My Confession

The top five bands/artists I should love but really can't stand are:

1. The Beach Boys: Everyone talks about how amazing Pet Sounds was and I can't get through more than a few notes without running for the off switch. I've tried. Many, many times. It sounds like barbershop to me. Of all the bands I'm supposed to love but don't, the Beach Boys top the list. (I might like them more if I hadn't been forced to sing "Sloop John B" in high school show choir).

2. Elvis Costello: He seems like a cool guy and I can tell he's doing stuff that's entirely original... But something in his voice gives his melodies a harshness. I did think When I Was Cruel was interesting. But overall most of what I hear from him all sounds the same.

3. The Cure: When all my friends were getting into the Cure, I stood by and shrugged. Robert Smith seemed absurd to me, and not in a hip-ironic way. I really love gloomy, depressing, I-wish-I-were-dead music, so I keep thinking there must be something in the Cure I'd identify with. But all these years later I still can't listen to them.

4. Joy Division: They've got a vibe I like and whenever I see someone in a Joy Division t-shirt I immediately feel some connection, like we're probably in all the same clubs. But the truth is I really can't listen to Ian Curtis' voice and they've got that whole late '70s - early '80s post-punk sound that falls like a ton of bricks on my ears. Bob (host of All Songs Considered) loves this period more than any other for music and it's my least favorite.

5. Lou Reed: He did some truly amazing songs ("Walk on the Wild Side" "Street Hassle"). And I know he's probably the coolest guy to ever walk the earth. Not having grown up when he was making his biggest impact, I'm sure it's hard for me to really appreciate all he did. But he's produced some incomprehensibly bad work (The Raven) and the fact he can't sing loses its charm quickly. Chuck Klosterman says Lou Reed is simply "advanced," but sometimes bad is just bad. It's sort of like David Lynch. I used to think he was brilliant. Then, with his last couple films, I decided maybe he's just nuts.

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I'm kinda with you on the Beach Boys. I like Elvis' older stuff and Spike is a good album. Boys Don't Cry by the Cure is a classic. Check out some of the relatively recently released live Joy Division stuff- very powerful and rocking. Lou Reed- Berlin, New York, and c'mon the Velvet Underground!

Sent by Dave | 5:36 PM | 11-16-2007

Great idea for a post. Here's mine, in no particular order.

The Smiths.
The Cure.
My Bloody Valentine.
Radiohead.
Bob Marley.

It kills me to admit as much -- because I *love* radiohead -- but they're the perfect example of a band you're supposed to love... and I can completely understand it not being your thing... I'm with you on the Smiths. -- rh

Sent by Kevin | 6:46 PM | 11-16-2007

I can see why you don't like those five. Anybody who is a fan of those should be able to understand why. Elvis costello hits closet home to me, there are tracks I love but other times that leave me saying whats so amazing?

for me I can't get into The Fall. I can recognize the rationality for what makes people love them but nope, completly unable to get into them.

I'm sure some names to be dropped soon by others will include Bjork, Pavement, Husker Du (sorry for not using the accents), the velvet underground (lou reed has been mentioned though). I love all these bands.

Sent by Devin Rodgers | 9:01 PM | 11-16-2007

This is a few days late, but I was gone all weekend so.... I am completely with you on #3-5. I've really tried with all of them too (maybe less with The Cure). Costello was the only reason I made it through high school sane, so even his so-so stuff is like an old friend that I can't be objective about. But I would say that for me it isn't a "Can't Stand" so much as a "Can't Get Into". There are several bands/artists that get a lot of props that I just shrug at: David Bowie, The Minutemen, The Smiths. It's what I call the "List of Bands/Artists I Respect More than Like". There are also bands that were on that list that now I see I just wasn't hip enough to hear the first time around, but that's another post maybe....

Sent by Larry Love | 9:53 AM | 11-19-2007

Sufjan Stevens. Bright Eyes. The Decemberists. Belle & Sebastian. Interpol.
I have tried. I can usually find something redeeming about most any artist. I find all of these (except Interpol, which is just Joy Division lite) just too damn precious. What really turned me off on Stevens was when he did a song for NPR about the ivory billed woodpecker a couple of years ago.

Sent by sm | 10:39 AM | 11-19-2007

Ah, yes, Lou Reed. I've tried to like him - I really have. But he's just never clicked with me. Reminds me of that exchange between Renton and Sick Boy in Trainspotting:

Sick Boy: At one time, you've got it, and then you lose it, and it's gone forever. All walks of life: George Best, for example. Had it, lost it. Or David Bowie, or Lou Reed...

Renton: Some of his solo stuff's not bad.

Sick Boy: No, it's not bad, but it's not great either. And in your heart you kind of know that although it sounds all right, it's actually just s**t.

And I'm right there with you on The Cure and the Beach Boys. Never got them, never will. Then there are bands that do nothing for me half the time. Any time Grant Hart of Husker Du opens his mouth, I tune out, but I love the Bob Mould stuff. (Though oddly enough, Grant's solo stuff is somewhat endearing.) Same thing with Camper Van Beethoven, though I have a harder time drawing the fine line between their moments of genius and mediocrity. I just know it when I hear it, I guess.

Sent by andy carvin, npr | 11:06 AM | 11-19-2007

good 'n!

-Can see the B-Boys problem, I love much of them especially LOVE YOU, but Pet Sounds never in the airwaves here either...
Delbert ['elvis']: Agree 100%! it's the effected 'squeezed' forced voice...

I can't dig Prince; won't listen to anyone named Devendra or Sufjan; and wonder where Bryan Ferry 'went': 1st ROXY = an alltime fave!

Sent by George | 8:55 AM | 11-20-2007

If you listen to some of the early work of these bands - like the 1971 recording of the beach boys at the fillmore on www.concertvault.com, it gives you a better idea of what is so great about them.

Sent by gabrielle | 12:10 PM | 11-20-2007

THANK you for this post. Although I can't agree with you on some of those - especially the Beach Boys, as I could worship Brian Wilson - I can so relate to the feeling.

A friend of mine gives me so much crap for not liking Radiohead. I've tried - I just can't handle it.

Recently I've forcefed myself some Smiths. I'm liking most of it.

David Bowie is on my list, too. He's amazing, I understand that - I just don't want to actually listen to him.

Sent by sheena | 12:56 PM | 11-20-2007

I appreciate the Beach Boys' knack for melody and composition -- but that doesn't necessarily mean I have to like it. I never really got into Lou Reed either. Costello is hit-or-miss. Love the Cure and Joy Division, though. But I can see how they would alienate people, particularly the latter. Ian's voice takes some getting used to, and they were not very good musicians in the traditional sense. But they grew on me nonetheless.

Sent by Joel | 1:34 PM | 11-20-2007

Great topic!
Prince would be one for me. His body of work has aged about as well as Hall & Oats. The past comparisons to James Brown and Jimi Hendrix left me scratching my head.I was dragged to a recent Prince concert and couldn't wait to get outta there. It was a bit too Vegas.
Roxy Music only has only a few choice cuts for me. Though I dig the album artwork and the entire "Avalon" record.
I love "Pet Sounds," Sufjan Stevens, and Devendra.

Sent by Sean Foudy | 1:34 AM | 11-21-2007

Here is my top 5:
David Bowie.
U2.
The Smiths.
The Flaming Lips.
The Rolling Stones.

I've tried many times to sit down and play a record by one of these artists but I am usually reaching to put on another record about 3 songs in. And aside from certain songs from the Rolling Stones, I don't get it. They seem too boring to be considered a "great" band.

Sent by Ivan | 7:03 PM | 11-23-2007

Great topic! My number one "should love but can't stand" band is The Pixies. Also on the list (perhaps not coincidentally): Nirvana. I once had a dude dump me because I told him I "couldn't get into" the former.

Maybe your problem with The Cure stems from the fact that they've been pigeonholed for decades as a "goth" (or as you cleverly stated, "I-wish-I-were-dead") band when, in actuality, a lot of their music is fairly upbeat. I resisted them for years based on the same descriptors you listed ... but then a friend dragged me to a Cure concert and I realized that the whole sad-face thing was just a impressed facade that probably stemmed more from Robert Smith's appearance than from anything musical.

Sent by Sara | 5:02 AM | 11-25-2007

The Police!

Sent by Suz | 4:32 PM | 11-29-2007

I love this post, especially because it takes courage to go against the grain like that. I like the Beach Boys as much as every other kid that grew up in Southern California, but if I were to utter a peep about being confused what the big deal over Pet Sounds is, I can think of a handful of people who would keep me running for my life.

But, ah, the comments in this blog are breaking my heart. Multiple mentions of the Smiths.... Really?? Sad.

But I'll second someone's Bright Eyes nomination for something I'm supposed to love but can't stand. And it makes it worse that I love much of the Saddle Creek roster and Oberst is constantly making appearances on albums I'd rather he leave alone.

Sent by Tamara Vallejos | 11:50 AM | 12-5-2007

I think the problem with The Beach Boys is that they were not as consistent as The Beatles. But if you take the time and work your way through all the post Pet Sounds album i think you will discover some real gems, each album was totally different from the last. I wonder if you have actually even heard Wild Honey, Friends or Love You? No barber shops there my friend.

Sent by Dan | 4:38 PM | 12-6-2007