May 312012

Innovators of Suck

In a recent thread I actually found myself defending Dave Matthews Band, within the context of the topic at hand, for “sucking in an original way.” Townsman cherguevarra picked up on this and wondered:

Who are rock’s greatest innovators when it comes to originality in sucking, since often one major component of sucking is being too derivative of other artists?

Isn’t it time we identify and pay homage to rock’s greatest innovators in sucking?


  70 Responses to “Original Suck”

  1. tonyola

    Jane’s Addiction were masters at suckage – lame music, Perry Farrell’s girlish warbles, morose songs. Everything needed to appeal to homesick, sex-starved, and disaffected collegians everywhere. We could do an article alone on whether Dave Navarro is the most overrated guitar player in rock.

  2. underthefloat

    Might be hard to top Dave Mathews in this category.

    Are the Spin Doctors to derivative of others to capture the “suck” vote?

  3. machinery

    As much as this may rob me of my hipster cred, I think Sonic Youth were innovators in sucking. Bad singing (both the husband and the wife,) no melodies and feedback that tried to pass itself off as artsy-ness. They were innovators of spinning their “look” and general vibe into stardom.

    Well played Sonic Youth. Well played.

  4. Yes, an extremely innovative terrible band (except for their surprisingly catchy “Been Caught Stealing” song)!

  5. tonyola

    Spin Doctors certainly sucked hard, but aren’t they more in the “one-hit sucker” category? Perhaps my memory is faulty, but I can’t remember anything from them besides “Two Princes”. Oh, and the lead singer’s silly hat.

  6. cherguevara

    I’m not sure who was the first rap/rock band with a DJ, thinking it might’ve been Limp Bizkit? Did we need DJs in bands? I have yet to see the appeal or the function.

  7. Mmm, they’re slightly innovative, but they have more traditional jam band underpinnings.

  8. I’ve got your back on that one. One of the only things they did halfway decently was to carry over the guitar army stuff some of them learned under Glenn Branca.

  9. Did those baggy pants-wearing British bands do that first, Jesus Jones and their lot? Definitely innovative to negative ends.

  10. tonyola

    I don’t think it’s that catchy – I think the only reason people remember that song is because of the funny shoplifting video.

  11. bostonhistorian

    Cynthia Plaster Caster.

  12. I’m with the Mod on this. Been Caught Stealing is a-okay. Other than that, they are a horrendous pose of a band. Their main strength was that they were smart enough to figure out how to capitalize on a trend just as it was starting out. In fact, they figured it out so quickly that Navaro didn’t even have time to hide his pointy headstock guitar.

  13. Eddie Van Halen

  14. Or his harmonica counterpart John Popper.

  15. bostonhistorian

    Am I just hallucinating or was Popper’s innovation a harmonica bandolier?

  16. tonyola

    If I wanted to invite a lynching, I’d say Bob Dylan. However, that would be deliberately confrontational, so I’m going to say Boston. They took the blooze, magic, and danger out of heavy metal, processed and polished the sound to the point that it would make it an amazing sonic experience on a Realistic stereo, squeezed Brad Delp’s ‘nads with Vise-Grips forcing him to sing in the soprano range, and made the whole affair safe, wholesome, and friendly as dinner at McDonalds. Ta-dahhh! Pop-metal is created and Boston paved the way for the whole ’80s hair-metal trend. Oh, and Boston majorly sucked from Day One.

  17. tonyola

    According to Frank Zappa, Cynthia never actually did the sucking herself. She always had a helper for that.

  18. Maybe Foreigner laid the groundwork for Boston, but I kind of agree with you. However, I put Boston and Van Halen in a slightly different bag, that of the Master Craftsmen of Suck. The craftsmanship they put into their unique brand of sucking is on par with the craftsmanship of the Beatles and Beach Boys at their peak. Queen is another band that falls into this category for me, but the massive talent of Freddie Mercury occasionally pulled them above otherwise clear associations with the art of sucking.

  19. tonyola

    Eddie Van Halen was certainly a master of the guitar – no-one can deny that no matter how much VH as a band sucked. The only things Tom Scholz mastered were a new guitar sound and marketing his Rockman gear. Oh (pince-nez alert!), and Boston’s first album preceded Foreigner by several months.

  20. I like a bunch of Sonic Youth’s more traditional rock/pop numbers, so perhaps this may be a topic for an RTH pro vs con shootout. Check out: 100 %, Shadow of a Doubt, Teenage Riot, Dirty Boots, Kool Thing, Bull in the Heather, Reena. A possible modern day companion set of songs to go along with the 8 or so Byrds songs Mr. Mod likes.

    I”d even accept Death Valley ’69.

  21. misterioso

    Oh, they suck all right. Good call.

  22. Every now and then I hear a song that’s not bad at all, like a VU outtake with bad singing, but I’m especially cranky after having come across a concert of their’s while flipping channels a few days back. They were playing their typical “racket” with dueling horrible vocals between Thurston and Kim. Then they barked out some lyric about “anarchy,” and the site of these 50-somethings barking out off-key yelps about anarchy made me remember all the things I don’t like about them.

  23. misterioso

    Red Hot Chili Peppers.

  24. I must’ve caught the one of their rare excellent shows in July ’09, then. They were really quite good.

  25. underthefloat

    I get the concept now… I recall my “one suck pony” Spin MD entry. It was a short sucky run…

    I saw Sonic Youth many years ago as the warm up for Neil Young. Only problem was their sound equipment was out…They tried to fix things for about 10 minutes and then apologized and left. I was never much of a fan but I thought I “should” see them once. I came close.

  26. underthefloat

    Boston does seem like a great choice in being forerunners and break out stars of mundane rock suckdom. Yet, RHCP are soooo annoyingly sucky they make my head hurt and my teeth ache. To think of them is brings pain. Is this the ying and yang of sucking?

  27. machinery

    To bring it back to the Innovator idea, I don’t think you can quite put Boston in that category. That slick, studio rock was all the rage in the late 70s, no?

    Now Limp Biscuit is a really good call. They ushered in that whole white-trash heavy rock that made radio almost un-listenable for about 6 -7 years. They were true innovators of suck.

  28. machinery

    I think I saw that on PBS. They played outside … and the bass chick played rhythm guitar most of the time!!! Telling …

  29. tonyola

    I disagree. Boston brought a new processed, glossy slickness to “heavy rock” unlike contemporary heavies such as Led Zep, KISS, Bad Company, Deep Purple, and Blue Oyster Cult. For better or worse, no group sounded like Boston in late 1976 and that contributed to their immediate and smash success. Not only that, Boston also threw in some elements of prog – listen to the sub-sub-ELP of “Foreplay”.

  30. Boston’s sound is not that original or bad – and I say that despite severely disliking most of their music. What’s the difference between a bearable Boston song and the Raspberries’ “Go All the Way”? Not much.

  31. Dave Matthews is original? They copped a ton of moves (lazy tempos, vaguely granola stance, fan-friendly vibe) from the Dead, Dylan, Phish and a lot of those jam band types. I never understood why they thought someone wanted to hear that particular lineup of acoustic guitar, soprano sax and standup bass that they stole right off of Sting (as Mod mentioned).

    I’m not coming up with any truly original suck right now.

  32. See, Boston as power pop band. I think Matthew Sweet’s comment was “lots of crazy sound, really compressed, great melody on top” and if you add adolescent lyrics about girls, cars and rock ‘n roll you’ve got the first Boston record. Delete the space rocket sounds and it’s pretty straightforward pop on “Something About You” and boogie on “Rock & Roll Band”. Real nice sound as well coming out of the M.I.T. music lab, too.

  33. tonyola

    Don’t forget the high harmonies. See, that’s the point I was trying to make with Mr. Mod. It’s not so much Boston’s content as the big and shiny sound of the first album that was innovative and revolutionary. His example (“Go All the Way”) didn’t have anywhere near the compression and aural presence. Hardly anyone did in 1976. That monster sound was what all the rock fans flashed upon. I know – I was there when the album seemed to show up in every dorm room overnight and got massive repeated plays.

  34. cliff sovinsanity

    So far I may be the suckiest Townsmen that ever sucked because I count Sonic Youth, Jane’s Addiction and RHCP as bands I like. Not all their stuff, but some albums are interesting and yes some suck.
    But, I’m not sucky enough to like Bon Jovi. They’re the worse…

  35. cliff sovinsanity

    The difference between Boston and The Raspberries is 7 six-string guitars and 2 twelve-string guitars give or take.

  36. 2000 Man


    I like Nothing’s Shocking and Ritual De Lo Habitual just fine. Being noisy and offensive requires a certain talent, and for awhile, they had it.

  37. 2000 Man

    I have no cred, hipster or otherwise. I just can’t get behind Sonic Youth. You shouldn’t have to work so hard to have so little fun.

  38. You must have been one of the homesick, sex-starved, and disaffected collegians I was talking about.

  39. Ah, I’m sure 2K’s been solid as a rock since birth. I am surprised that a band whose one good song, in my opinion, sounds like a punk rock version of Led Zeppelin, works for you. Maybe the fact that the other stuff doesn’t sound like Led Zep to my ears is what turns me off on the rest of what I’ve heard.

  40. Just so we’re straight, tonyola, I TOTALLY agree with you that it’s their sound, their execution that was innovative. I really think they were kind of genius in that regard, even if they were creating weapons of mass destruction.

  41. What about Pearl Jam? When I first heard Eddie Vedder’s voice, no joke, I thought it was a put-on. Then others started imitating it, until it was a whole movement. I still can’t get past it, and the complete dearth of songwriting from that band.

    Stick around long enough and you become a movement, I guess.

  42. Good one!

    How the heck have you been, northvan? Hope all is well.

  43. underthefloat

    I’m with you! Plus, Vedder always stuck me as so self important and yet so angst filled. Yawn. I guess a few the “grunge” types had that going on but he seemed to be the captain of that ship (IMO)

  44. I don’t like Sonic Youth records at all, but they played the Warfield once when I was bar tending and I was totally caught off guard by how riveting they were live. Same thing for the Beastie Boys when they played. Really really good live but I still don’t own anything by them.

  45. mockcarr

    I guess just general sucky incompetance like the Shaggs doesn’t count as innovation.

    I count whoever started that “synthesized orchestra ” sound as innovating in suck. Was it the Moody Blues. They suck for that!

  46. underthefloat

    It’s interesting to hear the comparison of Boston to power pop bands. I think of a power pop band I like such as The Shoes. I even really like their slicker period stuff. I would guess some here would hate this stuff. No major point other then conceding the difference in sound isn’t probably THAT much and yet I’m into one and not the other…..How about this..Any Boston fans here that HATE the Shoes? There must be.

  47. cherguevara

    How about Meatloaf? Did anybody combine rock and that level of musical theater and pompousness in that way before? I think “Paradise by the dashboard light” is just an embarrassment.

  48. Horrible, but wasn’t he marrying Springsteen with Queen?

  49. Growing up — ever girl I knew seemed to have “Best of Bread” — now that really sucks — “Diary” “If” — lame.

    And while I’m bashing 70s easy listening hits of the 70s, I think America sucked too.

  50. I hated that album so much — I left many party when that bad boy came on.

  51. There’s a thread: parties you’ve had to leave because of the music!

  52. underthefloat

    I don’t think I actually left the party but I always left the dance floor when “Shout” came on. It was played at every college party I went to for years, it seems….

  53. Loverboy would also drive me away — but for some reason I would stick around for Def Leppard.

  54. Alexmagic and I once walked out of a college party when someone put “Piano Man” on the stereo, triggering a terrible singalong.

  55. misterioso

    I was thinking about this topic yesterday and Pearl Jam came to me. There’s no question about the sucking part; the only question I have is whether there was anything original about it. I am not sure. I am in 100% agreement with you on Vedder: no one could be serious about sounding that “intense,” or whatever it is he is attempting.

  56. I wish Kim Gordon had fallen down a well years ago (while holding hands with Lydia Lunch): THE most overrated “personality” in the indie rock (?) scene. She can’t DO anything, and she’s horrifying when she gets near a microphone. Absolutely useless.

    Apart from her, they’re okay….well, maybe two albums worth of okay…certainly not as revolutionary as some would have us believe; made a few cool noises on their guitars.

  57. Biohazard, out of Brooklyn was one of the originators of that woebegone hardcore/metal/rap hybrid. Limp Bizkit definitely gets major sucking points for taking it nationwide and making it more stupid and obnoxious than previously imagined.

  58. RHCP’s sucking is way more in your face…they suck with the power of a 747 jet engine.

    Boston is more like a Dyson vacuum cleaner.

  59. High five! I know this is an extremely unpopular point of view some of us are expressing, especially for our loyal Townswomen, but I agree that she’s the biggest impediment to my appreciating the band. Every time they put the spotlight on her I get this vibe that I’m supposed to nod my head and think, “Isn’t she fabulous!” I don’t know, somehow I find her status as a GREAT WOMAN OF ROCK a bit demeaning to women of rock. I’ll never really know, of course, because I’m a man. But I have more respect for someone boring like Joan Osborne as a musician and role model for young women who want to play music than I do Kim Gordon. If she were a guy would she be thought of as nothing more than another hipster douchebag, maybe like Evan Dando?

  60. ladymisskirroyale

    I saw them perform during the first Lolapalooza and was surprised about how enjoyable their show was. I also liked parts of that first album of theirs, including “Been Caught Stealing.”

  61. ladymisskirroyale

    I’ve got your back, cliff.

    I have to admit to completely loving the early RHCP and moshed along to many a concert of theirs. I lost all interest once Anthony’s thin, reedy vocals were brought forward and the band gained more popularity.

    Jane’s Addiction – see above comment

    Sonic Youth – beloved to Mr. Royale; I like them fine but don’t see them out. Yes, Kim’s voice can be atrocious but I liked “Cool Thing.”

  62. ladymisskirroyale

    Oh, funoka, a shot to the heart.

    Bread AND America? I still have The Best of Bread and America’s Greatest Hits and enjoy them both. Bread: perfect for preteen girls dreaming of future boyfriends. David Gates made that world safe. And America: I’m still a sucker for “A Horse With No Name” and “Ventura Highway.”

  63. tonyola

    I’ll give Bread a pass because they happened upon a lucrative formula of smooth and lump-free romantic pop and they were fairly skilled at it for a while. But associating pre-teen girls and David Gates (who was over 30 by the time Bread hit it big) somehow verges on creep-dom.

    America is another matter. Imagine CSN&Y without the decadence or drive. They were so wimpy that Graham Nash would take them out behind the studio and beat them up for lunch money. America certainly sucked but I wouldn’t call them innovative. “Horse With No Name” is Neil Young on Valium and “Ventura Highway” is CSN after lobotomies all around.

  64. 2000 Man

    Nah, when those came out we were raising two young boys and I was working the night shift in a printing factory. I doubt I’ll ever get homesick, because I still live in the same town I lived in when I was in Kindergarten. A little goes a long way with them, but I just don’t have any problems with most lunk headed hard rock bands.

  65. 2000 Man

    Are there any Boston fans at all?

  66. ladymisskirroyale

    But they were great if, at the time, you had never heard CSNY or Neil Young.

  67. Excellent question, 2K.

  68. hrrundivbakshi

    Hey, who was the heartless bastard who said Sonic Youth were Original Gangstas of Suckitude? Watch this and be humbled!

  69. There were so many other women with legit talent, even in that scene, why she became the spokeswoman of rock for a good while, there, is beyond me. Better publicists, most likely (on they were on a major, her public profile rose exponentially).

  70. 2000 Man

    What is that show? It’s AWESOME! I’ve never quite seen anything like it and there’s a ton of clips from it on YouTube. Sleater-Kinney was great! Why does Carrie make sure the puppet has a mic?

    I’m gonna waste the whole day on that.

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