Monday Music List - Maligned Follow-Up Albums

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kid a.jpg

Everyone knows the drill… band comes out with an awesome album that critics and fans both love, sells mega-copies, and is a cultural touchstone. Now comes the follow-up album. Everyone’s expectations are sky-high. Can they do it again? What will they do next? Will it sell as many copies? The label’s marketing department goes into hyperdrive as the band is on magazine covers, TV, singles are released early, I-Pod commercials are cut. Then the album comes out. Disappointment. Maybe the band went into a different direction and the new fans are turned off. Or the band tried to recapture what they did on the last album and it's too similar, or they just missed the mark.

I’ve always maintained that it’s unfair to expect a band to come out with two mind-numbingly good albums in a row and the second album often suffers from expectations. But we shouldn’t dismiss the follow-up just because it’s not as good. In fact here is a list of much-maligned follow-ups that deserve a second (or third, fourth, fifth) listen.

Weezer – Pinkerton. The classic example of a follow-up album disappointing new found fans. After the engaging Weezer, Pinkerton didn’t have any quirky hit like The Buddy Holly Song. What it did have is cool rock songs that would establish the Weezer sound for years to come. The criticism this album generated practically broke Rivers Coumo. Today Pinkerton is considered (rightly so) a misunderstood classic.

Radiohead – Kid A. After recording one of the best albums in the last 20 years with OK Computer, expectations were through the stratosphere for Kid A. Unfortunately for its fans, Radiohead decided to go for a Pink Floyd-influenced electronic freak fest. The reaction was so strongly negative that Radiohead quickly released Amnesiac which contained more accessible songs from the Kid A sessions. Even today Kid A divides fans. Some think is was a classic, others believe that it’s a bunch of mindless drivel. I fall into the first camp.

Nirvana – In Utero. After Nevermind, Nirvana could never meet expectations for In Utero so they didn’t even try. Sonically mushy, much harder rocking, a song called Rape Me. It almost seems like Nirvana was trying to turn off all but its most avid fans. And it did. Its reputation still is pretty sully, but the songs rock. If it had preceded rather than followed Nevermind, it would be considered a classic that presaged what was to come.

Albums that deserve their bad follow-up reputation:

R.E.M. – Monster.
After Automatic For The People, a switch to hard rockin’ songs that just didn’t work.

U2 – Vertigo.
A couple of good songs, but not even in the same league as All That You Can Leave Behind.


Any others that I missed? What are some of your favorite albums that have a bad reputation?

8 Comments

I would put Paul's Boutique by the Beastie Boys in the misunderstood category.

When it came out, it was so different from Licensed to Ill (and any other rap/hip hop album at the time) that many fans didn't like it. If you listen to it now, you see just how far ahead of its' time it was.

Excellent pick Snyder. I should have included Paul's Boutique, that's a no brainer.

One of my favorite bands of all-time, The Waterboys, released some classic stuff in the 1980's. A Pagan Place, This Is the Sea, Fisherman's Blues. Some of my favorites to this day. And then the bottom dropped out.

The downfall started in 1990 with something called Room to Roam. The death spiral continued with Dream Harder and Sunflower. It was like Mike Scott, the founder and lead singer of the band, had a mid-life crisis or something. Horrible. Luckily, Scott snapped-to,went solo and put out some pretty good stuff.

I still don't know what happened to them in the late '80's.

Good call on Kid A. It seemed like most Radiohead fans didn't really get the electronic style of the album. Mainstream guitar rock was awful in the late 90's, so this was almost like Thom Yorke rebelling against the times, and it worked. Radiohead began using technology to their advantage. They separated the tracks on Pro Tools, and used the internet to market Kid A. Looking back, this is probably the first mainstream rock album to embrace the 21st century. Writer Chuck Klosterman said that Kid A was "an unintentional but spooky foreshadowing of the events of the September 11, 2001 attacks." Knowing what we know today, the parallels are very daunting.

I had never heard that Klosterman quote, but it's a good one. Except for the song Kid A (track 2), the album is actually pretty accessible. I think it was such a let down from OK Computer that most gave it a listen and then never opened up the CD again.

Jett T --

Interesting that you love Fisherman's Blues, but hate Room to Roam. They seem (to me) to be cut from the same cloth. Both records feature largely the same group of musicians, were recorded in the same hotel in Spiddel on Galway Bay, and have (to my ears) the same organic feel, with leanings toward traditional Irish folk and country music. Fisherman's Blues probably has the better songs (tough to top Strange Boat and A Bang On The Ear), But I love both records. Room to Roam has a more whimsical feel -- maybe that is what you dislike about it? Anyhoo, nice to see a shout out to a great, and criminally underrated, band.

Jeff L. - maybe I'll have to give Room to Roam another chance. I think you hit the nail on the head when you called it "whimsical." I liked the more classic folk sound of Fisherman's Blues. I agree with you that the Waterboys were criminally underrated.

Excellent read, I just passed this onto a friend who was doing a little research on that. And he actually bought me lunch since I found it for him smile Thus let me rephrase that: Thank you for lunch!

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