As a rule, we are not prone to spite, snark, sarcasm or any other ‘S’ word (or sword, as Sean Connery would say), so don’t expect to find a snotty pissfest here. Indeed, the eight bands we’ve included below are all bands that, at one point or another, we held in the highest regard. It’s just that most bands are like the Guitar Man in the Bread song: they never seem to notice what’s wrong with them; they just got to find another place to play (take the Rolling Stones, please). Some of our subjects – over half of them, really – still sell tons of records. That is of little importance to us. If they’re going through the motions and taking up space, theys gotsta go. Let the purging begin. (Note: as further proof of our supernatural abilities, New Order was penciled in for inclusion, but the news leaked of their dissolution before we could finish typing the second ‘r’. Again, maaaaaaagicaaaallll powerrrrrrrrrsssss…..)
Listen to the Irish pre-grunge rockers' grungy early-'80s anthems – such as "Sunday Bloody Sunday" and "New Year's Day" – and you hear passion. Fire. Something to live for, and possibly, to die for. The Joshua Tree was the creative and sales apex for the band, and it's been downhill for the two decades since.
After the live Rattle & Hum album, U2 reinvented itself as an upscale dance-rock band, a pretty cool parlor trick. But their problem was, there was no substance behind the beats, and the band's relevance eroded. By the time the band rolled into 1997, it had become a parody of itself, promoting its "Pop" tour at K-Marts and hemorrhaging money when no one came to the shows.
It's 2007, folks. No one's denying that U2 recaptured its politically astute fan base, but it took terrorism on a massive scale – and the band's touching, reverent salute to the victims at the following Super Bowl halftime – to get them back. They're off again, doing poppy, say-little-if-anything tunes, trying to speak to the iPod generation on TV commercials. It's time for Bono to become the mature, full-time political ambassador we know he can be, and reap the humanitarian good his name and reputation can accomplish. It's time for The Edge to validate his quirky technique by launching a guitar school. As for the other two guys, they'll make fine A&R men for record labels. But please, break up the band. There's nothing left for them to say. – Mojo Flucke, Ph.D.
Aerosmith had some hits in the seventies with “Dream On” and “Walk This Way,” but then drugs and alcohol had a direct effect on their music when they released marginal albums like Draw the Line and Night in the Ruts. Then, almost miraculously, the band released Permanent Vacation in 1987, followed by equally successful albums Pump and Get a Grip. Suddenly, in the early ‘90s, Aerosmith was as big as they had ever been before. Even more amazing is the fact that, to this day, the band is intact with the same five original members (forget the fact that Joe Perry left and came back once). But 2001’s Just Push Play was mediocre and so was 2004’s blues album, Honkin’ on Bobo. A live album came out in 2005 and a greatest hits album with two new tracks in 2006, but seriously – this band has run its course, and it has done that TWICE. The guys are all approaching 60, and while it’s great that they can still rock after all these years, the act is really growing tired and so is the band’s audience. – Mike Farley
In the ‘90s, Korn helped millions of 13-year-old boys get through ninth grade by crafting brilliant rock tunes about alienation, sex, violence and children’s nursery rhymes. But now all those angry little kids are all grown up and listening to Modest Mouse, while their little brothers are busy self-loathing to emo. In decline ever since 1999’s Issues,the band had a slight comeback of sorts with See You on the Other Side, but they haven’t been relevant or influential in nearly a decade. Their joke recording of “Word Up” for their greatest hits album and the rambling acoustic mess that was their recent MTV Unplugged CD both signify just how much they are struggling to find a place for themselves in the rapidly changing pop environment. The band probably knows its time to part ways too, as guitarist Head left in 2005 to go find Jesus (seriously) and drummer David Silveria recently announcing he is taking a “hiatus” from the band. With great classic-metal revivalists like Mastodon and Priestess bringing back the heavy in heavy metal, Korn’s once-groundbreaking style of “nu-metal” is sounding older than ever. We as a people have moved on; it’s time for Korn to do the same. – James B. Eldred
For some, the Cure ended with the pure tripe of “Friday I’m in Love” in 1992. For others, it took an animated Robert Smith battling Mecha-Streisand on “South Park” in 1998. To find more recent signs of Robert Smith being well past the tipping point as both a musical and cultural touchstone one need look no further than Smith & Co. appearing on “MTV Unplugged” with fellow BE breakup candidate Korn this past winter, warble-rocking their way through an acoustic mash-up that blended Korn’s “Make Me Bad” with the Cure’s “In Between Days.” Or perhaps news from this year’s SXSW that Smith would be performing a duet with Ashlee Simpson on the über-sibling’s upcoming album is the pièce de résistance to make you want to bang your head on the door?
Along with R.E.M., the Cure defined alternative music in the ‘80s, each from its own side of the pond, each with its own unique sound, style, iconography and legacy. In fact, across eight studio albums and a dozen hit singles in that decade alone, Robert Smith and a revolving cast of sidemen (including, more often than not, guitarist Porl Thompson and bassist Simon Gallup), the Cure were pioneers of the form, one of the first alternative bands to notch real commercial success into its Goth-tinged belt. Their songs gave voice to an entire generation of disenfranchised kids who didn’t want to “Beat It,” who weren’t “Livin’ on a Prayer,” and they inspired a devotion to the band few artists will ever know – the Goth clichés of smeared lipstick, black fingernail polish and messy black hair aside.
It’s over, Robert. Try as you may – and hooking up Limp Bizkit’s producer, singing on both a Blink-182 song and a Bee Gees cover for a solo Billy Corgan album, and the above-mentioned musical blasphemies really do seem like you're trying – you cannot kill the legacy of the Cure. So lie back, keep releasing Deluxe Edition remasters of your classic albums, DVD collections and so on, and just stop trying your everlasting fan base’s patience. As Cartman reminded us all on your infamous Comedy Central appearance, “Robert Smith kicks ass.” You don’t have to prove it to us any longer. – Una Persson
It’s not that British rock band Oasis has been around forever like the Stones. But to say that this band (formed in 1993) was both blessed and cursed from the start would be an understatement. When Noel Gallagher agreed to join his brother Liam’s band, he did so with the understanding that he would have complete control. And so, the band was immensely talented, signed almost immediately, and saw their debut become the fastest seller in British history at the time. But the dark side of stardom reared its ugly head, and the two brothers were always in the news. Why? Because they kept beating the shit out of each other.
To this day, there has never been a more dysfunctional relationship in music than that of the Gallagher brothers. Over the course of the decade that followed the band’s debut, more success bred more dysfunction. In addition to the bickering, bad things happened to these guys -- a cab accident that forced the cancellation of U.S. tour dates, and a street scuffle in Munich, among others. But the worst thing that has happened to the Gallagher brothers is that where great bands fight and out of that tension comes great records (Rumours, Abbey Road), the Gallaghers fight…and have made one record in the last 10 years that wasn’t crap. Familiar to millions, maybe, but these days they’re loved by hundreds. Time to give up the ghost. – Mike Farley
If this band were a major league pitcher, scouts would estimate R.E.M. lost its fastball about 1998, when drummer Bill Berry retired from the band and they replaced him with a drum machine for Up, one atrocious album even for hardcore fans. As far as brilliant rock ideas go, that one ranks right up there with firing David Lee Roth and hiring Sammy Hagar.
But what's a band to do after it signs an $80 million contract with the Warners? Keep cranking out records, come hell or high water. That's how we get Reveal and Around the Sun, the band's two most recent studio records (and the sum total of their studio output in the new millennium). Fact is, R.E.M. stoked a whole generation of independent rock with its groundbreaking 1980s basic, guitar-pop albums, starting with 1982's Chronic Town EP through 1991's Out of Time. They showed the world that videos could be mysterious and creative and, yet, uncontrived from about "Can't Get There from Here" to roughly "Shiny Happy People."
Since then, it's been downhill, and the group's recorded the same three songs, it seems, with a little more or less distortion. There have been some memorable tracks here and there since 1991, with "Everybody Hurts," "Star 69," and "Electrolite" coming to mind, but not $80 million worth of memorable. Last one out of the stadium, don't forget to turn out the lights. – Mojo Flucke, PhD
Beastie Boys (allposters)
LL Cool J was not joking when he opened the title track to his 1990 album Mama Said Knock You Out with the line, “Don’t call it a comeback.” The thing is, it was his comeback record, and he knew it. If it stiffs, he’s finished.
For the record, LL Cool J was 22 years old when that album came out. That’s the awful truth of a rapper’s life expectancy. You could be finished at 22 years of age.
Now consider the Beastie Boys, who were also nearly finished around the same time (Paul’s Boutique may be considered a visionary masterpiece today, but it was a financial disaster in 1989). The youngest Beastie (Ad-Rock) hits the big 4-0 on Halloween this year, which makes them great, great grandparents in rapper years. And with old age comes diminished skills. Take this line by Mike D on “Ch-Check It Out:”
“I said ‘Doc, what’s the condition
I’m a man that’s on a mission’
He said, ‘Son, you’d better listen
Stuck in your ass is an electrician’”
Red Hot Chili Peppers
The Red Hot Chili Peppers may just be the only band in this feature that should have called it a day back before they “got good,” and then called it another day after they became huge and started cranking out therapeutic albums. Suffice it to say that their debut album and Freaky Styley really have nothing going for them, save for an ace cover of Sly and The Family Stone’s “If You Want Me to Stay” on the latter. Otherwise, it’s just rote thrash-funk that really goes nowhere. After those flops, the first half of The Uplift Mofo Party Plan is pretty snazzy, but the second side just makes the previous half seem like a fluke.
Then came the overrated Mother’s Milk and the masterpiece Blood Sugar Sex Magik, which remains one of the best alternative rock albums of the early ‘90s, bar none. It should have ended right there, given the fact that deceased original guitarist and heroin junkie Hillel Slovak’s successor John Frusciante started a big heroin addiction of his own, leading him to leave the band in time for the dismal One Hot Minute. Of course he cleaned up and returned for the (equally) overrated Californication and has remained through By the Way and the bloated Stadium Arcadium. While the Chilis may just be reaping the biggest successes of their career, they’ve never really had that much talent to deserve it for this long. Have you ever seen these guys live? There’s all the proof you need. – Jason Thompson
Whew. The air seems cleaner already.