10 Biggest Love/Hate Albums In Rock Music History

Works of genius or shambling disasters? These polarizing albums will test your taste.

radiohead kid a

There exist, in the popular music world, plenty of musicians and bands who polarize opinion. Some acts are always going to be divisive, especially those who make their homes at the outer reaches. Extreme metal, minimalist ambient and free jazz are three good examples of genres people seem to either adore or detest.

Opinions can also be split in more popular areas. There are people out there who don't 'get' The Beatles, who find nothing of interest in Bowie, or simply can't stand Dylan's voice. But what about those albums which divide even the hardcore fans of the musicians who made them?

The value of art, of course, is entirely subjective. It would be a boring world if we all shared the same tastes. Part of the joy in record-collecting lies in discovering who you are and exactly what sounds resonate with your psyche. There are undeniably, however, some albums the merit of which will be constantly up for debate.

We present here ten fine examples of recordings which will be endlessly argued over. Some represent sharp left turns by established acts, others have been held up, alternately, as works of genius and un-listenable noise.

10. The Sporting Life - John Paul Jones And Diamanda Galas

The entire career of American avant-garde singer and composer, Diamanda Galas, comes under the love/hate category. Her work campaigning on social issues, mental health, political injustice and AIDS education is highly commendable. Her music (and idiosyncratic singing) will either entrance or repel you. That her live shows often embrace numbers by experimental artists such as Iannis Xenakis and John Zorn should tell you much. Curiously, however, Galas has also worked with more conventional acts such as Erasure, Barry Adamson and, in this case, former Led Zeppelin bassist, John Paul Jones.

The Sporting Life dates back to 1994, and features Galas in an trio setting with Jones and drummer Pete Thomas. The danger with this sort of collaboration is that fans from both sides may well find the material difficult to engage with, and this is just what occurred with many listeners. Led Zep fans will delight in Jones' rumbling bass and Thomas' fine, muscular playing, but Galas' free-form delivery, which veers from stream-of-consciousness, high-speed scattershot to extended primal screams, is a challenge for those not accustomed to her style.

For some The Sporting Life hits that rare target between the avant-garde and the accessible. For others, it's a fine rock album spoiled by an outlandish singer.


Chris Wheatley is a journalist and writer from Oxford, UK. He has too many records, too many guitars and not enough cats.