen Tales From Urban Bohemia (Capitol): I hadn't heard a single record on this list, so I opted for this one, figuring it was one of the stinkers that actually deserved a berating, because the people who bought this record think it's profound, as opposed to those who bought the others, who are probably nice enough 13-year-old girls looking for masturbatory fodder in the liner notes booklet, or nice enough dudes who just want something to pump their fists to. By Urban Bohemia, I assume these folks refer to how they're living it up on major-label bucks in Portland, Oregon, a city that gives the term gentrification new meaning. The liner notes of this one feature multitudes of black-and-white glimpses at once-cute Warhols, now marred by noserings, tacky leather accessories, and tribal tattoos, sacrifices to the gods of the mid-'90s. The whole hour of the disc is, to be brief, unnerving in its generic derivativeness. Who are they trying to rip off? I can't tell, but the early Dylan-Beatles attempts sound like bar rock. Their stabs at a late-'70s Reed-Bowie sound like bar-rock meets Wall of Voodoo. Needless to say, no fists pumped here. --Amelia Abreu
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
7. Robbie Williams, Sing When You're Winning (Capitol): There's no bigger egotistical prick in music today than Robbie Williams. Just flip through the CD booklet--dozens of pictures of Robbie playing soccer, pissing on a wall, standing naked in a hot tub. He can't get enough of himself, so he figures we can't either. Wrong, champ. The album itself is a dreadful mix of shlocky love ballads and recycled dance hall trash; "Supreme" exemplifies the latter, nothing more than a cheeky redo of "I Will Survive." Williams does try to muscle it up on occasion with some heavy guitar, but it doesn't work--he still comes off like the Neil Diamond of the oughts. On "Knutsford City Limits," Williams pleads, "Don't hate me 'cause I'm handsome." OK, how about we hate you 'cause you suck? --D.L.
8. The Offspring, Conspiracy of One (Columbia): I hated this two years ago when they were calling it Americana. And two years certainly hasn't sweetened the taste of this shite; these guys make Blink-182 sound like The Clash. The only thing worse than last time around, other than the band's full-bodied embrace of joke-rock, is the fact that they had to drag a quality rhymer like Redman down with them. For shame. If these guys slip any further into self-parody, they'll put Weird Al Yankovic out of business. They're punks, sure, but not punk. Prolly never were. --Z.C.
9. Veruca Salt, Resolver (Beyond); Nina Gordon, Tonight and the Rest of My Life (Warner Bros.): These two albums, each by a woman who once identified herself as a "seether," stained 2000 for what may be the worst reason imaginable: utter irrelevance. When Nina Gordon left Chicago alt-rockers Veruca Salt to not-so-homegirl Louise Post and those two rhythm-section guys in 1998, she got out just in time, disowning Eight Arms to Hold You, the band's clunky sophomore album, and barely dodging Resolver, the bomb Post went on to make with boyfriend Brian Liesegang (formerly of goateed grimacers Filter). Resolver sucks, much like Def Leppard sucked post-Hysteria, but Gordon's record, the titanically named Tonight and the Rest of My Life, is the real travesty, full of bloated, formless, nonsensical shit readymade for the in-store mix at Claire's Accessories in your little sister's mall. Music this anemic isn't music; it's advertising for compromise. --M.W.
10. The Wallflowers, (breach) (Interscope): When will he just cover one of his pop's songs and get it over with? This disc is so flat-out boring, it's difficult to even poke fun at it. Jakob Dylan's famous last name has gotten him as far as it will go; now he's got to learn to write songs. The real travesty here is that he conned Elvis Costello into singing back-ups on "Murder 101"--Springsteen's lawyer is filing the paperwork as we speak--though in retrospect, Costello would probably go into a studio with anyone except The Attractions at this point. Better start begging Dad for a job, Jake. --Z.C.
1. Eminem, The Marshall Mathers LP (Interscope Records): White rap is the new hair-metal, and you may remember the real slim shady from 15 years ago, when his name was Bret Michaels.
2. Radiohead, Kid A (Capitol Records): The watershed album of meta-rock for a new millennium is, you know, OK or whatever.
3. Creed, Human Clay (Wind-Up Records): With ass wide open.
4. Yo La Tengo, And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out (Matador Records): Distressingly unremarkable, except perhaps for the fervor with which it was declared otherwise.
5. David Gray, White Ladder (ATO Records): To call this Dave Matthews with a beatbox and a British accent would be an insult to all three. Hipster muzak for people who've just plain given up.
6. Travis, The Man Who (Epic Records): In praise of which a fragile coalition of public-radio listeners, disaffected Radiohead fans, and Billboard staffers all planted one last smooch twixt the withering cheeks of Britpop, creating in the process a final synonym for "melodic": worthless.
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7. Lil Bow Wow, Beware of the Dog (Sony): This is approximately 22 kinds of wrong.
8. Elastica, The Menace (Arista): Turns out there is something she lacks when she's flat on her back: good songs. Perhaps the British have trouble pronouncing "eminence grise."
9. Barenaked Ladies, Maroon (Warner Bros.): A classic fish/barrel situation, but deserves some note as the (arguable) nadir of a band for which there is not enough heat in hell.
10. The Beatles, 1 (Capitol): Who are the 13 million idiots who don't own these songs already? --Keven McAlester