With Watch the Throne now out, I think it’s safe to say that despite critical accolades, the album is kind of awful. As a fan of both Jay and ‘Ye, it feels strange that their album is such a letdown for me. It ends up being 70-30 Kanye-Jay, and the bombast and mutual verbal masturbation just wears on me after a full listen. They got great samples and wasted them on weird numbers like “Otis,” which is the creepiest duet with a dead guy this side of “Unforgettable.” Blugh. Somehow, they seem to work better when they have more restrictions.
In the world of supergroups, though, the Jay/Ye supergroup is probably in the top 10 percent. Which tells you something about how supergroups typically go.
As I’ve asked myself (and others) recently, what are some supergroups that weren’t terrible (I’m looking at you, Traveling Wilburys)?
First the criteria:
- At least 2 members must have been recognized as stars in their own right (sorry New Pornos and Broken Social Scene)
- Stardom must have come before joining the supergroup (reverse supergroups like the Beatles or NWA don’t count)
- Simply reconstituting your old group with a couple new members is a no-go (e.g., Journey)
- No one-off concert supergroups (Booker T and the Drive-By Truckers, The Dirty Mac, etc.)
- No rap posses (Ruff Ryders, G-Unit, etc.)
The Gold Standard
Crosby, Stills, Nash (and Young) — Yes, they only produced one album as a foursome, but it’s a doozy. Their failure to stick together, though, highlights the biggest problem with supergroups: ego. Once you’re used to doing things your own way, you’re only willing to deal with equal collaborators for so long. Still, CSN has done solid work without Young, and they’re the first thing I think of when I consider a functional supergroup.
Derek and the Dominos — This band only counts because Duane Allman, though not nominally a member, laid down tracks for Layla. Again, a one-album wonder, though.
The Decent Side Project
Blind Faith — Again, a one-album wonder, and not a fantastic album at that. Still, Winwood and Clapton work well together, and I imagine they were greater live than they were on the album.
Hindu Love Gods — Warren Zevon and R.E.M. playing old blues, folk, and rock’n’roll covers? How could it possibly go wrong? Well, they were all pretty drunk and the playing is ragged, but this is more like a sign of what might have been than a great group in its own right.
Them Crooked Vultures — Again, the problem here seems to be that the album is fun, but not that good. It’s like watching the 2004 U.S. Men’s Basketball team — lots of talent, lots of ability, not a lot of cohesion.
The Bad Thrown-Together Jam Band
Monsters of Folk — To be fair, I don’t like Bright Eyes that much, but somehow this album just sounds like an extended jam session without a clear direction. If you didn’t know who the members were, you’d think it was just another generic folk-rock album that they sell at Starbucks.
Audioslave — I have a number of Audioslave songs on my computer. Not gonna lie. But their waste of talent was truly a sight to behold. Cornell’s voice and Morello’s guitar just never found a groove together. They sound like they’re in two different bands.
Bad Company — I’m not sure if they really count as a supergroup, but just wanted to make sure it was clear that they are in this category.
Anyways, what say you? Are there any decent supergroups you can think of that meet the above criteria? (I’ve never listened to much ELP, so can’t say about them)
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