Music/Lists

11 filler songs on otherwise flawless albums

December 21, 2015

WARNING: Contains subjectivity.

In the increasingly irrelevant world of albums, it’s becoming less and less clear what makes a “perfect” album (or even an “album,” honestly).

Universal critical acclaim? Right, you mean like this one that will surely stand the test of time? How about at least one million copies sold, i.e. platinum status? Good luck with that. There must be tons, and I’m sure that number’s only going to increase, just like Christmas tree futures on December 26th.

Whether or not there are going to be many classic LPs to come, there is a strata of albums generally considered to be, if not “perfect”, pretty damn great. Unfortunately, some members of this pantheon of perfection are marred by a single under-baked track, a single bend in the otherwise golden road to musical excellence. Some fans might say these minor blemishes on otherwise flawless works only add to the beauty of the whole (Google ‘Wabi-sabi’, or, failing that, ‘Cindy Crawford’). But they’re wrong, and these 11 albums would only become better if their filler tracks were gone for good.

As an added bonus, we’ve included b-sides from the same era as the albums that should have made the cut. And, best of all, we left obvious entries like “Revolution No. 9” off, not to mention rap skits. Oh, and “Endless Nameless,” which by no stretch of the imagination should count as “filler” because it’s a hidden track. I mean, what are we, animals?!

The Pixies – “La La Love You” (Doolittle, 1989)

“Shake your butt!” Not exactly the best moment on alt-rock game-changer Doolittle, “La La Love You” was conceived as “a dig at the very idea of a love song”; apparently that means a surf-rock riff, whistling, and David Lovering’s best Roy Orbison impression. It’s not all bad, though: as this blog notes, it’s one of the small number of Pixies songs appropriate for children, and is great for teaching them to make ‘L’ sounds. So there’s that, I guess.

Replace With: “Manta Ray”, from the Monkey Gone To Heaven single

“Manta Ray” has all the hallmarks of a classic Pixies jam, which is likely why it didn’t make the cut, but even a rote Pixies song is miles better than that fucking whistling.

Radiohead – “Fitter, Happier” (OK Computer, 1997)

As fun as it is to hear a computerized litany of Thom Yorke’s pre-millennial anxieties, I don’t think anyone would be complaining if OK Computer went straight from “Karma Police” into “Electioneering.” Yes, “Fitter Happier” might be the crux of the album’s themes of Brave New World-style alienation and disaffection, but that doesn’t make it an engaging listen.

Replace With: “A Reminder”, from the Airbag/How Am I Driving EP

“A Reminder” keeps the oppressive atmospherics and paranoiac vibe but ditches the robot.

Public Enemy – “Party for Your Right to Fight” (It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, 1988)

Yeah y’all! This is not a very good jam! Despite being on point throughout the rest of It Takes A Nation, it sounds like the Bomb Squad production team reached the end of their inspiration by the time they got around to mixing the album’s final track, yeah y’all! Admittedly, Flav and Chuck D’s voices coming out of both sides of the stereo field in unison is pretty cool, so it’s not a total loss.

Replace With: Nothing

“Prophets of Rage” would be a much better way to cap off ITANOMTHUB.

Kanye West feat. Mos Def – “Drunk and Hot Girls” (Graduation, 2007)

Not sure why Kanye felt the need to include this meandering, dull, and off-puttingly mean-spirited number on the otherwise awesome Graduation. Of all the tracks Mos Def sorry, Yasiin Bey could’ve featured on, they went with this one? Just imagine how much better a Mos Def verse would’ve sounded on an uplifting heater like “I Wonder” or “Champion.” It’s strange “Drunk and Hot Girls” turned out so poorly, when it’s the sole Graduation collab between Kanye and Late Registration co-producer Jon Brion, and is also built from a sample from krautrock legends Can.

Replace With: A souped-up “Southside,” from the Can’t Tell Me Nothing mixtape

A “Southside” 40% more un-Common’ed would’ve fit Graduation’s posi, moving-on-up vibe a lot better… and added a little bit of the overdriven, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy edge to come.

Q-Tip feat. Korn – “End of Time” (Amplified, 1999)

“It’s kind of scary you see / How fucked up things can be.” You said it, JD! OK, Q-Tip’s Amplified might not be as “classic” as any of his prior work with A Tribe Called Quest, but it’s still a damn good solo debut. You pretty much have to elevate any album that features a jam as wild as “Breathe and Stop”, not to mention J Dilla production on nearly every track, to at least ‘minor classic’ status. It’s an unwritten rule! Another unwritten rule: no album can be considered “flawless” when it features an abrasive collaboration with everybody’s favourite drop-d/conspiracy freaks Korn.

Replace With: Hmmm, I dunno…

How about a reprise of “Breathe and Stop”? As a matter of fact, why don’t we just end the album with an endless locked groove loop of “Breathe and Stop”?

Alanis Morissette – “Forgiven” (Jagged Little Pill, 1995)

The mopey “Forgiven” would probably make for a dope Cranberries song, but it can’t compete in a league that includes stone-cold CanRock classics like “You Oughta Know” and “Ironic.” Just imagine Dolores O’Riordan singing that hook! Shoulda shipped this one over to the Emerald Isle Wrecking Crew.

Replace With: “The Bottom Line”, from the Jagged Little Pill 2015 re-release

Give the people an angst break with this breezy, winsome number, which was the first song ever written by a 19-year-old Alanis and JLP producer Glen Ballard.

Modest Mouse – “This Devil’s Workday” (Good News For People Who Love Bad News, 2004)

Let Tom Waits handle the mediocre Tom Waits impressions, alright?

Replace With: “I’ve Got It All (Most)”, from the Float On single

The breezy guitar work on the verse is a perfect fit for Good News, while the raucous chorus should placate fans from the Lonesome Crowded West era. It’s win-win!

Outkast – “Snappin’ and Trappin’” (Stankonia, 2001)

Killer Mike deserved a better beat to murder than this aquatic nightmare, which sounds like something Drexciya threw away after 10 disappointing minutes of work.  I guarantee this is no one’s favourite Stankonia track.

Replace With: “Funkanella” from DJ Clue’s Backstage mixtape

There, you still get a killer Killer Mike verse, with no annoying synth squiggles. Shame the beat’s only a marginal improvement, though.

David Bowie – “Eight Line Poem” (Hunky Dory, 1971)

Ah, everyone’s favourite Bowie elements: plodding piano, noodling guitar, nonsensical caterwauled lyrics about cacti… and it’s the third track on the album? How could you sandwich this between “Oh! You Pretty Things” and “Life on Mars”?

Replace With: “Bombers” from an RCA promo single

Now this is a jam. Pretty much the polar opposite of the airy nothingness of “Eight Line Poem” Thankfully, it’s included as a bonus track on the 1990 Rykodisc release.

Linda Perhacs – “Paper Mountain Man” (Parallelograms, 1970)

Psychedelic folk songstress Linda Perhacs’ otherwise immaculate Parallelograms is only marred by this jarring second track, which doesn’t really mesh with the rest of the LP’s floaty, beautiful desolation. Diagnosis: needs more reverb, less harmonica.

Replace With: Nothing

Kid Cudi – whatever this is (Speedin’ Bullet 2 Heaven, 2015)

Yep, this is definitely the lone bad track on this otherwise transcendent, flawless album. The Beavis and Butt-Head interludes alone elevate Speedin’ Bullet 2 Heaven to classic status.

Replace With: A good album

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