This Liverpool foursome made the ‘80s worth living through. I bought the band’s debut LP, Crocodiles, the day it came out July 1980 and dug the hell out of everything about it. From Ian “Mac” McCulloch’s vertical hairpile and drab overcoat (the latter’s suave affect was one I would slavishly copy, the hairstyle, less so; I’d eventually opt for a version of bassist Les Pattinson’s pompadour with short back and sides) to the group’s previously unimagined admixture of the Doors’ dark doomsaying and the Velvets’ one-note symphonies, Echo & The Bunnymen turned gloom into glamour, made sadness seem sexy and went on to influence a generation of guitar bands (Jesus And Mary Chain, Radiohead, the Verve) who heard an orchestra of possibilities in Will Sergeant’s weirdly accomplished tone jamborees. The latter-day Bunnies have, sadly, become something of a nostalgia act, but we still have those first five albums—released from 1980 to 1987—to shine so hard even through the darkest of our turquoise days. See you at the barricades, babe; here are the five most overrated and underrated creations from the indie era’s Post-Fab Four.
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The Over/Under isn’t about the best and worst of Genesis. It’s the most overrated and underrated Genesis tracks, and the main theme here is that not everything from the Peter Gabriel era is genius and not everything from the Phil Collins era is crap. In fact, three of our five overrated songs date back to the Gabriel era, while four of the five underrated tracks are from the Collins era. And the one underrated track from the Gabriel era features Collins on vocals. So here we go with the most overrated and underrated songs in the vast Genesis catalog, as chosen by MAGNET’s Roob. Cue synth solo in 7/4.
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Say what you will about Elvis Costello—he’s certainly got a great sense of timing. When the young Costello first hit the airwaves in 1977, he was just in time to be typecast as a punk rocker with a wary sneer and some Chuck Berry riffs. But the label never quite stuck, and Costello has been a new waver, a classical composer and a blue-eyed soul singer whenever the mood has struck him. With a career spanning more than three decades, he’s resolutely refused to write the same song twice. He’s sung with the Attractions, the Imposters, been a member of the Costello Show and collaborated with Paul McCartney and Burt Bacharach. Not too shabby for the young man once stuck working a day job in the Arden cosmetics “vanity factory.” Despite a gift for pop songwriting that rivals the Beatles, Bowie or the Ramones, there are still some numbers Costello should have reconsidered—and others that should have been huge. On the eve of the release of the new Secret, Profane & Sugarcane, MAGNET’s Emily Tartanella picks the five most overrated and the five most underrated Costello songs.
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Once upon a time, Green Day was the little punk band that could, a heart-on-sleeve manifestation of the fiercely indie Berkeley music scene hovering around 924 Gilman St. back in the ‘80s (along with contemporaries Rancid and Pansy Division) and indefatigable champions of the “loud fast rules” associated with punk’s decades-old orthodoxy. Twenty years, eight studio releases and tens of millions of records sold later, frontman Billie Joe Armstrong, bassist Mike Dirnt and drummer Tré Cool are the last men standing in the rock ‘n’ roll army, a compellingly three-dimensional band capable of unleashing a magnum opus such as their brand-new 21st Century Breakdown on the masses. It’s an 18-song, hour-plus, honest-to-god rock opera that blows out an epic, Zen Arcade-like bildungsroman with economic, A Quick One precision while flaunting an almost encyclopedic knowledge of the entirety of rock history from the Beatles and Kinks to the Pretty Things and Clash. In short: Green Day is probably rock’s best example of how a little vision, a lot of talent and a dash of dumb luck can easily translate to rock-god status in our ongoing artistic recession. Fresh off the band’s appearance on Saturday Night Live and smack in the middle of a week’s worth of appearances at various venues around New York City, here are the five most overrated and underrated Green Day tracks, as chosen by MAGNET’s Corey duBrowa.
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Has there ever been another musician who’s had two such brilliant and successful, but entirely separate, careers? Peter Gabriel left Genesis after 1974’s The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway, his sixth record with the band. The run from 1970’s Trespass to Lamb is unparalleled, and if Gabriel had disappeared after leaving Genesis, he would have been remembered as a genius. Then came a solo career that has been just as inventive, groundbreaking and brilliant as his work with Genesis. Gabriel didn’t leave the band for commercial success; the group enjoyed far more of it without him. And while their first few post-Gabriel records brought Phil Collins and Co. bigger sales and turned them into a full-blown arena act, Gabriel’s solo career started with a sputter (not to mention four self-titled albums). Gabriel left Genesis to grow musically and artistically, and he pulled it off. And by the early-’80s, when Genesis was putting out crap like “Illegal Alien,” Gabriel was at the height of his game. But like any artist, there are high points and low points, and sometimes the high points have gone relatively unnoticed, while the low points have been wildly successful and universally praised. So MAGNET writer Roob (you’d know him if you saw him) is here once again to set the record straight. Here are the five most overrated and underrated Peter Gabriel solo tracks.
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Did the ‘70s punk movement produce a more important legacy than “The Only Band That Matters”? The Sex Pistols may have been the first, but the Clash was most certainly the best, blending amphetamine pacing with more esoteric musical forms (reggae, rockabilly, dub, ska) while taking on the establishment and its herd of sacred cows with a fierceness that would influence an entire generation of followers. That said, since Joe Strummer caught the elevator for that great gig in the sky back in 2002, his band has been granted the sort of revisionist sainthood the Clash would have no doubt despised in its younger, angrier days. In keeping with the band’s piss-and-vinegar spirit, we offer their most overrated and underrated screeds.
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When the Hold Steady formed in 2003, part of its mission statement was to combat the scourge of plastic dance rock and ’80s revivalism happening in its adopted hometown of New York City. Can a lovable band of underdogs produce such a thing as an “overrated” song? Given the near-unanimous critical praise of the Hold Steady’s output (MAGNET named Boys And Girls In America 2006’s finest album; read our feature on the band from that same year), we’re obliged to explore the possibility.
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Corey duBrowa’s Over/Under entries on Radiohead and Elliott Smith prompted insightful reader comments such as “This list fails,” “[Given] the fact Smith’s gone, this seems disgraceful” and “Where’s the html tag for sarcasm?” DuBrowa once wrote a lengthy Seattle Weekly essay lauding Pavement’s 1992 debut LP, Slanted And Enchanted, which stands among the finest releases of the ‘90s and established Pavement as one of the definitive voices of its era. Listed here are his takes on the band’s most overrated work and its satchel of underrated gems, as well as a preemptive plea to fellow Portlander Stephen Malkmus to call him sometime for a Spanish coffee at Huber’s. The first one’s on us, dude.
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The Wilco Over/Under was really well-received. So much so that somebody calling himself “sgtpepper64” on ViaChicago, the Wilco message board, lavished this praise on MAGNET’s Roob (you’d know him if you saw him): “What a dick who doesn’t know shit.” The Robert Pollard Over/Under was really well-received, also. So well-received that Pollard’s wife deleted Roob from her Facebook friend list, no doubt furious over the part where he called Pollard “the greatest songwriter who ever lived.” The R.E.M. Over/Under went well, too. So well that some guy called “haggis” on Murmurs, the R.E.M. message board, wrote, “This is crap. The guy obviously has serious R.E.M. issues” after Roob said that R.E.M. was one of his favorite bands ever. OK, so on we go with the Kinks. As the years go by, it becomes more and more apparent that the Kinks were equal to—if not superior to—the holy trinity of the Beatles, the Who and the Stones. When all is said and done, the Kinks just may be recognized as the greatest band ever. But for now, they’re just more fodder for MAGNET’s weekly Over/Under. Hopefully, Pete Quaife’s wife doesn’t zap Roob from her Facebook friend list after this one.
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Merge Records, the North Carolina-based label built by Superchunk, sustained by Neutral Milk Hotel and Magnetic Fields, and made mega by Arcade Fire (pictured) and Spoon, turns 20 this year. In honor of the anniversary, MAGNET presents the five most overrated and five most underrated items in the Merge catalog. It’s our weird, judgmental way of saying happy birthday.
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