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From last weekend's Guardian.

The Strokes

Four bars guitar. Stop. Four bars guitar. Stop. Then a muffled vocal that sounds like it's been recorded on a 1912 telephone line under the Atlantic. Bit more de na na na. The end. This is the Strokes - Status Quo, minus the jokey self-awareness that every single one of their songs is exactly, absolutely, 100% the same. At least the Quo looked good. The Strokes are a kind of Top Shop version of the Ramones. With Amanda de Cadenet in tow. So manufactured, they make Busted look like the Sex Pistols; so east coast posh and quotably articulate, they're basically a highly punchable cross between Mia Farrow and David Starkey, minus the humility. What we ever saw in them I shall never know, but one thing's for sure: I'll be buying the third album, just as I bought the first two.

Jacques Peretti

James Brown

He's the godfather of soul, which is fine as long as "soul" is defined as funk workouts bereft of tunes. Brown is one of the most pernicious influences on pop for the last 50 years. His canon consists of little more than brass-driven aerobics workouts, over which he barks claims of his own magnificence, and were he to yell "Get up, I feel like a sex machine!" you'd be dialling 999 rather than leaping into bed. Apologists point to his work for the black community, but a former jailbird who has faced arraignments for armed robbery, tax evasion and spousal abuse looks exposed on the moral high ground. So say it loud: he's crap, and he's proud.

Ian Gittins

The Clash

They had white jeans and big gums and they went "WEUUUURRRGH " because they were punks. Only, unlike the Sex Pistols, who turned punk's musical limitations into a corking art-school pantomime, the Clash were beholden to cliche, their every discount riff, "spontaneous " guitar demolition and mucus-filled roar plucked from the lichen betwixt the flagstones of 60s rock. What's more, Sandinista! - a triple album of rubbish reggae, children's choirs and rub-a-dub dub - proved they were as prone to self-indulgence as the prog-rock braggards they had avowed to overthrow. "But," bleat the apologists, "they were political." The only sensible response to which being: "So was Enoch Powell, but even he'd have drawn the line at white jeans."

Sarah Dempster

Pet Sounds

The word genius has been incorrectly applied for so long it's lost all meaning. Brian Wilson is considered a genius. Pet Sounds is his cure for cancer, his theory of relativity. His particular genius lies in making songs about summer sound like songs about Christmas and spending the best years of his life in a sandpit full of dogshit. With this album he went into the studio with nothing except the cream of LA's session musicians and created an album that is basically a series of finicky arrangements hunting for a song. Hardly anyone bought it when it came out and you can't dance to it. Well that's because it's art. It's anti-rock'n'roll: all candy-striped shirts and songs about how they can't wait to get old. A pop star's life is supposed to be aspirational. The only enviable quality Wilson has is his deafness in one ear: he'll never experience the full horror of this.

Phelim O'Neill

The Stone Roses

"Just play it from time to time," advise the sleevenotes. "It gets better and better." But after 15 years I'm wondering when any small improvement might spring from it and, frankly, I'm beginning to lose patience. Which is obviously a worry, because I might never appreciate THE GREATEST ALBUM OF ALL TIME. Instead, I'm sitting here listening to an average rock album - lyrically pedestrian and with a sonic policy swerving from the play-safe to the over-indulgent. This from a group incapable of playing live and whose inability to follow their debut's alleged genius with a decent second album proved that if this album did have merits, they were just a fluke.

Peter Robinson


U2 are probably the most over-rated band in history. Their debut, Boy, was a classic and still sounds fresh and impassioned. Fatally though, they became a band that believed their own (fawning) press and whose egotism has devoured their talent. The Joshua Tree showed what a good guitar group/stadium rock band U2 could be. Sadly, they had the sort of pretensions that usually afflict mediocre American outfits like the Chili Peppers. On Achtung Baby and Zooropa they started plundering other bands' innovations and moving into "dance music" - though only the whitest, geekiest student could dance to them. Bono's ego meanwhile became so over-inflated he made Robbie Williams look camera-shy. As a political mouthpiece, the effectiveness of what he's spoken out about has always been over-shadowed by the column inches he's received. His insistence on singing the key line in the new version of Band Aid for example hardly seems very... charitable.

Jim Shelley

Neil Young

Like the poor and Pauline Fowler, Neil Young is always with us, a reminder of the drearier things of life. Venerated by paunchy Mojo-reading types, Young - whose reedy voice is the exact timbre of a continental dial tone - has changed neither his riffs nor his plaid shirt since he left Buffalo Springfield in 1968. Forever droning on about a mythical, moral America, Young has even-handedly bored three generations equally thoroughly, and unleashed some unspeakable musical atrocities. His last record, Greendale, was a concept album apparently scripted by William McGonagall, the anti-communist dirge Rockin' In The Free World remains one of the direst songs ever penned, and so relentlessly maudlin is Young that poor, impressionable Kurt Cobain quoted him in his suicide note. The apologists who boast that Neil Young has "never sold out" forget the main reason things don't sell out: people don't want to buy them.


Elvis Costello

He's done rock. He's done classical. He's written songs for the woman out of Transvision Vamp, and with Burt Bacharach. And really, anyone who has ever experienced discomfort with Elvis Costello (and there have been plenty of opportunities for this: his voice, his hats, his use of the expression "the work" to describe his albums) may need no explanation beyond the diversity of that list. For all his punk integrity, Elvis Costello is at base a jack-of-all-trades, occupied as much with his facility with music's form as with its heart. There have been great bits - the words to Shipbuilding, say - but his re-invention speaks less of creativity, more of someone who can't make up his mind. He was great on Larry Sanders, though - so maybe acting's next.


David Bowie

The finite possibilities of rock'n'roll and the law of averages ensure that it is impossible, during a career as long and prolific as Bowie's, not to create something passable, unless you're David Byrne. So Bowie has had his moments: Starman and Rebel Rebel (as good as anything by Wizzard or Mud) and the incandescent Heroes, an eternal anthem for everything. However, he's also had his hours. The paradox of Bowie is that the albums upon which his legend are founded are his worst. Station To Station is perhaps a great cocaine record, but only insofar as it unimprovably demonstrates the drug's ability to turn people into humourless, self-absorbed bores. And Ziggy Stardust? Ziggy Stardust is, basically, a musical, a genre of entertainment for which no excuse can ever be made. Bowie is essentially a mildly amusing purveyor of novelty pop who has struck lucky more than most. Less Ziggy Stardust, more Alvin.

Andrew Mueller


Elvis is basically Shakin' Stevens writ large. Musically, the legacy Elvis left behind is abject. Shaky, Showaddywaddy and, let's not forget, of course, a million and one sorry impersonators. Elvis's voice may have been unique when he first emerged but it sums up what an overrated singer he is that anyone can do Elvis's voice. Elvis was of course the first. Fair enough. He was also the first Rick Astley or Gareth Gates - a one-man boy-band singing other people's songs, and being managed by a svengali. Elvis may have been the first pop star but he was also the first sell-out, making a series of god-awful movies before prostituting himself for Vegas, the icing on the cake (or the burger) for a career that had all the credibility and substance of Liberace - and with some of the same costumes. At least Frank Sinatra - another overrated cabaret singer - made a couple of good films.


Bob Marley

No other figure in music is so reflexively fawned over as the man whose most tiresome fans insist on hailing him Robert Nesta Marley, as if having a middle name is a signifier of gravitas. Marley did fulfil two criteria for posthumous adoration - he looked cool and died early - but when contemplating his music and his lyrics, the only discussion to be had is about which was more boring, more witless. Despite the predictable three-chord plod to which every one of his songs was set, the wooden spliff goes to his words: rhyming-dictionary tosh unrivalled until the advent of Dolores O'Riordan. When Marley sang of being "Iron, like a lion, in Zion," one braced for the shout out to his mate Brian, who had a tie on. As one Marley fan said to another when the dope wore off: "Christ, this music's terrible." AM

Tom Waits

Writing about Bruce Springsteen, former MC5 manager John Sinclair found an excellent way of describing why The Boss's music wasn't rock'n'roll. Essentially, he said, it was about characters, not real people. Most damningly, that it was "like West Side Story". And really, that's Tom Waits all over. This isn't news to anyone, of course - Waits is a cool actor, who makes "dramatic" music - but if you value anything remotely like authenticity, or involvement with the music you listen to, then this is just clanking nonsense about dwarves. Of course, the fans maintain, "he's so far in character, it enables him to reveal more about himself". But so what? For all its supposed otherness, this is incredibly simple music, so boldly signposted ("what strange music", "what colourful characters") as to leave no grey areas in which your input, feelings, or responses are even necessary. If you like pantomime, it's fine. Just don't try to say it's rock'n'roll, that's all.


Captain Beefheart

There's nothing so boring as affected "madness": it's just depressing and annoying. Same goes for Captain Beefheart. He's namechecked far more often than he is listened to, and his Trout Mask Replica album is deep-fried toss on toast. If you recorded Anne from Little Britain over a soundtrack of toddlers blowing saxophones at random, you could sell it as newly discovered Trout Mask Replica out-takes featuring a guest vocalist. Just call it Zoot Talon Cornflake Mama and hey presto! Instant classic!

Johnny Sharp


The little feller's inclusion requires qualification. Prince has made some great singles, though fewer than he thinks, and two albums worth owning (Parade, Sign O' The Times), both released when Reagan was still president. If Prince had jacked it in after Lovesexy, there would be no reason to regard him with anything but fondness. However, his failure to apply quality control, and hissy fits when record companies tried to restrict him from his preferred schedule of three albums of experimental funk and interminable guitar solos every month, have corrupted his legacy. The 80s albums have dated badly: 1999 sounds like the fifth-best rock group in Kiev, Purple Rain a riot of period pomposity in which you can hear the hair-spray. Diamonds And Pearls hasn't fared much better. Prince's extra-curricular buffoonery hasn't helped - insisting on being known by a squiggle like the sign on a toilet door, and declaring himself a "slave" of the record company which had paid him millions and indulged his turgid excesses. This was belief-beggaringly crass - the equivalent of claiming POW status because you got food poisoning at Butlins.



Why did Kurt Cobain whine and grimace like a man with crippling haemorrhoids? Maybe it was because he was a genius who channelled the existential despair of an entire generation through his poetic songwriting. Maybe he did have haemorrhoids. Or maybe it was because he was embarrassed. Embarrassed by the fact that Generation X had mistaken his navel-gazing lyrics and tuneless, guitar-thrashing noises for something more meaningful. Embarrassed by his crappy old jumper and lifeless, can't-do-a-thing-with-it hair. Embarrassed by the knowledge that, yes, he was in the defining band of the early 90s; but that the early 90s was the most rubbish era in pop history. Who were the competition? Ned's Atomic Dustbin? Sven Vath? Soho? He must have felt like Daley Thompson winning We Are The Champions. Nirvana was heavy metal by the back door, heavy metal without the consolation of Spandex and hairspray. Kurt knew it and he was so embarrassed he blew his own brains out. I didn't blame him.


The Rolling Stones

For years the debate raged - who's best: the Beatles or the Stones? Well, the debate raged between cretins, anyhow. Anyone with an ounce of sense and a pair of functioning ears knew there was no contest: the Beatles were better by a factor of 15,000. The Stones recorded some undeniably great tracks. But they also shat out a load of dull, ugly, clumsy rock. And don't start protesting that Mick Jagger is the most charismatic frontman the rock world has ever seen - he's a hideous, tulip-mouthed cadaver with nothing interesting to say, and the most grating voice this side of Sybil Fawlty. The most interesting thing about the Rolling Stones is the amount of drugs they took - and there's nothing more boring than that.

Charlie Brooker

Jim Morrison

Only a blowhard stockbroker's son like Oliver Stone could fall in love with a boorish, spoiled admiral's brat like Jim Morrison. He styled himself "the Lizard King - I can do anything". This lizard didn't even survive a strenuous wank in a hotel bathtub, but he popped his alligator boots just in time to secure unwarranted legend status. If he'd lived another two years they'd have found him out - as they would James Dean. Cool band, though, for two albums (out of seven) and a couple of singles; pity about the pretentious name and the ridiculous high-school revolutionary lyrics. I cite the album Waiting For The Sun and the alleged poetry on the RIP-exploitation disc, An American Prayer, as evidence of Jim's profound inch-deepness. The one time it all came together, on LA Woman, he had to screw it up with all that "Mr Mojo Rising" crap in the middle. Always the knob with Morrison. Arthur Lee's Love is the real 1967 LA band. Who are those fools at his grave?

John Patterson

The Beatles

Thanks to these four, Britain's high watermark of musical creativity is still considered to be pub rock made by white idiots. As if polluting the 1960s with their safe, insipid music wasn't bad enough, they've exerted a stranglehold on culture since, inspiring generations of terrible bands and being feted by Chris Evans and Alan Partridge. Between their toe-curling rhyming couplets, tax-dodging, horseshit "spirituality" and Octopus's Garden, the Beatles embody everything wrong with the 60s in general and hippies in particular.

Justin Quirk

What's Going On

Often cited as the all-time greatest album by music critics sent into convulsions of overpraise by any modicum of political awareness on the part of their black heroes. Borne on a tide of blathery sax, hotel lounge-bar cooing and light orchestral strings, What's Going On is the very inessence of wishy-washiness. Set against the backdrop of the continuing Vietnam war, it's replete with astute observations: "Brother, brother/There's far too many of you dyin'", coupled with bullet-hard, imaginative prescriptions to end the carnage that wouldn't embarrass a greetings-card copywriter: "You know we've got to find a way/To bring some loving here today." On Right On, Marvin invokes Jesus as the ultimate solution, religion as we know having been the surest antidote to war since time began. Mawkish, handwringing idiocy that vaporises on aural impact.

David Stubbs

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what music does the guardian like then? Although i'd agree with some of it and disagree with some of it' date=' i'd have to say the whole article was complete shite.[/quote']

It was the opinions of various people gathered together in one article and not the opinion of The Guardian....

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yeah i only noticed that it was all different people after i posted' date=' they're all still guardian writers though.[/quote']

No they're not, they're Guardian contributors. It's like calling Ann Widdecombe a Guardian writer because of her agony aunt column. Stop trying to weasel your way out of the fact you attributed the opinion of a group of diverse contributors to the collective view of a newspaper, then asking 'What does the Guardian like?' like some pretentious wankbag. Your point was rubbish, and your oh-so-wellcrafted attempt at having a dig at a national newspaper was far, far worse than any of the opinions on display.

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I love good writing. Its funny how I'm convinced by every single one of those. But no ones perfect and I'm sure all those artists all have extremely good aspects also.

The U2 one is the best. bono is a fucking twat and his band are crap. so much media hype around them being 'the greatest band in the world' just now. people begin to believe this shit, thinking they were stupid for not knowing all along. their new song sounds incredibly mediocre, bland and average.

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"Captain Beefheart

There's nothing so boring as affected "madness": it's just depressing and annoying. Same goes for Captain Beefheart. He's namechecked far more often than he is listened to, and his Trout Mask Replica album is deep-fried toss on toast. If you recorded Anne from Little Britain over a soundtrack of toddlers blowing saxophones at random, you could sell it as newly discovered Trout Mask Replica out-takes featuring a guest vocalist. Just call it Zoot Talon Cornflake Mama and hey presto! Instant classic!

Johnny Sharp"

seriously, did some1 just fart?

id say something that has a point but if he couldnt be bothered to then why the fuck should i

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Its funny, I read that article and experienced such a wide range of emotions. I read some and agreed with what was said and realised that was what I had always felt and others I was quite annoyed at.

The one that pissed me off first was the Stones one, but when I re-read it the author has unwittingly called himself a cretin by falling back on the oh so easy beatles v stones argument.....there is no comparison! The Rolling Stones were 'and are' nothing more than an outstanding rock'n'roll band, Its well documented how hard Jagger and Richards found it to write a song in the early days but have written a few crackers in their day, the Beatles on the other hand were hoisted onto a lofty pedestal as "great composers" very early in their career but in my opinion have written more than their fair share of shite.

Two more points:

Neil Young is a god

U2 are shite, although strangely I quite like their current single :help:

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No they're not' date=' they're Guardian contributors. It's like calling Ann Widdecombe a Guardian writer because of her agony aunt column. Stop trying to weasel your way out of the fact you attributed the opinion of a group of diverse contributors to the collective view of a newspaper, then asking 'What does the Guardian like?' like some pretentious wankbag. Your point was rubbish, and your oh-so-wellcrafted attempt at having a dig at a national newspaper was far, far worse than any of the opinions on display.[/quote']

calm down boyo, i wasn't trying to have a dig at the guardian. I wasn't trying to make some great point. Just saying i didn't really like the article.

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Even if it wasn't stated it was the guardian, you can easily work out it's from a paper that advertises for, hands on, inclusively orientated, gender neutral Ph balanced, organic outreach councilling support fiddler to facillitate the reintegration of gay, black lesbian daleks from their previous universe domination standpoint to a more civilly concious productive contributory wellbeing factor of a urban renewal nature.

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