The Ten Bands I Will be Forced to Listen to in Hell


I’M GOING TO HELL. You know it and I know it. But I’m fairly sure it’s not going to be of the William Blake-etching variety. There will be no eternal fire, three-headed dogs, or seas of percolating sinners. There will be no cloven hooves or torture racks or rounds of cribbage with Pol Pot and Hitler. No, my hell will almost certainly take place in a windowless basement room buried deep in the purgatorial nethers. The ceilings and walls will be slathered an institutional shit-brown. I will be in the center of a wet cement floor, Duct-taped to a broken lawn chair, with old Victrola megaphones stuffed in each ear.

And I will sit there. Forever.

Listening to scratchy mp3s at top volume.

For untold millennia.

Not only do I know this treatment is coming, I know I deserve it. Mainly because I have a deep and unforgivable flaw. A personality defect. A gaping and oft-salted emotional wound: since the day I turned eleven and inherited my uncle’s Beatles albums, I’ve cared about music to the exclusion of all else. I’ve been an unrepentant vinyl nerd. A tedious mix tape fanatic. A mortgage-flouting download freak. I’ve bought, sold, and archivally stored such a pendulous, debauched, and endless train of rare vinyl that there should have been an intervention years ago, one that ended with me forcibly installed at Santa Barbara’s Passage to a New Promise.

For some reason I just seem to hate certain songs more viscerally than normal people. If normal means “not driven to psychotic distraction” by Bizkits, limp or otherwise. I simply need not to listen to music I choose not to listen to, in a very physical way, from psyche to belly to rote musculature. I am the sort of person who snaps off the car radio in anger, tears records from under expensive diamond-tipped needles and flings them out into the street, secretly donates my loved ones’ Dixie Chicks CDs to charity, and loudly bemoans musical choices in restaurants, cafes, and in front of hostesses of small social gatherings.

In other words, a total asshole.

But I just can’t help myself. I have no reverse. My only three musical gears are John Coltrane, blessed silence, or the sort of turgid pop indulgences that make me want to run, naked and screaming, deep into the night, doomed never to return. At least not until I am tased, hog-tied, and relegated to Belleview for ninety days of involuntary observation and a round of Wellbutrin suppositories.

And so for these crimes I am sure, much like Robert Johnson, that I will eventually have to pay Ol’ Scratch down at the crossroads. Or at least down in Gehenna. And once I am in his fiendish clutches, The Lord of Flies will no doubt devise a loop of ten bands, spinning them with merciless repetition. They will come at me one after another, song after malformed song, for days and months and years and decades. It will be a playlist of eternal aural misery. Of soul-damned disharmony. Of long-due euphonic comeuppance. There will be no snacks, no piss breaks, and no skip button.

There will only be the sound.

The constant, pounding sound.

Of pure brimstone retribution.

And these ten bands.


1. Counting Crows

While it’s true that one man’s hell band may be another man’s rockin’ ceiling poster, I think we can all agree that that this whiny, falsely poetic, utterly self-satisfied unit, slated to ruin every wedding from now until the name “Duritz” is struck from the connubial lexicon by writ of post-apocalyptic parliament, is an obvious candidate for The Dark Prince’s most damned playlist. They are melody made torment, choruses made grief, hooks of despondency and woe, a steamy squirt of maudlin pandering. Listening to Counting Crows makes me want to eat my appendix raw–along with a delicate zinfandel, a sack of roofing nails, and a hearty swipe of deli mustard.

Likelihood that a ram-horned demon will enter the room and force me to sniff sweaty dreadlock every time "Mr. Jones" yowls into the mix: HIGH

2. The Beach Boys

For a band that has been around sixty years, it’s an astonishing accomplishment that pretty much every last song is a Guernica-like assault of falsetto warbling, sugary melodics, cheap Hawaiian shirts, male-pattern baldness, and banal lyrics about cars that should long ago have crashed into telephone poles. Not to mention girls with atrocious breath who never actually put out, beaches swamped with spilled petroleum, surfers who went under due to the Greg Brady tiki curse, and the falsely benevolent California sunshine that delivered an archipelago of neck melanomas to an entire generation. Yes, I’ve listened to Pet Sounds. Yes, I’ve listened to Smile. The Beach Boys continue to be the sonic equivalent of having a dog whistle implanted in your medulla and then honked on by a didgeridoo player with protean bong-tested lungs.

Likelihood that their beloved and iconic status is going to make many people reading this irrationally angry regardless of the fact that I am merely speaking of their effect on me personally: VERY, VERY HIGH

3. Billy Joel

The limp, brutally Caucasian, cheese-larded background for a thousand muggy Staten Island Tuesday nights. Every BJ song is crammed to the very brim with a Big Shot’s worth of insipid lyrics, unabashed emotional pandering, 80’s nostalgia, and weepy songs about piano men and struggling steel towns. Not to mention Captain Jack and Mrs. Cacciatore. It may Still Be Rock N’ Roll to Joel, but he’s been high since the fall of ’77, so who do you really believe? Listening to Billy bust out yet another sailor ballad or salty bar drama is like being held down and waterboarded with Christie Brinkley’s morning breath.

Likelihood that Beelzebub will add his sulphurous baritone to each and every chorus of "Heart attack-ack-ack-ack-ack": RIDICULOUSLY HIGH

4. Weezer

Alternative nerdom at its most annoying, twee, and self-indulgent. Fauxllectual tunes about sweaters that sound as if they were written by the Song-O-Mator 5000. Dorm ditties for dorm hermits. Dice rock for dungeon masters. Dance jingles for serious overbites. Unexpectedly raises the specter of late-stage syphilis while using the term “infectious melody.” Buddy Holly glasses + bad haircuts + oversized collars=They Might Be Giants for people who think They Might Be Giants thrash way too hard. Each and every song is like being stabbed in the face with a frozen venison steak.

Likelihood their iconic hit contains at least one solo that involves whistling and a chorus that references Tommy Hilfiger: MEDIUM

5. Eric Clapton

Not Cream, not Blind Faith, not even Derek and the Dominoes. They all get a pass. No, it’s solo Clap that really scratches Lucifer’s itch. The Clap is to the blues as mayonnaise is to a gallon of warm mayonnaise. His style is so wheezy and derivative it’s almost gone full circle and become cutting edge again. He puts the yawn into stultify, the stupefy into catatonia, stone-facedly delivering the exact same chords, licks, and nasal delivery for over three decades over a backbeat that would have lost the Boer War. The Clap is a one man soundtrack for the many and various stages of menopause. He is the lodestone of radio stations that should have had their licenses immediately yanked after they shot the sheriff, but not the deputy, for the four-million-and-first time. When you want to get down, down on the ground, Cocaine. Followed by an eightball of Clapton.

Likelihood that solo albums by The Clap comprise 88% of Mitt Romney's musical collection: A VIRTUAL CERTAINTY

6. R.E.M

The doe eyes. The repeating choruses. The catchy hooks. But mostly, the voice. Hey, I understand why (white) people like to dance to R.E.M at (white) parties. What I don’t get is why no one ever mentions that Michael Stipe’s voice is always (and, yes, that is all ways) off key. Out of tune. Unharmonious. Sharp. Pitchy. Flat. Wrong. Every line, every bridge, every verse, every chorus. Every single note. Truly and deeply unlistenable. If only Europe really had been Radio Free. If only Mike wasn’t Superman and couldn’t Do Anything. If only Everything Did Hurt. If only there really was a Man on the Moon. Spinning R.E.M. is like mowing the lawn, except with a tractor made out of castrated Culture Club and grass made out of shards of Foreigner 4.

Likelihood that formerly Shiny, Happy people are no longer very shiny and have, in fact, become profoundly displeased: MEDIUM TO WARM

7. Oasis

Britishness stripped down to its worst and most cynical cliches: arrogance without due, rhyme without style, sarcasm without wit, pose without prose, booze without tolerance, chav without street, repetition without foundation, Wonder without Wall. Oasis is one long watery dump taken on decades of English pop mastery that came before it. It’s held-up-lighter music for an empty EnormoDome tour, big sweeping choruses that lead straight to the merch table or vomiting in the alley. It’s all that was wrong with the nineties encapsulated in one inane, brain-worm lyric. The Gallagher brothers should have to fight each other with meat hooks during halftime of the next Super Bowl. The Son of Perdition cackles with glee each time I am forced to guzzle yet another champagne supernova.

Likelihood that they are currently half-filling a small club near you with between .5 and 1.5 extant members: LUDICROUSLY HIGH

8. Sting

Has one man in the history of music fallen farther than Gordon Sumner, from the heights of the Police to the nadir of Sting? Phil Spector, maybe? The Vegas panty-clown that is now Rod Stewart? If pompousness were bullion, Sting would be the third Koch brother. Or the owner of the world’s largest bowl of soup. If clumsy, mortifyingly unsuccessful Tantric sex had a musical spokesperson, Feyd Rautha would be on every billboard west of Santa Fe. The Stinger once asked, with weapons-grade pretension, in his stirring cold war ballad “Russians,” if the Russians loved their children too. The answer can now finally be told: Yes, Sting, they do. But they hate the flute solo on your last album enough to bomb London anyway. And Putin thinks you need a new haircut. Not to mention a few years in a re-education camp in Northern Siberia.

Likelihood that Sting still burns deep down inside because Toto beat him to the idea of writing a song about Rosanna Arquette first: MASSIVE

9. Creed

The absolute worst purveyors of a certain post-Vedder brand of earnest baritone wheezing masquerading as vocals in a very long line of bands subsequently featuring earnest baritone wheezing masquerading as vocals. Fake Christian, fake profound, fake fake. Wearing guitars and playing makeup. Even the Lord of Babylon thinks Creed is imbued with all the spirituality of a sweaty wad of ham. Not to mention bestowed with every inch of sexiness displayed in Kid Rock home videos. Featuring lyrics that sound as if they were written by a barely sentient hard drive, tats and hair vainly trading on Red Hot Chili Peppers market share, and just enough muscle to wet gullible panties and encourage a dorm’s worth of sing-along choruses. Creed is the sort of music bitterly-permed girls crank in Hyundai Elantras while stuck in traffic, fifteen minutes late for their thong-folding shift.

Likelihood that Scott Stapp not only wrote a song about the Florida Marlins, but that it sucked harder than every single other baseball and/or deep sea fish-related song ever recorded: A LOCK.

10. Pearl Jam

Possibly the worst band in the history of music. In 1992 I once came very close to being beaten half to death in a seedy bar for loudly proclaiming, halfway though the third jukebox round of “Jeremy,” that I wished The Jam would immediately all die in an airplane crash. Or at the very least go down in the snowy Andes foothills and be forced to slowly eat one other until only Eddie Vedder’s marinated larynx and Stone Gossard’s finger were discovered by rescue teams. Pearl Jam is Bad Company with knit caps and better goatees, a bloated strain of Seattle-soaked cock rock pretending to bleed at the alt alter. Their dalliance with the Black Hole hole of ill-defined social concerns was barely overshadowed by a cameo in the seminal Bridget Fonda ’90s angst-fest, Singles. Pearl Jam are mumble-core that is irritating beyond measure, unearned flannel brooding and hilarious furrowed lip, all testost and no terone, every song a wash of lazy sludge that never fails to devolve into Vedder’s signature vocal move, ritualistic small mammal yowling: yeah-hah-uhhh-ah-uhhh-ooh-oh-oh-oooh-yeah-grrr-mammer-jammer-ah-hah-huh-oh-yeah-oooh-Jeremy-Jeremy-uh-uh-ooh-eah-huh-hibble-dop-deeble-dibble-dop-yeah-hah!

Likelihood The Ved takes himself 9% less seriously now than he did while manning the barricades of this century's quintessential proletarian conflict--the battle against Ticketmaster: Very Low




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About Sean Beaudoin

Sean Beaudoin (@seanbeaudoin) is the author of five novels, including The Infects and Wise Young Fool. His new short story collection, Welcome Thieves, is just out with Algonquin Books.
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53 Responses to The Ten Bands I Will be Forced to Listen to in Hell

  1. Oasis split up last year… I haven’t listened to them in a while, but a weird affection still remains because they were the first band I got into and the reason I started listening to the bands Oasis wished they were.

    The first album is pretty good. Not ground breaking, but it’s easy to sing at full volume on the walk from the pub to the kebab house…

  2. I was oh so pleased with myself as I read this because I was in perfect agreement with Mr. Soul … then I got to Pearl Jam and hold-de-phone! Nine out of ten isn’t bad, though, eh? Nonetheless, I once started a row by saying that Eddie Vedder sings just like Cher. I stand by that. But man are people sensitive about Pearl Jam. Good luck!

    • Major Weekling says:

      It took until the Nader rally at MSG in NYC in 2000 for Eddie to win me, but he won me. But I remain unenthused with the band once known as Mookie Blaylock.

      You’re right, BTW — he does sound like Cher. Also, Axl Rose sounds like Frankie Valli.

    • Phat B says:

      Man you know how every once in a while you see something that you can’t unsee? You just did that to me with the Cher line. All I can hear is Cher belting out “Alive” from the bottom of her diaphragm. Well played Hawkins.

    • Cher is, or is close to singing in a baritone, which is rare in pop and rarer still for lady types. It’s why I don’t really like Pearl Jam, Vedder’s voice is quite hard to listen to over long periods.

  3. Gary Socquet says:

    Given the option, I would be sorely tempted to choose Blake’s version of hell, but I fear your vision is more likely. In my case, though, Weezer would be replaced by the entire bootleg archive of the Grateful Dead, because nothing says eternal damnation like an endless supply of seventeen minute guitar noodles. (I threw up in my mouth just thinking about it.)

    I have a friend who likes to kickstart my day with the occasional text message that reads, quite simply, “We didn’t start the fire.” Hell on earth, and clearly a harbinger of the afterlife. The only consolation, perhaps, is the knowledge that we won’t necessarily be suffering alone. Remember, the great mass of people ask for so little and get so much of it. Keep your friends close — and keep a closer eye on their music collections.

  4. Rachel Pollon says:

    Ridiculously hilarious. Rolling laughter. I feel like I ate it as well as read it. (Does that make sense? You kind of use your teeth when reading Beaudoin.) Even the bands who have songs I do like a ton I’m not going to argue with. I worked with one of these bands in my ol’ record business days, and another I also knew, and another I know pretty well and they are nice men and I have to defend them. But I’m right there with you regarding Billy Joel (how is Olear dealing with this?), Sting, Clapton (though I literally cried at a concert of his when I was 17 and into Cream and went to see late 80s Clapton perform live and he played “Wonderful Tonight” — but I was young and hormonal and yearned for a British man to tell me I looked wonderful on any night and/or any day), Creed (come on), and you know once any one starts taking themselves too seriously cue downfall. I will be sharing. Thanks for the fun read.

    • Major Weekling says:

      Olear has always been conflicted about his Joelophilia. Listening to him now can make him, Olear, sad.

      I’m no Clap apologist, but I will say this: dude comes off cool as hell in the George Harrison doc. New respect for him after watching that.

  5. Rachel Pollon says:

    (Um, it just hit me that if my “friends” in one of these bands ever read my above comment they’d think, “What the freak — why didn’t you defend us?!” Which is only right. I just feel like an A-hole because I already said “I’m ‘friends’ with one of them and I don’t want to get into a defending match about it. So, dear band, that I’m friends with, you know who you are. You know I think the world of you. I just enjoy Sean’s writing and didn’t feel this comment area is a place to get into a real argument about music. Musical taste is subjective. I truly just appreciate the creative way Sean expresses his views. We must laugh at ourselves sometimes, no? Having said that, I have thin skin and I hope you never think anything less than stellar about me. Okay, Neurosis out.)

  6. Hank Cherry says:

    I believe in this list so utterly that in the last two hours I’ve built a shrine to it. I’ve papered the ceiling of my postage stamp apart,ent with printouts, and this is what I’ve learned

    A. Don’t poster popcorn ceiling with anything.

    B. Shitty music is a disease. Ear born, you hear it, and you are diseased.

    C. The only thing this list lacks is a partial discography of suck.

    Thank you Divine One! I’m off to reprint and repeater ceiling with your words!

  7. Taman says:

    Laugh out loud funny. Can I add four songs I will be forced to listen to in hell (hell also being defined as reality TV interspersed with Fox News)?

    1) The Wreck of the Edmond Fitzgerald by Gordon Lightfoot
    2) Blue Bayou by Linda Ronstadt
    3) Disco Duck by Rick Dees
    4) I’ve Never Been to Me by Charlene

    “Jeremy” and “Piano Man” are starting to look pretty good, eh?

  8. Jennifer says:

    This list is perfect, although I’m going to take exception to R.E.M., who played an important role in my early ’80s musical upbringing. Counting Crows! Can we all agree that was just a scam? Who was in charge of that?

    • Major Weekling says:

      It’s strange to me how REM, a band that was so important and cool, have become so un-cool to the kids these days. Not sure how or why this happened. It’s not like they recorded “Fields of Gold” or something.

      Thanks for leaving a comment!

  9. Chuck Norris says:

    Don’t fuck with Pearl Jam!

  10. RockMama says:

    Listening to Pearl Jam all day is my idea of HEAVEN!

  11. DS1119 says:

    How’s the journalist career going? Frankly my version of hell would have to be reading this page again.

  12. EdVed says:

    You have a lotta nerve, pal. I AM THE GREATEST SINGER AND SONGWRITER OF MY TIME!!!

  13. PearlJamFan says:

    Well said, DS1119!

    I’d like to see this guys Top Ten Favorite bands…

  14. AzWicker says:

    Well, evidently you think Pearl Jam has only one album and has not evolved at all. that said, when you go to hell, I hope you have to listen to Ole’ for all eternity with breaks every thousand years where you get to listen to Evacuation.

  15. DangerMouse says:

    It is so easy to hate.

  16. Kevin says:

    Great, another moron got his opinion on the internet with the old “See how hip I am because I hate all these popular bands” pieces.

  17. Major Weekling says:

    Obviously, Sean, you’ve never seen the Fresh Beat Band.

  18. jmblaine says:

    It’s me!
    I’m in Heaven! & they let me form a band!
    I’ve got Bootsy on bass, Bonham on drums
    & God gave me the blood transfusion
    of Albert Collins & Bon Scott!
    So, as of tonight it’s just a three-piece…
    I’ll drop you a bootleg down.
    Look in the tube by the furnace.

  19. Well, 9 out of ten is better than not bad. It’s very good.


    The Beach Boys are net terrible, or even mediocre. They are great, at least pre-Surf’s Up. (If all they’d recorded was Kokomo, they’d deserve to be #1 on your list.)

    Here’s my argument for them, which factors in all the reasons you might hate them, but still concludes that they can be the best thing this side of Mozart:

    • Major Weekling says:

      I can’t speak for Sean, but I think the Beach Boys, great though they are, don’t have the depth necessary to command multiple listens. Put another way: if you listened to a Greatest Hits album of theirs for, say, 48 hours in a row, you would be at Gitmo. Whereas you’d get tired of, say, The Beatles, but not to the same degree.

      Thanks for reading and chiming in!

  20. Caleb Powell says:

    I probably like, or don’t dislike, some of these bands, but you definitely hit on their overratedness. But let me comment on #10. Over 20 years ago a friend played at a show in Seattle, and afterward at the bar my friend introduced me to this other musician who was in this band with some Mother Lovebone guys who’d just had their singer O.D. (Andrew Wood), and he was this guitarist of a new band, Pearl Jam. So when Pearl Jam came out, I had to listen, it had to be good.

    It wasn’t. It was a bunch of pretentious lyrics over boring riffs, with very little innovation, and I thought there’s no way these guys will catch. But Pearl Jam and Mike McCready were launched. Twenty years later I still think I’m right, and everyone else is wrong. Their stuff gets more preachy-monotonous with time. Now I know there is one other person out there that also “hate-fucks” on Pearl Jam. Very cool.

    • Major Weekling says:

      We have learned in these parts that hatefucking Pearl Jam jas its consequences. Wow, do they have rabid fans. Jeremy spoke in class today, etc.

      Always nice to hear your thoughts, Caleb.

  21. sticksinthehead says:

    No Genesis? Really?

  22. I haven’t heard of any of these acts.

  23. An especially devious demon might choose a band you find acceptable, even pleasant, but they have That One Song. I get along OK with The Eagles’ trundling countryish rockish sound, but living (or rather, being dead) with the constant fear that the next track might be Hotel California would be…unpleasant. Similarly, The Killers’ music (not sure how to categorise it – “moderate rock”?) is fine, but once in a while the appalling Human would pop up.

    In the heady* days of Britpop there was quite a bit of feuding between bands, the most obvious being the Blur vs Oasis thing. But as someone (it may have been a member of Menswear or Kula Shaker, in a rare moment of usefulness) pointed out, “We’re forgetting that the real enemy is Celine Dion.”

    The bands you’ve chosen here are Proper Bands, playing Proper Songs on Proper Instruments. You could be subjected to endless IQ-draining banality from Mariah Carey, or the output of, whose rapid-prototype audio product doesn’t even deserve to be called music.


    • Major Weekling says:

      Excellent points, Mr. Sparshott. Proper bands, indeed.

      I think it’s curious that for Band A to be great, Band B must suck. Like with Lennon and McCartney. You may prefer the latter to the former, or vice versa, but that doesn’t mean the other one is ass (or arse, as it were).

      That quote is priceless.

  24. Some Guy In Hell says:

    I originally read this article via a link on The caption under the picture of the Beach Boys on that site is: “Likelihood that the brother who died in 1983 was the only one with even a scrap of talent: VERY HIGH”.

    Wow. Slightly different from “merely speaking of their effect on me personally”.

    I wouldn’t want to listen to anyone for 48 hours straight, but if you don’t recognize the depth and creativity in Brian Wilson’s work, as many musicians do, including that guy McCartney and lots of young musicians, perhaps you’re the one who is missing something?

    Also disagree about R.E.M. But not as irrationally and violently.

    • Some Guy In Hell says:

      Forgot to mention — someone provided you with a YouTube playlist in the Salon comments. Some interesting, non-greatest hits selections.

  25. macchina says:

    I generally agree with the list. Though they aren’t extremely popular like the one’s you list — I think a good addition would be Cake. Everything you said about Weezer applies all the more to Cake.

    Alternative nerdom at its most annoying, twee, and self-indulgent. Fauxllectual tunes about sweaters that sound as if they were written by the Song-O-Mator 5000. Dorm ditties for dorm hermits. Dice rock for dungeon masters. Dance jingles for serious overbites. Unexpectedly raises the specter of late-stage syphilis while using the term “infectious melody.” Buddy Holly glasses + bad haircuts + oversized collars= They Might Be Giants for people who think They Might Be Giants thrash way too hard. Each and every song is like being stabbed in the face with a frozen venison steak.

  26. Adam K says:

    Billy Joel? REM? Pearl Jam? The Beach Boys??? ERIC CLAPTON????

    Likelihood that you don’t know good music? 100%.

  27. Doug Bond says:

    I’ll defend Billy Joel for the one album Turnstiles
    Strongly aree on Pearl Jam, Sting
    Boston/Kansas/Foreigner (and radio stations that play this crap as “oldies” now)
    Dave Matthews Band – just can’t stand the man’s voice
    Bread (all the other fiber-less, folky, quasi-religious put-ons from the seventies forward)
    Kenny Loggins
    while we’re on Kenny…Kenny G and all muzak’d Jazz
    Harry Connick, Jr. (I mean, really people, wtf?)
    Andre Rieu (Die!Die!Die!)
    Andrew Lloyd Webber (I take this on strong authority from a friend who’s been playing in the pit for Phantom at the Majestic since the damn show opened in 1988!)
    Gregorian Chant Pop Remixes
    Celtic anything
    Tony Bennett (why does he have to be the longest lived of that generation?)
    Doris Day (Que Sera, Sera) one or two times through this one and you’d be ruing the day you hadn’t carpe diem’d hedging your bets on this whole afterlife business

  28. Pingback: Steve Poltz vs. Eddie “Pretentious” Vedder « Arguments Worth Having

  29. Miss Lynne says:

    Having just read this, I have to ask you if Pearl Jam gets a semi-pass since they hired X to tour with them this year. (Please don’t add X or John Doe to the list).

    • Major Weekling says:

      Personally, I’ve been giving Eddie a pass since he played at the Ralph Nader rally at Madison Square Garden in 2000. I don’t think Mr. Beaudoin will be sufficiently moved to remove them from his list — Hell is subjective, as Milton well knew — but if anything could sway him, Miss Lynne, it is your cogent argument.

  30. Ho Ho says:

    This list is missing the Great Satan Himself, Jimmy Buffet.

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