Worst band ever

I’ll show you mine in a minute. But, first, show me yours.

And you’re not allowed to say Clay Aiken, Miley Cyrus or something silly like that. Even Vanilla Ice. Those guys don’t count. They’re awful. But they’re not really music. They’re just hula hoops. Some unholy combo of popcult ephemera and music-biz corruption. No, a worst band ever has to be something someone else thinks is meaningful. They have to be part of the actual musico-historical conversation. Gotta have, well, gravitas, even if they suck.

My son, a music scribe in his own right (and inspirer of this idea), nominates the Red Hot Chili Peppers, just to start the fire (speaking of good candidates for worst – Billy Joel). Even if I don’t entirely agree, the Peppers seem like an exemplary choice: a band that many revere, that are credited with innovation and with chops and cool and that seem to have ascended to the rock ’n’ roll canon, if not yet the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (a goldmine, I would submit, of worstness – especially in 2010) (and, late-breaking news, now including the Chili Peppers!).

But that doesn’t mean your pick has to be an old band – though you’re going to have a hard time making a case for an artist with less than ten years of output, because some of these guys wind up redeeming youthful excrescence with breakthrough work in their maturity (Justin Timberlake, anyone?). And it’s not enough to name the name, you also have to make the case. Give us a sentence or two. Help us fully grok their true awfulness.

So, nominate your all-time worst band, email your pick to before November 1, 2009. We’ll publish the top ten disses and send each winning correspondent a FREE, USED CD of Celine Dion’s My Love – Ultimate Essential Collection!!! Now for mine – except it’s too damn hard to pick just one:

1. Pink Floyd
Something authentically cool about Syd Barrett, I’ll grant you. But let’s get serious for a second and recognize that the Floyd – especially sans Syd – is, for the most part, synthetic, stoner-stroking strum[sic]-and-drang that’s playing at being profound social criticism, penetrating mysticism or – yikes – philosophy. (Bonus deductions for being so all-fired influential.)

2. Kiss
Just want to re-start the conversation with the band I love to hate, now that they’re on tour again (and also up for the R&RHOF!). Kiss is mock rock. Heavy lite. Hula hoops that, by sheer dint of hula-hoop will, have managed to transcend their essential ephemerality. Or at least endure long enough that it seems so. Sure, they’re goofy and funny and wound up inspiring a surprising number of actually good bands. But still. Someday some genius will want to re-issue the crypto-biography I wrote about them back in the ’80s. Until then, let me reiterate here: sometimes crap is just crap.

3. Phish
This’ll get me run out of Fairfax, but they’re such thin gruel they make the Dead seem like Black Sabbath (well, at least like we imagine Sabbath were) (yes, I harbor doubts).

Are those too easy? Too obvious? Too you-can’t-say-that-about-Pink-Floyd-you-fat-fuck? Your move. Again, you could win your very own FREE, USED CELINE DION CD AND GET PUBLISHED ON THE D/C SITE!?! Email your worst band ever by November 1 to

UPDATE: There’s more love in the world than we thought — and fewer people reading this music blog — so we seem to have fallen short of the 5,000,000 worldwide entries we had anticipated. But we did get two strong submissions from a place called San Francisco. One of them nominated a winner, and the other, curiously enough, proposed a runner-up. And in the interest of tying a bow on this contest, we share them below. To their authors, we say, thanks for your vituperation and vitriol, and we hope you enjoy your fucking Celine Dion CD.

, from Mr. Paul Supplee, San Francisco:

Dear Worst Band Ever,

Today I would like to submit Heart: Runner Up for Worst Band Ever. Do you remember “Lemme Go Crazy On You!” and “Barracuda!” You’re probably saying to yourself, “Oh no, I forgot about those….”

I vaguely remember the photos on Heart’s first big album. Two reasonably not bad looking Canadian sisters surrounded by a metaphorical troupe of Gypsies in a magical medieval forest. If I remember correctly, the picture is complete with dancing dwarves with mandolins and fiddles. A Renaissance Faire gone horribly horribly wrong. The music on the LP inside the sleeve was just as bad. I cannot find other words to describe it.

WINNING SUBMISSION, from Mr. Will Yarborough, San Francisco:

My nomination goes to Santana.

His masturbatory noodling that passes for guitar playing is unlistenable. His “songwriting” is uninspired and makes me want to drive an ice pick through my eye. His collaborations with today’s “hottest” artists make me want to wipe out mankind for giving this hack a career. All this and he’s directly responsible for Journey.

I win.


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