What is the worst album you have ever bought? I am not talking about records that were mildly irritating or slightly disappointing. What I mean is purchases that are so monstrous they make you feel physically sick or mentally tortured.

Before everyone rushes to cry COLDPLAY at this point, I would like to share my own horror story with you.

The exhibit A in question is Zero Tolerance For Silence by Pat Metheney (Geffin Records, 1994). I came across this turkey resting innocuously in the bargain bin of a reputable record store.

The cover has a single white strip on a grey/black background and looks like one Rothko’s cool minimalist works. This cruelly appealed to an innocent hipster like me and I felt pretty pleased to unearth this rarity.

Metheny I vaguely knew of  as a big-haired American jazz guitarist with a daunting discography.

I liked his playing on Steve Reich’s Electric Counterpoint and on a beautiful record he made in 1980 with Lyle Mays called As Falls Wichita, So Falls Wichita Falls. His vast, more pure jazz albums, were largely uncharted territory although I have since heard, and enjoyed, many of these.

From such a well established and highly regarded musician, an album of guitar solos had to be at least interesting, right?


Pat Metheny

Pat Metheny – pissing about at the listener’s expense.

None of the five tracks are titled, wisely opting to remain anonymous. Part 1 is the longest at 18 minutes 18 seconds and if you can sit through this you might just manage to endure parts 2 – 5. I have never managed such a feat myself. The music can best be described as improvised noise, a genre that I don’t usually fear. I regard Keijo Haino as a genius and even tolerate the ‘fuck the career’ offerings of Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music and Neil Young’s Arc.

Improvised guitar, like that of Derek Bailey, can , I know, be something of an acquired taste but it is something I am usually happy to listen too. This album by Metheny is not in this same category. It just sounds like someone tuning up, playing a few random chords and generally pissing about at the listener’s expense.

I don’t ask for structure but some feeling would be nice – if you can find any redeeming qualities in this turgid barrage of distorted sound you are as better human being than me.

Methany continues to claim that this was not made for a bet or to get out of a record contract. and someone even makes the unlikely claim that he spent 3 years writing it. Thurston Moore says it’s “a new milestone in electric guitar” Did he mean to say ‘tombstone’?