Filler: 5 Classic Albums Ruined by Complexity

Name a record that just drags on for too long.

Ultimate Guitar

Many rock greats faced the problem of taming their ambitions and not delving into overly complex musicianship for the sake of complexity alone. This also includes the giants, so let's check out five rock classics that could really use a bit of a trim.

After proceeding, a brief disclaimer - I'm well aware that these albums contain some of the ultimate rock classics and am in no way devaluing those tunes, but instead focusing on the overall album experience. On to the list then.

Led Zeppelin - "Physical Graffiti"

Often dubbed the pinnacle of Led Zeppelin, "Physical Graffiti" is a diverse album clocking in at nearly 90 minutes. The all-time classic status was of course acquired first and foremost by "Kashmir" and a few other gems like "Trampled Under Foot" or "In My Time of Dying." Of course, the band's previously-acquired godlike status also played a major role.

The rest of the album though, reeks of filler. Basically, the record's entire second part, or tracks 7 to 15 are something this effort could've gone without. Not that the opening tunes "Custard Pie" and "The Rover" are something too grand either, but that's another story. On the other hand, the overblown approach might have caused even a greater amount of praise from the critics, so who knows, maybe trimming this one would've earned it a less iconic status. But never mind that - the filler is here, so much is fact.

Jethro Tull - "A Passion Play"

Following the major success of the one and only "Thick as a Brick," Ian Anderson switched to an even grander concept and once again released an album featuring a single 45-minute song. The underlying story of a young man dying and going to hell does seem promising, with all sorts of hints about dealing with some of the life's greatest questions.

But that's just about when the magic stops, as the record can simply be described as filler galore. Mr. Anderson successfully walked the fine line on "Thick as a Brick," but this one simply failed.

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Pink Floyd - "The Wall"

Yes, it's probably the most well-known Floyd album next to "Dark Side of the Moon" and yes, it contains some of the best songs the band ever wrote. But it also contains plenty of filler, especially in the second part.

Clocking in at over 80 minutes, the album should've beed trimmed down. Fact is, the more the story progresses, the worse the tunes get, ending with completely unnecessary "Waiting for the Worms" and "The Trial," the later one being plain bad.

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Rush - "2112"

Hailed as the greatest early Rush album, or even the band's greatest effort in general, "2112" indeed has its moments. But also, it has filler, quite a lot of it to be honest. So although hearing Alex Lifeson's guitar mastery is thrilling, going through the album in full can be a bit of a, well, bore.

The record's first side focuses on the story of a man living in 2112 under the Solar Federation rule and discovering the magic of guitar. A cute concept, but forced at times, resulting in a mediocre tune. The fact that the band plays only pieces of it live in a way only goes to confirm it.

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Yes - "Tales From Topographic Oceans"

Marking the peak of art-rock craziness, "Tales From Topographic Oceans" is truly a leviathan project, clocking in at over 80 minutes with four 20-minute tracks. Hardcore fans praise it, but fact it, it was kinda doomed from the start.

The guys displayed sheer musical prowess with "Close to the Edge," but this is too much. Filler galore and senseless complexity kill a fair share of the charm the album possesses, resulting in quite a difficult listen.

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You agree with all this? Got any other notable mentions to bring up? Do it in the comments.

101 comments sorted by best / new / date

    I find the whole concept of "filler" (also, **** the term "classic" but that's another story) quite pointless to begin with - who decides what is a filler (unless the band admits that but I'd guess in case of prog uber-concept albums the chance is probably about 0.1%)? And if it's just a song you dislike, it doesn't make it filler. And sorry but I can't help having the impression that the author just doesn't have the patience for longer albums - I haven't heard some of these but the criticism that they could be "trimmed" without any reasonable explanation sounds more than familiar. Sorry if that sounds a bit harsh but I think you need more justification to just dismiss an album's content as "filler" just because it's not your regular 50-minute 12-track album. (And I couldn't care less about how "classic" they are.)
    To me it seems as the author is a fan of classic rock, but really dislikes prog...
    I shouldn't be aggressively opposed to an opinion, but it's really hard for me not to be with your opinion on The Wall. The Trial is such a goddamn important song.
    Agreed, it fits within the context of the story nicely, plus the respective scene in the movie is fantastic.
    Also, that reprise of the "Another Brick" riff. Awe yeah.
    That reprise is what solidified the album as my favorite album of all time.
    The rest of the album though, reeks of filler. Basically, the record's entire second part, or tracks 7 to 15 are something this effort could've gone without.
    Yeah.. that's just stupid. In The Light, Bron-Yr-Aur, and Ten Years Gone are some of my personal favorite LZ songs. Calling them filler is just plain wrong. There are a few songs on Physical Grafitti that I could definitely do without.. only a few though.
    I was about to write pretty much the exact same thing you did. Ten Years Gone, and In The Light are straight up great song, the former being one of, if not my favorite Zep tune.
    I guess you should watch Pink Floyd The Wall movie, then you're going to love every single ''filler'' because it fits perfectly.
    "The Rover" is actually one of my favorite Zeppelin tunes and imo probably the most underrated song they ever wrote. The main riff and the solo rule. This is silly.
    I agree. The Rover is a great hard rock track. I also like the CD2. Yes, of course the most well-known songs are on the CD1 (Kashmir and Trampled Under Foot) but not being the most well-known doesn't make it filler. In the Light, Down by the Seaside, Ten Years Gone and Sick Again are also great tracks - not filler at all. And the three acoustic songs bring some variety to the album. Night Flight is a nice upbeat track, nothing special but still good classic rock. The Wanton Song is my least favorite song on the album - it's kind of similar to Custard Pie but IMO not as good. That's actually the only song on the album I would call "filler" if I had to name one (though it's not a bad song at all - it's just not as good as the rest of the album).
    My feelings towards 2112 aren't quite so damning, but I always felt the other tracks were just filler to justify selling it as a full album. That's not to say they weren't good, but they weren't amazing.
    I feel the same way about Tarkus by ELP, It's hard for anything to match up when you've just finished listening to well thought out epic 20 minute masterpiece. Wish you where here does well in my books but shine on you crazy daimond is split into two parts with half of it at the end and only three songs in between.
    If you think tracks on The Wall are pure filler, you do not understand The Wall
    The Wall? "filler"? Roger Waters had to shave off a song because he had so much material, so don't even insinuate that.
    The writer has clearly missed the point of these albums. I think The Wall would be a much less interesting concept album if you remove the "concept" tracks
    what a prick, in the light and ten years gone are two of the best zeppeling tunes. only because they're not "mega hits" doesn't mean they are bad.
    2112 isn't a concept album, it's a concept song. The second side is completely the opposite to the first for this obvious reason. Also, I've found myself repeating the second side and ignoring the first quite a few times
    Physical Graffiti is one of my all time favourite albums. I also love 2112. I don't really find any filler in either of them.
    JD Close
    As much as I love Floyd, I'm glad somebody finally said it about The Wall. Though those two tracks aren't really ones I'm thinking of, the album just doesn't feel like one album, but rather a bunch of unfinished brilliant ideas the band (or rather Roger Waters) threw together.
    Every part is necessary, it's a concept.
    Excactly this! I can't say all the songs are equally good, or even that I'd remember the names of them all, but leaving out some of the less memorable songs would destroy the whole package.
    It was never designed to be listened to piecemeal, the tracks dubbed as filler on concept albums are often essential to the experience of the album as a whole and would never be listened to on their own for a reason other than for learning or novelty. Would you rather have those extraneous bits story and atmosphere stuffed into those classic tunes we all love?
    The Trial is great and an important track in regards to the story, tracks like Bring the Boys Back Home and Vera should've been left out.
    No way, Vera was an amazing track. Though one I personally would have loved to of been longer.
    Physical Graffiti is the complete opposite of an album ruined by filler. It's one of the only double albums in history that's actually strong from start to finish. What you would call filler I would call some of their strongest, most well rounded material. That's definitely an album I love from start to finish, and as far as being a well rounded variety of songs to match the songwriting, it might be their opus, if not their 'best' album. At the very least, it's a bit retarded to call any of your opinions, 'fact'.
    Topographic has some great stuff, the percussion bit is too much though. All those albums are a bit longwinded, wall was a concept movie album though, so it had to be long. 2112 is good pretty much all
    No doubt the writer of the article grew up in the digital age where music is consumed as singles rather than each song being a piece of something much larger than a mere collection of songs
    How can you say The Trial is a filling song that is plain bad?!?!?!?!??!?! It's musicality its exquisit and goes perfectly with the story as pink gets to this trial after his actions. It's a really good song and so the album, I hate people like you that don't want to understand the complexity of good albums and judge them by the fame they got.
    boooo. hisssss. 2112, the wall? are you freaking nuts? get a job.
    With regards to The Wall, I will have to admit that it is not my favourite Floyd album, nor close to favourite but Roger Waters tells a story that progresses with each song, which is why I don't think The Wall can be considered to be an album of fillers. I'm not saying that I like every song on the album because I don't, I only like around 5 of them but the rest aren't fillers, just pieces of the story.
    The author obviously doesn't like prog if he's chirping Topographic Oceans and especially 2112. The only dud on that album is Tears.
    This. Can't believe the columnist finds 2112 a mediocre song.Come on man. The song rocks and has at least 2 very epic moments which to me are non debatable. Don't tell me that you'll call out as mediocre the first solo at the end of the ouverture, or the second part of the song at the temples of Syrinx. Same for Soliloquy. Geddy's wailing gives me the bumps every time and then the solo hits you hard; awesome. Pure awesome. Screw the author. His opinion of 2112 is mediocre. As for the second side; I can't believe so many people dislike it! I find every song has its charm and can usually name them off the top of my head and sing some parts, and I'm not a huge Rush fan per se. The only thing that ruined that album was the Ayn Rand genius thing.
    This is a shit list by someone who doesn't have the mental capacity to understand the music in these albums...especially TFTO
    calling a concept album like the wall "too long" is utterly idiotic.
    LOL, you think Tales is too LONG?! My version is the remastered whole album AND a studio run-through of each song, so it's twice the length. I get to listen to it TWICE!!!!
    Uno, Dos and Tré by Green Day is like filler 101. I don't know what they were thinking, but they could have condensed the whole thing into one acceptable album if they cut out all of the shit. But even then it would hardly have been a classic.
    This is a great example of a writer brainwashed by top of the chart ideals. Just because a track doesn't make it as a hit, doesn't make it obsolete. I can't tell you the amount of times I've fully listened to, and enjoyed these albums.
    One of the more unnecessary articles I've ever read. Totally biased with poorly based opinions. I understand that filler tracks are "boring" for you. I understand that making filler tracks is a bad thing to do, also. Artists should put their best effort into everything, definitely. Maybe if you had spun it as a lesson for us not to write filler songs it'd be a good article. As it stands you're just talking worthless crap about albums better than you've yet to make.
    Can't agree about 'A Passion Play', which is a completely different concept than 'Thick As A Brick'. There's a much greater focus on surrealism and basically on the lyrics on 'A Passion Play' and I don't think it was ruined by that, although I admit that 'Thick As A Brick' (which is one of my favourite albums of all time) is easier on the ear.
    I disagree, loudly, with the inclusion of "The Wall" and "Physical Graffiti" on this list. The later songs on the Pink Floyd album help with the telling of the story...and Led Zeppelin's double album masterpiece is without "filler". Not a great article.
    What the actual F***? Waiting for the worms and Trial are epic and a completely necessary conclusion of the album!
    Every Dream Theater album. Ever. Jks.
    Sometimes I like to listen to their songs half speed, this makes the riffing slightly faster than what you'd hear a typical skilled musician playing. I'd say your comment applies to there songs more than to the albums as a whole. However I think Metropolis part 2 is a masterpiece of an album and wouldn't change a thing. They really should leave business of making progish radio fodder ballads to bands like MGMT that actually know how to write good earworms.
    I nominate Mike Oldfield's Amarok. Reason being I liked the short pop songs like on discovery and crises
    Well for Pink Floyd The Wall you said the best the band ever wrote but the wall was all written by Waters
    Agreed on the wall. It was second album I got but I think division bell is my favourite alongside dark side of the moon and momentary lapse of reason.
    Green Day re-released their first album and a couple of EP's into one CD when they switched record labels. Clocking in at 19 tracks, 1.039 Smoothed Out Slappy Hours is just a little too long, even though the individual tracks are mostly all highly enjoyable.
    Don't get complexity mixed up by being concise. Some music these days could be much better if they just got to the point. Think of it as some old man rambling on the same thing in different words. I love prog, but I say they're guilty of this. However, these albums you presented I would disagree with. I'd say the length has been tastefully done. I wouldn't think of any other way of conveying the concepts of the album without using length.
    got 3 of these in my vinyl collection, the Wall, TFTO and PG ... they all double-albums; to find filler on a single album, try anything by Mahavishnu Orchestra
    ... And Justice For All The song and the album.
    I'll have to disagree, but this is just my opinion. I though each part of the record was necessary and I never get bored listening to it.
    I also have to totally disagree! For me it was their best album by far! It is so well structured and just pure genius of thrash with a tint of progressive. There isn't parts where it feels like they are just trying to squeeze everything out of a riff !
    nooo way. Maybe Death Magnetic, and most certainly St. Anger. AJFA at least had sweet as solos, great bridges and harmony sections, and killer songs. Sure they were long, but the good kind of long (ask you mom about that)
    I like the list. It would have been a bit better to include the Zep's last three albums entirely as a waste of vinyl, except for two songs each. Phys Graf could have been one good disc, and those three one good side.
    Presence was far from a bad album. One of the songs is a bit cheesy but that's far outweighed by the rest of the album.