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10 Disappointing Solo Debuts

June 13, 2014  |  3:34pm
10 Disappointing Solo Debuts

Well, after celebrating many excellent solo debut albums, we have to acknowledge their less successful counterparts to these. Now, we aren’t going to call these the worst solo debuts, since we could have easily named a Spice Girls solo effort as the worst or something in that vein. The thing is, no one expected much from Baby Spice, but these artists are individuals that should have done better, based on the work that came either before or after their attempt to record under their own name.

You will also notice that no women are on this list of ten, and honestly, I don’t know if that is sexist or not because this is a list you don’t really want to be on. Either way, these are one dude’s opinion, and most of the albums can be debated either way, so tell us what we missed or defend what we are calling out.

10. Christopher Owens (Girls)
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Lysandre wasn’t just a solo album for Christopher Owens, it was a passion project, and it likely contributed to the splitting with JR White, effectively ending Girls. Owens, the songwriter, saw White, the producer, as inessential to his own success, and while Lysandre isn’t an awful album, when compared to the three releases of Girls, Owens seems out of his depth as a decision maker. While the songs are average to strong, the narrative of the concept album and, appropriately, the production and arrangement choices make Lysandre a largely disregarded album, and a decision that has not helped Owens’ career at this point.

9. Travis Morrison (The Dismemberment Plan)
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Travistan might have been better titled Travesty, but what may surprise many is that it is not so bad as the 0.0 Pitchfork rating would have you believe. Is it on part with The Dismemberment Plan at their best? No, nowhere close. Often it sounds like demos for songs that were scrapped. So, though it is underrated, it is still a very disappointing solo debut.

8. Julian Casablancas (The Strokes)
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Phrazes for the Young was a sign of things to come, sounding more at home with The Strokes that was ahead than that which had come before. Meaning, it is an uninspired and forgettable footnote to their other work. Casablancas that can phone in a catchy melody without much effort, and yet he doesn’t realize why people liked the Strokes. The first couple Strokes albums had attitude, a coolness that borderlined on arrogance, and anything approaching ease just doesn’t fit with the band’s self-dictated rules. Yes, there are a couple good jams on here, but if you are still thinking about or listening to this album five years later, you are one of the very few.

7. Miles Kurosky (Beulah)
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Who? Yeah, the Beulah lead singer might not be a household name, but Beulah was a band, they were really good, and after they split, Miles Kurosky released an album that bummed out most Beulah fans, called The Desert of Shallow Effects. Kurosky has a knack for melody, but outside of Beulah, both his arrangements and his lyrics bombed, and he hasn’t really offered up another attempt since. Probably for the better.

6. Craig Finn (The Hold Steady)
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Full disclosure: I had trouble admitting this album was not very good, and saw it through some super-fan goggles that quickly cleared up. Clear Eyes, Open Hearts is Finn trying to write outside his band and, incidentally, allowing his audience to see the truth for what it is. While The Hold Steady’s decline could be exasperated by the other members, Finn is most definitely guiding the ship as it sinks.

5. Kele (Bloc Party)
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Bloc Party is an overrated band to begin with, but frontman Kele Okereke’s solo debut is an electro-mess of an album that strips away all the endearing qualities of his band and replaces them with over-abundant percussive layering and bare-bones melodic courtesies that make the album feel like gym music in hell.

4. Billy Corgan (Smashing Pumpkins)
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TheFutureEmbrace was not as bad as anyone expected, or as bad as we want to remember it, or as bad as would fit the Corgan storyline. But it was bad. At this point in his career, Billy Corgan’s bad music is of greater volume than his great music. Wrap your mind around that.

3. Paul Simon (Simon and Garfunkel)
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This might surprise you, but Paul Simon’s first solo album actually came out before his split from Garfunkel. 1965’s The Paul Simon Songbook contained some early versions of his later hits, and other songs that Simon said he did not stand behind. Simon got the album recalled a few days after its American release years after its European one, but the album remains a part of Simon’s history.

2. Paul Banks (Interpol)
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Again, how bad it is depends on who you talk to, but Interpol’s lead singer should have tipped us off with the fact that he was going Chris Gaines on his solo debut, creating the moniker Julian Plenti. Banks has since released under his own name, but this was a case of a singer thinking he had a more loyal following than he did, and five years later, it is as if the album never even came out.

1. Brandon Flowers (The Killers)
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Being from Las Vegas, it is understandable that certain traits from the city would carry over to the band. But there is no reason to hear Flowers try his best to create a Las Vegas tourism theme song or impersonate the lounge legends that wind up un Vegas as a last tour stop before the grave.Flamingo hurt to listen to at the time, far out-cheesing any of the Killers full-band albums and we can all hope that the media-shy frontman will never force us through something like that album again.

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