If you compare anything to some of the 70's records, it's going to be lacking. Evaluate each record on its own merits, not against seminal works that are among the best ever recorded.
It's next to impossible to listen to anything he's done post-70s and not compare it to his albums from that time. It would be nice if he had been able to maintain some level of consistency as other artists such as John Prine and Guy Clark have done but I believe the success of "Margaritaville" and the rise of the Parrothead nation (for better or for worse) changed all that. Eventually he started to focus more on his empire than on his songcraft which ultimately caused his art to suffer in the end.
It's entirely possible, unless you're just looking for a reason to complain. Personally, I liked parts of Buffett Hotel, there's nothing wrong with an artist trying different things from time to time. Hell, if he wasn't trying something different there would be a lot of people bitching about him milking a "formula" or being too lazy to get out of the hammock and write something new.
Since I'm a long time Buffett fan and have those old albums etched into my collective conscious it is impossible to listen to his newer material without thinking of his earlier stuff. That's not just true of Buffett, it's also true of other artists who did work early on in their respective careers that they've never been able to surpass. I'm all for Buffett trying out new things but when he ventures into kitschy territory I find much of that very cringeworthy and downright embarrassing. As for Buffet Hotel
, I like a great deal of that album myself but it's still a far cry from his peak material. Meanwhile, artists such as Clark, Prine and other Buffett contemporaries are still releasing solid albums that I have no desire to skip through. Buffett hasn't been that consistent in his career in a very long, long time and it's extremely doubtful at this point that he every will be again. However, I'll keep listening and buying his new records in hopes that he will eventually prove me wrong.