End-of-year lists are one of my favorite things about December. It’s a chance for me to catch up on a year’s worth of news and remember, again, that the human race is probably doomed. (And yes, I know that “human” is not in fact a race.) It’s an opportunity to waste countless hours at work rediscovering why, exactly, I spent countless hours at work obsessed with a particular meme that I forgot about within a week. And, more to the point, it’s my annual review of all the books I should have read/movies I should have caught/albums I should have listened to, but didn’t. My favorite lists, though, don’t feature the “best” of the year, but rather the worst. And although you can’t judge a book by its cover, sometimes an album’s cover art is really all you need in order to know it’s not worth future consideration. At least, I think that’s Pitchfork’s list of the 20 Worst Album Covers of 2011 was trying to tell me. But still … one of the albums on the list had me curious. Curious enough to actually go on Spotify and listen to the whole damn thing. That album? The Most Wonderful Time of the Year, by Scott Weiland.
Yes, that Scott Weiland. The flamboyant, bipolar, formerly drug-addled, frequently drunk, sometimes violent, front-man of one of the best bands of the 90s and early aughts (and less-best bands of today, but that’s a different subject for a different day) has decided to channel his inner Rat Pack and release a collection of Holiday standards.
Taken as a whole, Most Wonderful Time isn’t bad. The problem is that at its best, the more faithful renditions sound like what would have happened Bing Crosby drank a fifth of Wild Turkey, mainlined some heorin, and then tried to do a Sammy Davis Jr. impersonation. Which is to say, it sounds like Weiland is trying too hard to simultaneously maintain his authentic sense of self and produce something so traditional that your grandmother won’t object. The musicality’s still here, but in a range lower than what we’re used to with Weiland—a range he’s clearly a bit shaky in, judging from the vibrato on many extended notes.
But at its worst? At its worst, we get the “Feliz Navidad” remix of Silent Night and a reggae-fied “O Holy Night.” (I say reggae-fied rather than reggae because I guarantee that Bob Marley would not approve.) The worst songs on the album are so exquisitely bad that they bring down the album’s average score, so that we’re left with a D, at best.
And as Pitchfork pointed out, the cover art isn’t exactly helping.
All of this makes me wonder what the Scott Weiland who sang “Plush” would think of the Scott Weiland who sings the above-embedded “Winter Wonderland” (you know, if he were sober enough to form opinions), and my guess is it’s not good. I’m not sure he’d even recognize himself in the crooner.
Weiland turned 44 this year (does that make you feel old, too? Because while I’m at it, I should mention that Anthony Kiedis will hit 50 in 2012.), and he’s not the first of his generation to go a little soft as he nears middle age. He’s allowed. He’s earned it. But with people like Dave Grohl (who turns 43 next month) still turning up the rock, I can’t help but find Most Wonderful Time infinitely depressing.
You want to make a Christmas album, Scott? Make a Christmas album. But don’t forget who you are. You’re Scott-effing-Weiland, man. Leave the soft stuff to Michael Bublé and rock our stockings off the damn mantle.
Or, at the very least, leave the maracas at home.