my top four (couldn't come up with five without ralphing) overrated alternative (whatever that is) bands of all time

4. Soul Coughing - I once had the misfortune of hearing an entire album by these jokesters. I was at a friend's house and she just had to play it for me. Trying to be open-minded and wanting to see why these guys were so adored in these parts, I gritted my teeth and endured it. What I heard was annoying beatnik affections, a bunch of feeble attempts at rapping (and a white rapper with wit and talent like Kid Rock takes shit??), and some song where M. Doughty counted into double digits.

Local Phlegmheads (my pet name for Soul Coughing fans) will tell you with pride how their band is sooooo popular in Minneapolis. In the last couple of months, I've heard two people tell with glee the story of how Soul Coughing opened for the late Jeff Buckley at First Avenue a few years back. Apparently, the Phlegmheads packed the show for their band's set and then left when they were done, leaving Buckley to play to a half-full room.

Where were all the Phlegmheads going? Outside to snap their fingers and call each other "daddy-o?" Or to the huge clearance sale on bongo drums?

3. The Cranberries - My folks have a lake cabin in Otter Tail County, Minnesota. A dairy farmer's cows sometimes graze in the back of the bay where my parents' cabin is located. Occasionally, a cow will get her leg stuck in a barbed-wire fence and will began to bellow and wail. It is a sound that is unnerving and inescapable, especially on a day with no wind.

And yet, that cow will still have a far less annoying voice than that chick in the Cranberries.

2. Talking Heads - In my book, maybe the most overrated band ever. Here's some news - hope it doesn't mess up your worldview: just because some art school dorks were part of the Class of Seventy-Whatever at CBGB doesn't mean we have to kiss their asses.

Unless I've missed something, art school is rarely-if-ever a training ground for great rock 'n' roll. (Note: I'm not excluding its qualifications as a training ground for pretentious artsy dance music.) David Byrne wore a big suit, acted like a spas, and had an annoying vocal tic - where exactly does "Johnny B. Goode" fit into his equation?

Oh well, my moaning will soon become moot, because the test of time is taking care of these dweebs. Because if they were so hot, who exactly has adopted them as an influence?

1. Violent Femmes - Another shitty and annoying vocalist in Gordon Gano. Like David Byrne, he sang novelty songs for the smarty-pants kiddies; problem was way too many of my peers in college (and alternakids nationwide) took this band seriously. The last time I heard a new song by these clowns, Gano was attempting to make fun of American music. Or maybe he was ironically paying homage - either way I hope Merle Haggard kicks his sorry ass into Lake Michigan real soon.

Some used to mention the Femmes in the same sentence as the Replacements, which made as much sense to me as the old KJ104 sandwiching the 'Mats between Depeche Mode and Duran Duran.

And as far as novelty music goes, stick with Weird Al - he's got a better sense of humor. Or better yet - go with today's best novelty band, the Offspring: they write better, louder, and funnier songs than the Femmes or the Heads. Plus Dexter Holland is a better bad singer than Gano or Byrne. Damn, I envy the kids these days.

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