I don't recall hearing these complaints until after these bands became big stars--which was almost completely due to the phenomenal success of these "slick" albums.
True. But Pearl Jam stopped having big hits after a couple of albums, and seem to prefer it that way. I would imagine Nirvana would have followed a similar path given a chance. Unlike, say, U2, they don't seem to get off on the huge sales numbers. On the third hand, it was the success of the commercial records that gave them the independence to do what they wanted.
It seems that when bands are unknown and hungry, they don't protest too much (if at all) when a label proposes to "groom them for arena glory."
Once you get fed into that machine, you lose control very quickly.
"Sign here. Here's your producer, Rick Parashar. He'll make your songs into hits. Want some coke? Here's a big advance to buy more coke. Give Rick $500,000 of that while you're at it. He's gotta eat, too. You and Rick are going to camp out in Tahoe for a month to record. Take another couple hundred thousand out of that advance for studio time. Want some heroin? Oh, we need another hundred grand to shoot a video. You still have some of that advance left, right? We're going to get you the opening slot on the Creed tour. They want $250,000 for that. The album? Oh, we'll release that any day now. Time's not right. What? Out of money already? Damn, you're doing a lot of coke. Well, if you sign over the publishing, I'll give you another advance. No problem. Here to help. Bad news. The Creed deal fell through. Yeah, we're going to dump the album on the market in February. You don't want to get lost in the Christmas rush. Sorry guys, the album tanked and your songwriter's in rehab for a year. See ya. Money? You're kidding, right? That dog of a record will never make back your advance, and you signed over the royalties to me, anyway. You might want to slow down on the coke. That shit's expensive."