Stylus scribe Nick Southall lists 10 albums which he considers to have bad production values since 1997. Southall has a bit of beef with compression and overproduction as he detailed in an article a few months back entitled “Imperfect Sound Forever”. The list starts with Oasis’ – Be Here Now and takes in The Flaming Lips’ At War With the Mystics, Arcade Fire’s – Funeral, Bloc Party’s debut, Kid A and Massive Attack’s recent Best of amongst others.
On Be Here Now –
The OTT overdubbing that took place on this record took loudness, density, compression, and ugliness to a level that had previously been rightfully unimagined.
I haven’t heard Be Here Now in quite a while but I remember the production being the most interesting about it. It was a mindfuck of an album with hundreds of guitar parts on each track to make up for the cacophony of steaming shit the songs were. And it’s always interesting listening to the sound of a man with a limited musical range trying to hide it beneath layers of studio gloss.
At War with the Mystics –
Flips records have been loud as hell since The Soft Bulletin, but At War With the Mystics is beyond the pale—so much so that digital clipping and distortion seem to be used as an instrument within the mix.
Southall used this album as an example in his Imperfect Sound article, and it still rings true for me – despite liking/loving some of the songs on it (The end of “The Sound of Failure / It’s Dark, is it always this Dark” is fantastic) I rarely listen to the thing.
He makes an interesting discovery on Massive Attack’s Collected
Take your CD of Mezzanine and take your CD of Collected, and play “Angel” back-to-back from one to the other. Notice how on the original album that ominous bass fades in from nothing; sense how deep it goes; see how sharp the rimshot is; feel the air around the bass drum and the shock of the guitars entering. But from this year’s beautifully-packaged Best Of, surreptitiously remastered, the bass is jarringly there from the get go, all width and no depth; the rimshot is flabby and indistinct; and there’s no sense of air or space.
Scary. However there are a few choices which I find a bit baffling. Having Funeral and Kid A on the list for example. Funeral is one of those albums that at first listen sounds really distant and archaic in terms of production but once you get into it, you find a warmth and range that you can really enjoy. Similar Kid A’s production only adds to its appeal and takes the listener fully into the sensorial world it occupies. It’s still a really interesting article regardless for the reason that it gets us questioning the role of (over)production in the way in which we absorb and enjoy our favourite records.
What do you think? What are some of your worst sounding records?
Niall Byrne is the founder of the most-influential Irish music site Nialler9, where he has been writing about music since 2005 . He is the cohost of the Nialler9 Podcast and has written for the Irish Times, Irish Independent, Cara Magazine, Sunday Times, Totally Dublin, Red Bull and more. Niall is a DJ, founder of Lumo Club, event curator and producer of gigs, parties & events.