10 Awful Albums With One Great Song
One-hit wonders are a dime a dozen in rock music, but to be able to come up with a single great song and then stick it on an album that’s otherwise terrible? That often requires the singular skill of a once-great band in crisis. Sure, some of the acts with an LP featured on our list of Awful Albums With One Great Song only ever managed to put out one amazing track and nothing much else, but many of them are legendary groups that found themselves in trying situations for one reason or another and punted — and in the process, still managed to churn out one glorious jam on their way down. Either way, the following albums have one very notable thing in common: Despite being uniformly awful, each and every one of them has exactly one keeper.
Oasis, ‘Be Here Now’
Oasis were riding high thanks to 1995’s ‘(What’s the Story) Morning Glory?’ when they hit the studio for their third album, ‘Be Here Now’ — and not just high on the album’s massive success. Liam and Noel Gallagher were snorting mounds of cocaine when they recorded ‘Be Here Now,’ and the result was one of the most pretentiously overwrought albums in the history of Britpop. Luckily, there’s one keeper on the disc: first single ‘D’You Know What I Mean?,’ which soared to the Beatlesque heights of previous Oasis hits, despite its needlessly drawn-out seven-minute running time.
Rage Against the Machine, ‘Evil Empire’
Zach de la Rocha and the boys were all the rage when they tossed their Molotav cocktail of a first album at the world in 1992; their follow-up, ‘Evil Empire,’ arrived with all the force of a bottle rocket. After taking off four years, Rage returned unsure of themselves and lacking the musical groove that made them more than just a politically charged rap-rock band. Still, ‘Bulls on Parade’ brought the noise, with de la Rocha’s anti-capitalist rhyme-spitting matched only by Tom Morello’s fierce, wah-throttling fretwork.
Len, ‘You Can’t Stop the Bum Rush’
You can’t deny Canadian trio Len had a brilliantly transcendent pop hit on its hands with ‘Steal My Sunshine,’ which sprinkled looping keyboards, bumping bass and nonsensical boy-girl “tribal lunar speak” with a laid-back West Coast vibe, creating a four-minute slab of sun-kissed cuteness. Elsewhere, though, ‘Bum Rush’ was pointless genre mashing, with generic electronica, derivative funk and wannabe Beasties hip-hop mixed into nothing short of a buzz-killing mess.
Bush, ‘Razorblade Suitcase’
With a string of massive alt-rock hits under their belt and hipper-than-thou
producer engineer Steve Albini twiddling the knobs, expectations ran high that Gavin Rossdale and the boys would come up with something truly epic on their sophomore album, ‘Razorblade Suitcase.’ Instead, the record skimped on the grungy, arena-ready rock that made their previous output memorable in lieu of a grittier, stripped-down sound that only exposed their limitations. The exception was first single ‘Swallowed,’ which deftly mixed loud-soft dynamics and anthemic hooks.
The Stone Roses, ‘The Second Coming’
The second coming of the Stone Roses may have been one of the biggest disappointments in rock history. At one point widely considered saviors of British rock ‘n’ roll thanks to their legendary debut album, the Ian Brown-led band took a major misstep with its follow-up, ‘Second Coming,’ which basically led to the Roses breaking up not long after its release. Its one saving grace? The club-banger of a dance track ‘Begging You.’
‘The Bravery, ‘The Bravery’
Early-’00s up-and-comers the Bravery seemed primed to follow in the footsteps of fellow New York hipsters like the Strokes and Interpol when they issued their much-hyped, self-titled debut album in 2004. Instead, the LP offered up one keeper — the infectious, New Order-ish gem of a first single, ‘An Honest Mistake’ — and little else. The rest of ‘The Bravery’ falls flat.
Smashing Pumpkins, ‘Machina / The Machines of God’
Following the goth-tinged, synth-pop detour that was their ‘Adore’ album, Billy Corgan’s Smashing Pumpkins regrouped with original drummer Jimmy Chamberlin in an attempt to return to the rock — and find God in the process. The spirituality-shilling ‘Machines of God’ is insufferably high-concept, with Corgan in the role of rock-star preacher. But out of the ashes rises one perfect alt-rock hymnal: ‘Stand Inside Your Love,’ which rides Chamberlin’s unmistakable back beat all the way to the altar.
Ned’s Atomic Dustbin, ‘God Fodder’
Ned’s Atomic Dustbin snagged plenty of hype in the British press in advance of their debut album, ‘God Fodder,’ but the record overall was a disappointment and didn’t fare so well in the U.S., just barely cracking into the top half of the Billboard 200 upon its release in 1991. Still, the frenzied, emo-tinged vibe of the single ‘Grey Cell Green’ — which perfectly showcased the band’s trademark, two-bass attack — did catch on on this side of the pond, becoming a popular staple on MTV’s trend-setting alternative show ‘120 Minutes.’
Marilyn Manson, ‘Mechanical Animals’
The more shocking Marilyn Manson tried to be, the less shocking he actually was; by the time the late-’90s rolled around, his gender-bending, glam-rock-alien schtick couldn’t even frighten the parents of mallternative youth anymore. And the music on his glam-rock opera ‘Mechanical Animals’ failed to live up to its ambitious intentions, despite the saving graces of the first single, the Bowie-inspired ‘The Dope Show.’
The Clash, ‘Cut the Crap’
The Clash were just shells of their former selves by the time they made their final album, ‘Cut the Crap,’ brought down by internal tensions, musical differences and a nasty drug problem. Still, the punk legends soldiered on (sans Mick Jones, who was sacked mid-session) with a back-to-basics approach that, in retrospect, did not work. Many considered ‘Cut the Crap’ a Joe Strummer solo album; Strummer himself disowned the disc, except for first single, ‘This Is England,’ which took aim at the pro-consumerist, anti-individualist slant of England under the Thatcher administration, and comes across as an elegy of sorts for punk rock.