The Ten Bands I Will Be Forced to Listen to In Hell


Sean Beaudoin is going to hell for being a complete Rock ‘n Roll snob, and he knows exactly what soundtrack Lucifer will play in order to seek revenge. 

Originally appeared at The Weeklings

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.

AP Photo

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.

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.

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 dice rollers. Dance jingles for lonely singles. 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.

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.

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.

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.

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!

AP Photo/Tony Avelar

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.



Sean Beaudoin’s latest novel is the rude zombie opus The Infects. His stories and articles have appeared in numerous publications, including: The Onion, The San Francisco Chronicle, and Spirit, the inflight magazine of Southwest Airlines. He frequently ends his bio with an ironic or self-deprecating personal comment.

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Lead photo courtesy of BeerNotBombs/Flickr

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  1. The implication here is that in Heaven one might find the likes of The Archies, The Bay City Rollers, and the pride of the Ukraine – Peter Hnatiuk. Unfortunately I’ve long ago lost his treasured classic – If I was Prime Minister – never mind the vinyl, it’s worth acquiring for the cover alone!

    You may have a helluva time finding a copy, so here’s where you can at least get a taste of it. Be careful though . . . you may wind up getting hooked!

  2. Thanks Sean, this was a wonderful Sunday morning read!

  3. Alyssa Royse says:

    I cannot tell you how happy I am to know that someone else hates Pearl Jam. But, you forgot Dave Matthews. There is lots of Dave Matthews in hell.

  4. Cornelius says:

    Woah, there, Encyclopedia Brown. Take it easy with the SAT vocab.

  5. I’m pretty sure Satan wouldn’t bother with REM or Oasis when he could just torture you with plenty of reggaeton and Miley Cyrus. As a previous commenter pointed out, you’ll be begging for Sting after three hours of Justin Bieber.

    Or maybe that’s exactly the torture Sean fears: people coming up to him and explaining exactly WHY he should be enjoying Sting’s greatest hits.

    In any case, I thought this was hilarious.

  6. Matt, he doesn’t mention hair metal, but I’m pretty sure that a Good Man wouldn’t countenance much hair metal in his life. That would merely be a taste thing (and of course a goodness thing), not a hipper-than-thou thing.

    Curious to know the author’s age. I’m guessing he was born around 1975.

  7. How in the world does hipster narcissism like this reflect on being a Good Man? Most other posts on this excellent site reflect open-mindedness – this sticks out like a sore thumb. I’m surprised it was included.

    • I agree with you to a point Matt, but I also think it is healthy to highlight that we should be angry about being bombarded with middle-of-the-road art, especially with music, that gets stuck in one’s head. The revolution will only begin once we can throw overboard the business models that insist on serving up limp, half-baked musical offerings. I liked this post, a lot. (I am 40yo)

      • Sure, and we could get into that all day. I find it telling that you criticize m-o-t-r art and half baked musical offerings, when his post contains very little manufactured pop. He doesn’t go after the Spice Girls, nor The Biebs, nor Gaga, nor… so on and so forth. Everyone makes fun of them – for him to do it would be too mainstream. I exactly share your frustrations with that kind of manufactured garbage.

        No, he takes shots at REM and the Beach Boys. These are two well-regarded and well-respected bands who, for their time, stayed true to their music and made what they wanted – and who, critically and socially, are very much acclaimed.

        He needs to be cool, he thinks he can do that by liking things others turn up their nose at, and by cutting down things others enjoy. He has purposefully decided robe an asshole – that’s his word, directly from his article. He offers no useful thesis and provides no lessons. Hell, he might have said “mainstream music sucks, here is what I am doing to help young musicians keep to their own creativity while the major label system crumbles around our ears”. THAT I could have respected, if not agreed with 100%. There’s nothing to respect here.

        As I said originally, this post certainly has a place somewhere – maybe over at Pitchfork? – but I amazed that it passed editorial standards here.

  8. Clapton is dull and had always been somewhere between middle-aged or elderly.

  9. Steve Jaeger says:

    I nearly got in a fist fight with a friend in 1968 when he said Clapton was a better guitarist than Jimi Hendrix
    I always thought Clapton was a technician without a lot of soul. I do like the Beach Boys though.

  10. Kudos for not taking any easy shots (apart from Creed). I can empathize with having zero tolerance for bad music. I’m definitely that guy who makes a show of noticing how bad the overhead music is in restaurants and stores.

    Do we get to hear what everyone would have to listen to in Heaven?

    I’m curious, but mostly worried that you’re stuck in the 70s. Hopefully not, because when anyone lets themselves get stuck in any era it makes their tastes…how can I put this topically…not only old mannish, but much less than manly.

  11. Paul Weller is going to run over your nads with his Vespa for all eternity for referring to Pearl Jams as “(captial T)The (capital J)Jam.” Serious.

  12. Wow, Sean.
    You are vicious. Pretty witty, but vicious. I used to catch shit for my opinionated rants on poor music, but you have me beat. I bow to your superior asshole-ness.
    I can agree with a lot of what you said, if not so much with your scorched-earh enthusiasm. Re. Pearl Jam, Eddie Vedder has a beautiful voice, but yeah…I agree with the mumbly thing. And yes, Sting does put the ‘middle’ in middle-brow.
    And yes, you *are* going to hell. But it won’t be the above bands you’ll be subjected to. After 2 or 3 millenia of Slim Whitman, Yanni, and Conway Twitty, you’ll be *begging* for Eric Clapton.
    Good luck and drink plenty of fluids.

  13. Totally agree on Weezer and Counting Crows are definitely for me among the worst ever. Rather listen to a commercial on the radio when they come on.
    I would disagree on Pearl Jam though. I would replace them with either Coldplay (whiny, piano, slit-your-wrist music about how much Chris Martin loves Gwyneth) or Collective Soul (just nothing redeeming whatsoever).

  14. 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.

    other than ‘wonderwall’, i was never was enamoured with oasis’ music (nor with blur’s – too knowing by ‘alf). the oasis sound was just a slow-moving chordal drone

  15. AnonymousDog says:

    Glad you got all that off your chest, Sean, but your article was long on subjective opinions about those bands in general, and short on actual musical criticism.

  16. The (white) comments are silly and I don’t know how you can have a list that includes Clapton and excludes Maroon 5. It’s mind blowing. Granted, I don’t listen to solo Clapton either, but Adam Levine is one of the biggest, most pompous d-bags in history. Surely an entire circle of hell shall be devoted to spending eternity suffering under him.

  17. Funny. Disagree about the Beach Boys and R.E.M., though.

    Brian’s honesty and distress shine through on a bunch of numbers. If you don’t get “In My Room” and the stuff on Pet Sounds you might not get rock ‘n’ roll.

    Stipe tried a bunch of different vocal styles. The only time he really irritated me was with some of the maudlin stuff on Green. Can’t think of a time when he was truly off key. But again, if you can’t bend the rules, it’s not exactly rock ‘n’ roll.

    All those other acts pretty much suck though.

  18. wellokaythen says:

    At least most of those vocalists can sing more than one pitch, even if they’re occasionally off-key.

    Offspring has to be on that list. The lead singer is practically tone-deaf. When he wants to go up in pitch, he just sings louder. Eternity listening to tone-deaf music is my definition of Hell. Give me Sting singing a scale over and over forever instead of Offspring.

  19. Ron Neely II says:


  20. Too much of the “It sucks because I hate it” style of bashing. I would have liked a little analysis into why. Pick a terrible song and deconstruct why it fails; that would be funnier for me.

    Of course, I know that music tastes re subjective and that you often can’t describe why you don’t like something, so, to each his own, I guess.

    Just glad you didn’t mention my favorite oft-maligned band. And no, I won’t tell you, because I’m sure you’d add them to the list.

    • I agree. This is very much a “these bands were very popular and I heard them a lot and got really tired of people talking about them so now I hate them ohsomuch” list.
      A lot of the descriptions sound like pseudo-clever statements the author wanted to make but had no forum, until now, to do so. The entire Weezer description tells me nothing other than that the author is tired of hearing Undone and is kind of bitter than this band that he doesn’t like is more popular than this band that he kind of likes a little more.


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