Because we can’t be happy all of the time…

Before Clash gets into the business of celebrating 2013’s finest albums – which we’ll be doing soon – we’re taking five to reflect on some of the albums that, basically, let us down this year.

These aren’t necessarily awful albums – they’re merely the first to spring to our collective mind when pondering the particularly underwhelming records that have been. They’re albums that, in some way or many, simply didn’t deliver on what we were expecting from them.

Oh, okay. They are awful. Take them outside and do what you must…

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Arcade Fire – ‘Reflektor’
(Clash review)

On paper, the fourth album from the all-conquering Canadian collective sounded like a winner: a band of great pedigree mixing up its established strengths by collaborating with LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy, alongside regular production cohort Markus Dravs. But the end product, all 85 minutes of it, proved a drag – an overly long, unfocused, entirely self-obsessed affair that seemed exclusively the creation of a band with its blinkers on.

‘Reflektor’ is what happens when bands think they’re bigger – or, rather, more capable – than they are, and don’t accept outside advice on where they can trim the fat from what they’ve made.

That said, it’s not without standout moments, and the potential of the double-disc set is evident indeed: tracks like the strutting ‘It’s Never Over’ and the avant-disco chops of the title-cut (video below) showcase a distinct hunger for progression. But this album’s execution was horribly fumbled – it tests attentions when it should wash them away with a sublime swell, compiling too many songs that fail to finish when they should and others that barely get started in the first place. MD

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Benga – ‘Chapter II’
(Reviewed in Clash magazine issue 85)

Worlds away from the shadowy corners of Plastic People, ‘Chapter II’ found the Afro Warrior openly rebranding himself as a pop star. Continuing in the same vein as his Artwork/Skream venture Magnetic Man, he disappointingly prepared anthems for faceless, EDM-hungry crowds.

There were some promising moments of enticing wobble, such as on the gritty ‘I Will Never Change’- but ultimately ‘Chapter II’ proved far too generic and predictably glowstick-ravey. Even grime pro-spitter Kano managed to disappoint on ‘Forefather’ (video below) with lyrics like, “Kanye West can’t dress like me / Hugh Hef can’t sex like me.” Could we go back to Chapter I, please? FM

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Dizzee Rascal – ‘The Fifth’
(Clash review)

We – as fans, as followers, as critics – accept that our favourite artists will change over time, and never is this truer than when a breakout talent appears on mainstream radars at a very young age. So when Dizzee Rascal’s ‘Boy In Da Corner’ debut landed, scooping up the 2003 Mercury Prize and taking east London’s grime scene to a wider audience than ever before, we were fine with future development.

But, truthfully, it’s been all diminishing returns for Dizzee, a handful of outstanding singles aside, and ‘The Fifth’ is a set that’s so far from the roots its maker laid a decade ago that it’s positively unrecognisable compared to fare from the younger, hungrier rapper.

‘The Fifth’ holds a mirror up to the most utterly played-out of contemporary pop styles and offers nothing but the exact same product that its M.O. possibly set out to slyly subvert – the sharp-edged cracks, the splinters of striking originality, they’ve all been lost to time. Here, he collaborates (with entirely predictable results) with Robbie Williams (‘Goin’ Crazy’, video below), Jessie J and No thanks.

Great pop is all around us, and Dizzee has proven himself capable of making it in the past. But there’s nothing here that doesn’t further tarnish his dipping credibility. MD

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Daft Punk – ‘Random Access Memories’
(Clash review)

With a score of 87 from 47 reviews, Metacritic might suggest that the latest Daft Punk album received universal acclaim, but the reality was different.

Whilst many journalists fawned with omnipotent obviousness over the evolutionary nature of all that prog in the hope that they might get a nibble on the trillion-dollar press campaign cherry, the die-hard robot fans published their acidic disappointment on Twitter (or, if you’re Brian Limond, as a 140-minute webcam sermon, below).

Limmy 188 - " RAM Live Review. " 13/05/13 from Guy Woodward on Vimeo.

In fact, the Daft Punk album was juxta-exposed to so much highfaluting praise and loathsome criticism that it eventually hit terminal velocity. Like Paul McKenna in the late ‘90s, the hypnotic weaponry of ‘Get Lucky’ (official audio ‘video’ below) finally weakened, and at this point nobody really gave a shit about ‘Random Access Memories’ anymore. In hindsight, that’s how we all should have reacted in the first place. JZ

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Naturally, there have been a fair few other stinkers across the year. Clash awarded Wiley’s ‘The Ascent’ a 4/10, and dished out even-lower marks for the latest LPs from MGMT and Moby. Ach well, can’t win them all. Our list of THE BEST ALBUMS OF THE YEAR is coming. In December. Not long.

Words: Felicity Martin, Joe Zadeh, Mike Diver

Find Clash’s latest album reviews online here

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