I was tweeting yesterday about Face Value by Phil Collins. Somebody responded that it was underrated. Since it sold ten million copies I think it's a bit of stretch to describe it as underrated. Abused, yes, dismissed out of hand, sneered at for reasons that had nothing to do with music, all these would serve as descriptions, but not underrated.
It's funny the way we use that term. Underrated was always a popular thread in The Word magazine and on its website. Readers like to think that the music they like is underrated, presumably because it plays to our image of ourselves as fearless swimmers against the tide.
I'm not sure there's very much you can call underrated these days. The big hits reach a level of ubiquity of which even The Beatles could only have dreamed. At the other end of the scale, the tiny cults of yesteryear now have entire evenings devoted to them on BBC Four. Scott Walker put out another album recently and while very few people bought it or heard it he can't complain that it has gone unnoticed. I sometimes think that the real reason groups reform is that they know that this time they'll be overrated.
Furthermore time and chance eventually ensure that everybody gets their chance to be rated, even overrated. I'm sure it amuses Wilko Johnson greatly to see his inbox jammed with interview requests from people who have been avoiding his PR's calls for years. The only aspect of his current situation which could remotely be described as satisfactory is he's getting the chance to read his obituaries. In which he will probably be described as "criminally underrated".
P.S. One of the small children who's pictured on the gatefold of "Face Value" is now forty.