I do a lot of sitting around in front of computers. Most of the time I’m either working or just watching some weird bullshit on the internet. It was the latter which led me to Bon Iver’s recent performance on Saturday Night Live. There had been a lot of hype in the run up to Justin Vernon et al. appearing on the show, and SNL had been plugging the appearance like a prime time entertainment pimp shoving it’s “top ho” onto a televisual street corner. So I thought I’d check it out.
I was stunned at what Bon Iver, a band that are supposed to have some semblance of dignity and sophistication about them, decided to play. On live television, and in front of what was probably over 7 million people, they decided to play “Beth/Rest”, the final song from their latest album. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this song, it’s the musical equivalent of having your ears syringed by Kenny G.
Sometimes I wonder why some musicians seem to lose sight of what they set off to create in the first place and basically ruin what could have been a truly amazing album by adding something that will only exist to serve as a steaming pile of hubris. The whole Bon Iver / SNL experience got me thinking about other artists who, not only create an appalling track in the first place, but consider it to be a work of such musical importance, they actually put it on an album. Here are 5 of the best… better make that worst:
The Beatles – Within You Without You from the album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
I’m probably going to get in trouble for touching the haloed fab four, but on such a seminal album (Sgt. Pepper, Getting Better, A Day In The Life) this song is an absolute vibe-killer, slammed right in the middle of the album. From the man responsible for While My Guitar Gently Weeps, this is unacceptable.
Bon Iver – Beth/Rest from the album Bon Iver.
Here it is. On what (on the whole) is a pretty good album, this song hangs off the end like Mike and the Mechanics doing a giant musical turd.
Hot Chip – Brothers from the album One Life Stand
Don’t get me wrong – I love Hot Chip, but this track is another mood killer. On what is admittedly a slightly more down-tempo affair for the band, the repetitive refrain “it’s a wild love that I have for my brothers” and thin, synth swooshes just makes me feel like I’m listening to the opening sequence of some sort of bizzare Mormon inspired game show.
Our House – Crosby, Sills, Nash and Young from the album Deja Vu
CSNY are amazing. Deja Vu is arguably their best album, full of tobacco chewing folk melodies and ethereal, thought provoking lyrics. That’s why it’s strange to have Graham Nash’s saccharine ode to domesticity turn up towards the end. Woodstock (from the same album) became the anthem of a generation. This song became the soundtrack to a Halifax advert.
Shiny Happy People by R.E.M. from the album Out Of Time
I don’t mean to speak ill of the dead. R.E.M. were a band that genuinely made a difference to the 90s alternative music scene, but this song is not only a very weak link in the otherwise solid album that saw the band break into the mainstream, but it sounds like a nursery rhyme for mentally challenged hipsters. Even more so when the band performed it on Sesame Street (renamed as Furry Happy Monsters). Stunningly woeful.
The picture at the top of the article is from gattoblaster.com Check it out, it’s pretty rad.