Much as a I agree with a lot of what the OP said with regards to the quality of albums deteriorating with each subsequent release, I feel that the artists in question earned the right to do so.
I have trouble understanding the mentality that because a band releases a ‘sell out album’ this somehow affects the quality of their earlier work. It may make you feel bad because you decided to support a band who sold out, I can understand this to a certain degree.
However, I know for a fact that Prince, Metallica et al. don’t owe me shit. They can continue to make all the commercial albums they want. If a new one comes along which I feel is better I’ll buy it, if not I won’t.
I think that people credit Nirvana with far too much. Don’t get me wrong I grew up listening to all their albums, hell, Steve Albini is pretty much my favourite producer so In Utero will always be special. However, their impact was more pronounced within their genre than in pop-music overall. The Melvins, Sonic Youth and even Tad changed their sound a lot after Nevermind was released.
On the other hand, pop music now is so far removed from the ‘Seattle’ sound that it’s hard to see Nirvana’s lasting influence there.
Producers like The Neptunes and Timbaland are working well within the confines of the Top 40, with Pop acts and MAKING DAMN GOOD MUSIC. I fail to see how these tunes owe anything to Nirvana or how this music is worse than the pop that came before it.
Admittedly, I feel that recently there has been a larger volume of shit music getting released due to the ease and reduced cost with which a band can release material.
Where previously only a band’s greatest songs were released, due to the cost of getting acetates cut and producing an LP, now even studio out-take albums get a release.
I don’t feel that this negates the impact of the rock music which comes out these days which is actually good though. If anything the sea of shit only serves to highlight the impact of the quality releases.
TV on the Radio
All released great rock albums in the last 10 years, so my faith in rock music is far from being broken.
It is also easy to forget that Nostalgia clouds people’s opinions. 20 years from now people may well view the aforementioned artists releases in the same boat as ‘& Nico’, ‘Trout Mask Replica’, ‘Faust I’, ‘Lorca’, ‘Highway 61’ or even ‘Spiderland’.
Everyone always thinks that things were better in the past. The thing that people often forget is that the past that you look back to with misty eyes was at one time somebody’s shitty, sell out, present.