Nothing like arriving at work on a Monday morning to find an e-mail inbox full of questionable advice from even more questionable sources, such as one scrappy reader who wanted me to rip out my own tongue and hang myself with it. Thanks for the kind words, buddy, but I think you'd probably be better served praying for something bad to happen to my hands. Of course, if the spirit moved me, I'm sure I could still muster the strength to write with my nose, but that's beside the point.
After reading all of the irrational, emotional screeds denouncing the list the Dallas Observer ran detailing the worst records of the '90s ("Take these records, please," January 6), a dim light bulb appeared above our heads: How about we run another list, except this time, train our sights a little closer to home? More than likely, we're just inviting more abuse from some of you, and another dreary morning of bad e-mails with worse spelling, but, hey, we're suckers for it. Besides, we like to stick by the mantra one letter writer passed onto us, regarding our snide remarks: "I'm not negative, I just embrace the fucking truth." Amen, brutha.
With that in mind, here are a handful of the worst records of the past decade that were released locally, or at least by musicians who hail from this area. It's by no means comprehensive, but then again, it's much harder to remember the bad ones. Start your letters...now.
Woman as Salvation
Rhythmic Records, 1992
To make it easy, I merely picked one of Oates & Oates' discs at random, though obviously, any of them could have fit the bill. As always, the dynamic duo lets the ladies see their ample soft side -- hence the kiss-ass title -- and proceeds to completely folk things up, but in a, you know, non-threatening sort of way. It's quite possibly the whitest record Dallas has ever produced, making James Taylor sound like Ice Cube in comparison. No telling how many sorority houses at SMU have this in permanent rotation, or how many of the girls in those houses have got it on to "I'm Not Ready" or one of the other 10 songs Jack and Cary stole from Jackson Browne. You do the math, because I don't have the energy.
Bat Out of Hell II: Back Into Hell
MCA Records, 1993
The only good that came out of this album was seeing the late Chris Farley mocking Thomas Jefferson High School's own Marvin "Meat Loaf" Aday on Saturday Night Live. Really. Unless, that is, you have a thing for overweight men in frilly pirate shirts pounding every song into submission like some half-assed Pavarotti knock-off. Unfortunately, Meat Loaf used his entire ass on too much of this limp sequel to the soggy, sappy original. The result is quarter-hour versions of wannabe show tunes such as "I Would Do Anything For Love (But I Won't Do That)" -- Christ, even the title's long -- a song that gets annoying before the Loaf even begins to pinch one. Meat's (Mr. Loaf's?) only saving grace is his newfound, or at least resurrected, acting career. Sure, the most memorable moments of that career are an unintentional joke (Patrick Swayze...Randy Travis...Meat Loaf...BLACK DOG!) and a sideshow deformity (his man-teets in Fight Club). But still, it's better than this, which isn't saying much. Or anything at all.
Picture Perfect Morning
Geffen Records, 1994
Perhaps The Toadies took things a little too far when they directed their song "I Hope You Die" at Mrs. Paul Simon back in the day. Then again, after one listen to the ironically titled Picture Perfect Morning, you would at least hope that something bad would happen to her vocal chords, or maybe that she just wouldn't find the key to the recording studio anymore. She seemed to have gotten the hint after this misguided outing, though her recent resurgence with the New Bohemians does not bode well for, well, anyone. Maybe a few shows will get it out of her system again.
Lisa Loeb & Nine Stories
Geffen Records, 1995
"Stay"...as far away as possible from this quickie follow-up to Loeb's inexplicably popular turn on the Reality Bites soundtrack. This is only one of the reasons why Ethan Hawke should be on the receiving end of a good old-fashioned ass-whupping by some very large, very angry men. (We won't even mention his book.) You might try to excuse this lackluster effort because it was rushed into stores in an effort to capitalize on "Stay," but you would fail. For further proof, listen to everything Loeb's released since, paper-thin chick-pop sweeping up the second stage at Lilith Fair. To put it another way, if your biggest achievement in the past five years has been dating Dweezil Zappa, then you haven't really accomplished anything. Well, at least it wasn't Ahmet.
MCA Records, 1995
Stone Temple Pilots did it first, but The Nixons did it worse. If I wanted to hear Pearl Jam -- and I don't, actually -- I would just skip the middle man, instead of having to wade through Zac Maloy and company's tin-eared interpretations. Foma is khaki-rock at its worst, so thin you could stack 100 copies of the disc on top of each other and it would be less than half an inch thick. Oh, they're popular around here, so that makes them good, right? Sorry, Tennessee -- that offer expired a while back (cf. Hellafied Funk Crew and Pimpadelic). Just turn on KDGE-FM, wait 20 minutes or so for "Sister" to come on, and tell me I'm wrong. Nothing's better than guitar rock only mothers could love.
The Great Southern Trendkill
East West Records, 1996
This is the album that cost singer-screamer Phil Anselmo his life. It's a good thing they were able to bring him back, right? Right? Seriously, the Cowboys from Hell should stick to running low-class strip joints instead of trying to record albums that would be played in them. Fortunately, it looks like they've decided to do just that. Oh, except for that horrendous Dallas Stars theme song. But, hey, whatever keeps them from working on new material in the studio. And, yes, I'm fully aware that Vinnie Paul could kick the shit out of me.
Professor D and the Playschool
D-Funk Records, 1996
Certified Funky 2
Professor D and the Playschool
Apart from Meat Loaf's aforementioned Bat Out of Hell saga, there are very few albums as undeserving of a sequel as Professor D's Certified Funky. I, for one, would like to see some documentation backing up "Professor" Donnie Heyden's claim. Because, strictly speaking, the discs themselves can only be certified as, uh, sucky. I'll go ahead and reserve a space on any future lists such as this for Heyden's threatened third installment in the series.
Any LeAnn Rimes album that doesn't contain "Blue"
Nothing more needs to be said, other than the fact that you should especially steer clear of any disc on which Rimes tries to take on a Prince song. Even he can't fuck up his songs as bad as she can.
Wide Open Spaces
The Dixie Chicks
Sony/Monument Records, 1997
I've talked to people who swear this album is good, but most of those people haven't actually listened to it. Which is the only way the sound of two talented musicians (Martie Seidel and Emily Robison) selling their souls, urged on by one chubby loudmouth (Natalie Maines), can possibly qualify as good, or anything approaching the word. Nashville loved it, if that gives you any indication of its quality. Go ahead and start working up a set for Branson, ladies. You're gonna need it. Here's hoping they still have all those frilly Western duds in the attic.
Reverend Horton Heat
Interscope Records, 1998
Maybe some of us got accustomed to grading Jim Heath by a higher standard, but Robert Wilonsky nailed it when he called this album by its rightful title: Space Filler. You could see this coming around the time of Liquor in the Front, and It's Martini Time made it a little clearer, but Space Heater is where the Rev lost it. Honestly, it took me three tries before I even got halfway through, but it took only once to realize it wasn't really worth it.
Deep Blue Something
Interscope Records, 1998
The record so good that it still hasn't been released in America.
Presidential Records, 1998
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Any album that dresses itself up as metal but ends up sounding more like the Saved by the Bell soundtrack deserves all this and then some. Singer Tuzy Fenton wins points for singing lyrics such as, "And I know that we'll always be friends / Forever and ever" (the atrocious "The Calling") and "You should've learned to play guitar / You might've joined our club" (the equally bad "Troublemaker") without collapsing in laughter. Of course, she loses those points for writing those lyrics in the first place. The acid-washed gang at The Rock may dig this, but unless you are currently sporting the mullet-moustache molester combo, you likely outgrew this shite in eighth grade. Somewhere, a high-school poetry contest is being won by lines such as, "Love once burned me / But from the ashes beauty flies free / Give me a ride on your opened wing" (from "Superhuman"). Maybe that should be a junior-high poetry contest.
You Are Here
Aware Records, 1999
God bless Cary Pierce for continuing to try. It makes the job so much easier.
Send your rambling defenses of Paula Cole to Street Beat at firstname.lastname@example.org.