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12 Worst Albums by Major Classic Rock Artists

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There are many shockingly bad albums, though sometimes, even those at the top can get it completely wrong. A recent online musical forum shares music fans’ picks for the worst albums ever released.

1. Lou Reed, Metal Machine Music (1975)

Lou Reed
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“I’ll start with Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music — a two-record set of static, feedback, industrial noise, and whatever else is in there. Utterly unlistenable,” begins the original poster, who is not a fan. “When the neighbors’ kids get too loud, I stick a speaker in the window and crank it up. Works wonders.” I see your noise and raise you Lou Reed’s worst album!

2. John Lennon (With Yoko Ono), Unfinished Music No. 1: Two Virgins

John Lennon (With Yoko Ono)
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“I think it may have been okay if it didn’t have ‘with Yoko Ono‘ at the end,” a John Lennon fan jokes. “In fact, I think everything she’s ever touched would be better without her.” John Lennon kind of lost the plot when he left the Beatles, regressing (in my opinion) into a narcissistic caricature of himself. I don’t blame Yoko Ono for this indulgent behavior, though I will concede she was always present.

3. Metallica, St. Anger (2003)

Rob Trujillo, Metallica
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When it was released, Pitchfork’s Brent DiCrescenzo gave Metallica’s awful comeback experimental album St. Anger a 0.8 out of ten score. Moreover, his assessment of Lars Ulrich’s drumming production was scathing. “Lars Ulrich had taken the return to ‘real metal’ quite literally, playing a drum set consisting of steel drums, aluminum toms, programmed double kicks, and a broken church bell,” wrote the journalist. “The kit’s high-end clamor ignored the basic principles of drumming: timekeeping.”

4. Guns N’ Roses, The Spaghetti Incident (1993)

Guns N' Roses
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After the Sunset Strip world-beaters became the most famous rock band in the world, selling millions of albums and smashing attendance records with their Use Your Illusion Tour, their next move was bizarre — a cover record. “Bad album cover, bad name, bad covers,” adds a band follower. “Lost opportunity.” After incredible success with their last three albums, The Spaghetti Incident pushed Axle Rose and Co. into a funk from where they would never resurface.

5. Van Halen, Van Halen III (1998)

Van Halen (2015)
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A journalist at the time critiqued the album, saying Van Halen III “suffers from the same problems as Hagar-era Van Halen — limp riffs, weak melodies, and plodding, colorless rhythms.” Van Halen III is the only album featuring ex-Extreme vocalist Gary Cherone. “I loved Gary in Extreme, and he has a great voice,” notes a commenter. “But the lyrics just bombed for a VH album. Twenty years of party-band lyrics, and suddenly, they bring in a guy that writes about the inner workings of politics.”

6. The Rolling Stones, Dirty Work (1986)

The Rolling Stones
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Mick Jagger is now an octogenarian, so he may not remember how bad this album was. If he were to read the thread, he would be reminded. “Shocked to see this one so low, and I say this as an obsessive Stones fan,” concedes a lifelong band follower who understands that sometimes, even greatness misses the mark. “Only album of theirs I don’t listen to at least a little.”

7. Genesis, Calling All Stations (1997)

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This band had to live in Phil Collins’ shadow for so long that they never stood a chance. What people realized after his departure was how talented a lyricist the great man was. Sadly, the band’s comeback album without Collins sounded like Genesis without Phil Collins. “The whole album was flat. No big moments; no big songs,” remarks a Genesis fan. Phil Collins and Genesis will always be synonymous.

8. Iron Maiden: Virtual XI (1998)

Iron Maiden
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“Blaze Bayley really was terrible,” states a commenter who laments the post-Bruce Dickinson Iron Maiden ers. “It’s been a good thing Bruce has been able to make those songs his life.” I feel sorry for Blaze Bayley; he was a different profile singer to the great Dickinson; it would be like becoming the new Chicago Bulls shooting guard in 1993 following Jordan’s departure. In any case, Maiden will never be Maiden with their mercurial frontman.

9. Pink Floyd, Final Cut (1983)

Pink Floyd
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At its best, Pink Floyd’s disastrous album has mixed reviews from the band’s dedicated army of worshippers, though even they must realize the band was having issues. “That’s because it was pretty much Waters’ album — Gilmour wasn’t even given a producer credit,” writes a knowledgeable commenter. “The band fought like cats and dogs while recording, with Waters and Gilmour pretty much doing everything separately.”

10. David Bowie, Never Let Me Down (1987)

David Bowie
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“Bowie’s Never Let Me Down is his low point,” the next music fan claims. “It’s not unlistenable, but when it stands amongst his other works, I would regard it as a bomb.” I agree; I don’t know if Bowie has a bad album. However, if we must choose the worst of the best, I will agree Never Let Me Down can take this accord.

11. Queen, Flash Gordon (1980)

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“I might get some backlash, but I can’t sit through Flash Gordon by Queen without falling asleep,” offers the next thread leader. Queen is a divisive band — some people love them, while others despise them. “I absolutely agree with you,” confirms a kindred Queen lover. “This is definitely their weakest studio work, and I’m surprised other people are saying Hot Space when Flash Gordon exists,”

12. Chris Cornell, Scream

Chris Cornell,
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Sometimes crossover collaborations work well, but I am not sure anybody thought the late Soundgarden and Audioslave frontman Chris Cornell’s venture into electro-pop rock would work. “I remember trying to find a way to justify it at the time, but there’s nothing,” admits a Cornell lover. “Best you can say is that he and Timbaland had good intentions.”

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Tropic Thunder Ben Stiller
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Written by Ben Rice

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