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7 Alt-Rock Bands Whose Debut Albums Are Their Worst: Radiohead, Nirvana, And More
There are many classic debut albums throughout rock history, such as R.E.M.'s Murmur or the Strokes' Is This It, which found success because the band had plenty of time to tweak and perfect the songs before stepping into a studio. Some debut albums, however, sound far less confident and even derivative, as if the band hadn't nailed down its own sound yet. Here are seven alt-rock bands whose debut albums are their worst.
1. Radiohead - Pablo Honey (1993)
Radiohead is a famous example of a critically beloved band that didn't quite find its voice immediately. The band's debut album Pablo Honey has some excellent songs, such as opener "You," closer "Blow Out," and of course, "Creep," but most of the album's other tracks are thoroughly forgettable and uncharacteristically bland. The only reason anyone remembers the album today is because Radiohead's subsequent work was so masterful.
2. The Flaming Lips - Hear It Is (1986)
Before the Flaming Lips perfected experimental pop in the late '90s and early '00s, the band was pursuing a noisier style of psychedelic music, with varying results. Its debut album Hear It Is sounds like a bunch of acid freaks who wanted to be in a rock band, but weren't that great at writing songs yet. The Flaming Lips would eventually release some classic albums in this noisy style (such as 1993's Transmissions from the Satellite Heart) but would abandon guitars in favor of synthesizers by 1999's The Soft Bulletin.
3. Beat Happening - Beat Happening (1985)
Beat Happening never became a particularly polished or complex act, but its eponymous debut is almost too sloppy and twee, even for a lo-fi disciple like me. It's still a fun album, but I prefer the band's later albums such as Black Candy and You Turn Me On, which were more confident (and competent).
4. Sleater-Kinney - Sleater-Kinney (1995)
All seven of Sleater-Kinney's albums are wonderful, but the band's self-titled debut is easily the weakest of the bunch. Though the band's signature fury and guitar interplay has already developed, the songwriting hasn't quite reached its apex, and at just 23 minutes, the album barely even registers.
5. Blur - Leisure (1991)
Blur practically invented the Britpop movement with its singular "Britpop trilogy" of Modern Life is Rubbish, Parklife, and The Great Escape. Before Blur became one of England's biggest bands, however, it was trying to rip off the Stone Roses on its undercooked and clichéd debut album Leisure. Years later, singer Damon Albarn would describe the album as "awful."
6. Deerhunter - Turn It Up Faggot (2005)
I'll give Deerhunter credit for embracing some more abrasive strains of post-punk for its 2005 debut Turn It Up Faggot, but this embrace unfortunately came at the sacrifice of Bradford Cox's pop instincts that made Deerhunter's later albums so engaging.
7. Nirvana - Bleach (1989)
There are some Nirvana fans (such as Wayne Coyne) that insist Bleach is the band's best album, and though it does have some great songs ("About A Girl" and "School" immediately come to mind), Bleach is an album that favors sludge over tunes. Kurt Cobain's brilliant melodic gifts wouldn't fully develop until Nevermind and In Utero.
What other debut albums are the band's worst? Let us know in the comments section!