Top Five Most Pretentious Albums of All Time
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by LOLtron » Fri Mar 14, 2008 10:24 amI finally finished listening to the latest Nine Inch Nails release, the 4 sided LP Ghosts I-IV, and all I have to say is... what a pretentious piece of crap! So I got to thinking, what kind of self-important asshole does it take to make an album like this? Well, let's take a look at five of Rock N Roll's most pretentious albums of all time to find out...
Let's talk about what it takes to get on a list of 5 of the most pretentious albums of all time. Now, making a pretentious album is hardly a difficult task in the world of Rock n Roll. I mean, from the very first time someone got paid a million bucks to sing lyrics like "oh baby yeah baby," a new breed of self-important, pretentious human beings came into existence: the Rock Star. You can take bands like Radiohead, Smashing Pumpkins, Jethro Tull, and RUSH, and everything produced by these guys is going to be inherently pretentious and obnoxious. For those bands though, pretentiousness is part of their package, and it doesn't really amount to anything special. In order to make one of the MOST PRETENTIOUS ALBUMS OF ALL TIME, you have to go above and beyond the standard level of pretentiousness inherent in all double live or concept albums. It takes a special breed of asshole to create one of the most pretentious albums of all time. Luckily, you've got another special breed of asshole right here to tell you all about them.
#5 - GHOSTS I-IVLet's start out with the album that inspired this little tirade: Ghosts I-IV by Nine Inch Nails. You've all seen the hype. It's a 4 sided double LP instrumental album produced by Trent Reznor, a man who fancies himself to be a modern day gothic industrial Prince. Lot's of people consider this guy to be a major genius, and I guess in a way he must be. Here is how he made this album:
First, he creates a drum loop - just a one-bar, repeating drum loop. Next he adds one bar of a bass line and some ambient noise like Nintendo game music bleeps and bloops. Again, just one bar. Then he loops this for about three and a half minutes. At about the 30-45 second mark, he adds in an out-of-key piano riff, which also precedes to loop over and over. Then, about halfway through the song, he tops it off with a non-melodic, feedback driven guitar solo. Then he repeats this formula 35 more times, makes some MP3s, and puts it up for download on his website.
Now, some people might say, "But Jude Terror, how can it be pretentious when he offered the album for free on his website? It's a statement against the exploitation of the record industry!" Yes, this is true. The major hype behind this piece of crap was that you could go onto the Nine Inch Nails website or Amazon.com and download the first "part" of it, Ghost I, for free. For 5 dollars, you could download the entire 4 sides, Ghosts I-IV. But I could empty the turds from my cat's litter box, put them in a basket, and leave them on my front porch with a sign that says "Free - Take One," and that wouldn't make it a good value. You'd still wind up with shit. That's what you get with this album.
I mean, how enamored with your own ambiguous, goateed self do you have to be to put out an album WITH NO VOCALS. What am I supposed to do with that? Listen to it on headphones as I go about my day and pretend I'm living in a sequel to The Matrix, and this is my personal soundtrack? Nine Inch Nails have put out plenty of albums in the past, and all of them have lyrics, proving that the guy IS CAPABLE OF WRITING THEM! So why didn't he bother? Sheer laziness? You don't make a double album with sheer laziness. It's only complete, big-headed arrogance that can drive a person to put out an entire double album with NO WORDS.
This isn't a classical symphony. It's a bunch of drum loops with random noise over it repeated 36 times. If you put each of the loops together, you might get three or four actual songs out of it. But all of this alone wouldn't land this album on a list of the most pretentious albums of all time. Nope, Trent Reznor takes one final step to push this album over the edge of the chasm of pretentiousness... On his website, you can download the first part of the album for free. For five bucks, you can download the entire thing. For ten bucks, you can get a CD copy in the mail. For seventy-five bucks, you can even get a deluxe box set type version of the album, with a special booklet and copies of the album in various formats, for some reason. Here is the best part though. For THREE HUNDRED DOLLARS, you can get a super-extra-deluxe version of the album, with a bunch of different copies of THE SAME ALBUM, on cd, dvd, blu-ray, cassette, eight-track, and Edison Phonograph, plus a booklet and Trant Reznor's signature. THREE HUNDRED DOLLARS! Yes, Trent is making a statement against the monopolistic record industry by offering his album for free download on the web. But he's SO FULL OF HIMSELF, he couldn't resist the opportunity to allow his fans the chance to pay him THREE HUNDRED DOLLARS for this effortless piece of crap, because even though they CAN GET IT FOR FREE, it's so fucking good, he has to give the OPPORTUNITY to pay him THREE HUNDRED DOLLARS for it. THREE. HUNDRED. DOLLARS.
And that, my friends, is what makes this one of the MOST PRETENTIOUS ALBUMS OF ALL TIME!
#4 and #3 - GUNS N ROSES - USE YOUR ILLUSION I AND II
In 1987, Guns N' Roses released Appetite for Destruction, an album that would reach number one on the Billboard charts and become certified platinum fifteen times by the writing of this article. Now, something like this is bound to go to anyone's head. However, when the head in question is that of lunatic recluse W. Axl Rose, nothing but pure, unadulterated greatness in the world of pretentiousness could possibly follow.
Appetite for Destruction was a great album because, in a musical climate filled with cheesy hair metal bands dressed and made up like women singing love ballads for chicks, Guns N' Roses burst into the game singing about sleaze, sex, drugs, and filth, all set to hard rock reminiscent of a modern Rolling Stones with the added benefit of the blues-metal-god lead guitars of Slash. This album kicked your fucking ass, and in a world of pussified cock rock, it really made an impact. Unfortunately, when it came time for a follow-up (and the acoustic Lies EP, while good, doesn't really count as a follow-up album because only half was new material), Axl forgot about what brought him to the game and instead decided that he needed to create what can only be described as an EPIC EXERCISE IN MUSICAL MASTURBATION!
Many a band has produced a double album, and those double albums have ALL been completely pretentious. However, in 1991, Guns N' Roses didn't release one double album. They released TWO SEPARATE ALBUMS: Use Your Illusion I and Use Your Illusion II. Let's take a look at what goes through the mind of a band when they decide to release more than one album's worth of material at a time. Normally, when a band records an album, they're going to have some outtakes. They'll record more than an album's worth of material, sort through it all, and choose the best tracks to go on their release. Years later, when the album gets remastered and re-released as a special edition, you'll find those tracks as bonus tracks.
Guns N' Roses, with the exception of a universally hated collection of punk rock cover songs called The Spaghetti Incident, stopped making new albums after Use Your Illusion I and II. Despite this fact, they remain one of the most popular bands of all time, with rabid fans dying for them to get back together and release some new material. Use Your Illusion I and II have been repackaged several times, including a version that, in a reversal of the usual practice, took the best songs from each one and made them into one album. There's been a live album and a greatest hits album released for Guns N' Roses. In all this time, not one "bonus track" has been released. Not one special "outtakes" CD from the Use Your Illusion recording sessions. This forces us to come to the only logical conclusion: EVERY SINGLE THING GUNS N' ROSES RECORDED IN THE STUDIO WAS CONSIDERED TO BE SO FUCKING AWESOME, THEY HAD TO RELEASE IT ON THE ALBUM.
This wasn't a case of having so much great material that it had to be made into a double album. No, this was a case of the band being so in love with themselves, so enamored with their own creations, that they couldn't bear to leave out ONE SINGLE TRACK! To top it off, rather than take the standard approach of simply releasing the whole thing as one double album, Guns N' Roses decided that their stuff was SO GREAT, it had to be released as TWO SEPARATE ALBUMS! One single package could not possibly contain the greatness that was Use Your Illusion I and II. It had to be produced as two separate discs, and stores were probably ordered to keep each one a separate side of the store so that the polarities didn't cross and cause a catastrophic atomic explosion. Use Your Illusion I. Use your Illusion II. Could something like Ghosts I-IV be far behind?
Now, something like this is certainly enough to qualify Use Your Illusion I and II as one of the most pretentious albums of all time, but Guns N' Roses wanted to solidify their place in music history. You see, in the post-MTV world, the legacy of an album isn't defined solely by the music on the disc. An artist can expand upon the vision presented in the album with music videos. Now, there were some real rockin' tracks on these albums, like Right Next Door to Hell, a song about some chick who lived next door to Axl and pissed him off so he broke a bottle on her head or something, and Garden of Eden. However, there were also some tracks that pushed the boundaries of pretentiousness to a new level. Songs like November Rain and Estranged couldn't be described as ballads or anthems... they were something new entirely - like their own miniature, epic rock operas, and the videos for these songs reflected this.
The video for November Rain featured Axl Rose getting married, with the band dressed in leather rock star versions of tuxedos. Then, though the wedding is clearly taking place at some fancy place in a civilized neighborhood, Slash suddenly steps outside and starts playing a guitar solo in the middle of the desert. Then, in a twist to rival any movie by M. Night. Shalamalamalam, Axl is suddenly at a funeral, his new wife dead. Then he dresses up like Elton John and plays the piano while Slash plays guitar on top of it while backed by a symphony orchestra. This video, however, PALES IN COMPARISON to the video for Estranged. The plot of this video is so incoherent that my mind has blocked most of it out, but I do know that at one point in the video, after escaping from the police or something, Axl Rose jumps off a big ship into the ocean and swims with dolphins.
Because it was released as two seperate albums... because whenever I even look at one of the albums, I have to picture Axl Rose swimming with dolphins... because one version of the song Don't Cry wasn't enough, and another one had to be released on Use Your Illusion II entitled "Don't Cry (alternate lyrics)"... Guns N' Roses Use Your Illusion I and II will forever be immortalized as one of the most pretentious albums of all time.
#2 - SGT. PEPPER'S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND
Look at that album cover. LOOK AT IT! By this point in the Beatles' career, the band was already pretty much recognized as the greatest band of all time. They were loved and worshiped all over the world. Some people might try to have some humility about this, but not the Beatles. They decided to show just how awesome and important they were by creating an album cover with a shitload of famous, influential people, all standing in rows, with, guess who, THE BEATLES, front and center.
Aliester Crowley, Lenny Bruce, May West, Fred Astaire, Edgar Allan Poe, Bob Dylan... these are BACK ROW people. They are three rows behind in importance compared to the Beatles. Marilyn Monroe, William Borroughs, Karl Marx, Sigmund Freud, Marlon Brando, Oscar Wilde, James Dean, Lewis Carroll, Lawrence of Arabia, Albert Einstein... all of these people take a back seat to the all-powerful Beatles. Hell, most of them didn't even make the front row with the Fab Four... that honor was reserved for WAX STATUES OF THE BEATLES, who stand just to their right. But hey, at least the Beatles deemed these people important enough to stand on their album cover with them; a few historical icons didn't even make the cut, like Elvis, Ghandi, and JESUS.
So yeah, the cover of this album alone is enough to put this album on the list, but the actual music on the album has some pretentious merit of its own. First of all, the album was a groundbreaking milestone in pretentiousness - it was one of the very first concept albums. The Beatles created characters of themselves and decided to release an album of this fictitious band playing a show. The only problem is that the Beatles apparently tired of their own concept after only two songs, and treated the rest of the album as a normal recording.
That's right, they created a concept album, dressed up for the pretentious cover, and then only bothered to actual play two of the songs in character before forgetting about the whole thing. Of course, that didn't stop them from slapping a reprise of the opening track, where the fake band is introduced, on the end to "close out the show." Yes, "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" must have been really great live. You go to see them, they introduce themselves, play two songs, then walk offstage and play a Beatles album. Then at the end, they come back and play themselves off. What a load of crap. And the Beatles couldn't even get THAT right - they added one more track to the album: the uber-pretentious song A Day in the Life.
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band - the original most pretentious album of all time.
So what could possibly top this? What abomination of human dignity could possibly be more pretentious than a concept album that ignores its own concept?
Here it is, the NUMBER ONE MOST PRETENTIOUS ALBUM OF ALL TIME...
#1 - PINK FLOYD - THE WALL
So we've established the fact that double albums are pretentious. We've established the fact that concept albums are pretentious. Well, Pink Floyd, the original self-important art rock band certainly wasn't going to be outdone, so they decided to produce a DOUBLE CONCEPT ALBUM. What could be more pretentious than that? Well, how about a DOUBLE CONCEPT ALBUM WITH A MOVIE TO ACCOMPANY IT? Game. Pink Floyd.
The concept of The Wall is simple. The unnamed central character, usually referred to as Pink, lives an unhappy childhood. His father dies, his mother is overprotective, and his schoolteachers are Nazis. Pink grows up and becomes a rock star. Naturally, he retreats into a world of drug abuse, builds a "wall" in his psyche that he retreats behind, and then proceeds to perform concerts as Adolph Hitler. Then he is put on trial in his own head and forced to break down the wall. Nice story, right? WRONG! IT IS PRETENTIOUS AS FUCK!
Now, I could go on and on ranting about how pretentious this album is, but, as the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. Let's take a look at some of the imagery from The Wall.
SOME MARILYN MANSON SHIT...
A GUY FROM HARRY POTTER...
FLOWERS ABOUT TO DO IT...
OBSESSIVE COMPULSIVE DISORDER...
MORE NAZI IMAGERY...
MORE MARILYN MANSON SHIT...
That's it. The top five most pretentious albums of all time. Now, don't get me wrong, this is by no means a definitive list of pretentious albums. There's plenty more out there. All you have to do it go to the record store, find the snobbiest looking person there, and follow them around to see what they're buying. Go on iTunes and check out the Staff Recommendations. Go on a message board and start a thread called "Best Albums Ever." There are plenty of ways for the connoisseur of pretentious albums to get their fix. I'll even start you off... check out some Morrisey.
Saving Rock N Roll One Post at a Time
Posted originally: 2008-03-14 16:24:47
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