Wipe that smile off your face. It’s time to get depressed.
That’s right, it’s time to wake up and smell the instant coffee. Take a long, hard look around you at an uncaring planet where nothing good survives for long… Murphy writes the laws… and magic exists only in fairy tales and RPG card games. Evil often wins. Mediocrity frequently triumphs. Quality can go unremarked, unrevered and unrewarded. It’s Entropy’s world; we just disperse chaotically in it.
Everybody gets blue sometimes. And in those moments, we often seek in our popular music a morose confirmation that life bites, love stinks and people are no darned good. Bearing this fact in mind, we may now properly ask the question: What is the most depressing album ever recorded?
Surprisingly, this is a problem posed often in online music forums and polls. Many despondent respondents cite BERLIN, Lou Reed’s ambitious 1973 concept album about young junkies in love.
Seven years later, the Joy Division released CLOSER, which still rates highly on the Melancholia Meter, all the more so for having been released after lead singer Ian Curtis put an exclamation point to the end of his sad story by kicking from a noose in the kitchen of his home in Cheshire, England.
History’s best-selling assemblage of musical misery is THE WALL, Pink Floyd’s 1979 double-disc downer that is believed to have sold over 30-million copies, and which espoused Roger Waters’ dour assertion that the most one can hope for in life is to become “Comfortably Numb.”
1990s grunge fans bang their shaggy heads in the direction of Alice in Chains’ self-titled third album from 1995, recorded when lead singer Layne Staley was battling the heroin addiction that would silence him permanently seven years later. (And this album could probably take “Most Depressing Album Cover” honors as well with its photograph of a sad-eyed, three-legged dog.)
But for Craven’s money, the most depressing album of all time remains FRANK SINATRA SINGS FOR ONLY THE LONELY, the 1958 album that first united the titular singer with his greatest musical collaborator: Nelson Riddle. From its cover — a velvet portrait of Sinatra in clown makeup (the Chairman as hardboiled Pierrot) — to Riddle’s spare, lugubrious arrangements of cheerless chestnuts like “What’s New” and “Goodbye” within, the album drips with unrelenting grief and sorrow. Youngsters needn’t bother with this record; these songs will only reverberate in lives which have been lived in, echoing exclusively amidst the shattered memories of the heartbroken and the rueful regrets of the heartbreakers.
If you listen to SINGS FOR ONLY THE LONELY on compact disc or as an MP3 album, be sure to program out the final two tracks, “Stay Warm” and “Where or When.” Although both songs are great, this album was intended to — and must, for maximum effect — end with the final fadeout of Sinatra singing “One For My Baby (and One More For the Road),” wherein the master interpreter seems to be realizing at precisely that exquisitely sad musical moment just how long the road lies ahead of him… without his baby.