The Godfather Part Two is one of the finest films ever made, even better than the excellent first film in the series. The Godfather Part Three is not a terrible film, but after seeing the first two films in the series it is a pretty miserable way to spend more than two and a half hours of your life. In music hearing a bad album is no big deal, you put it aside and forget about it, but hearing a favourite act follow up a classic album with a bad one is a dispiriting experience.
Here we present our Top 10 Disappointing follow-ups.
10. Pavement – Terror Twilight
Up until this point Pavement had a pretty much blemish free copybook, a set of challenging singles and four brilliant albums to their name. Brighten The Corners in 1997 was as good a set of off-kilter indie guitar pop as any released in the decade and looked close to breaking the band to a bigger audience. The quirky charms of ‘Carrot Rope’ two years later raised my hopes for the follow-up, sadly these were dashed on hearing the full product, Terror Twilight. There are good songs on the album, notably the singles ‘Spit On A Stranger’ and ‘Major leagues’ but it is a strangely flat record. The production by Nigel Godrich is cold and lifeless, something that can be said about the majority of the songs here. Spiral Stairs never wrote songs as great as Malkmus, but the lack of any of his songs here is another missing piece of the Pavement puzzle. The band would break up after touring this album, but they had started to give up even before it was recorded.
9. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah – Some Loud Thunder
In 2005 Clap Your Hands Say Yeah looked like they could be a real band to watch. Their self-titled debut was over hyped but it contained some brilliant songs and was one of the most promising debuts of the year. Two years later they released Some Loud Thunder and proceeded to rain on the musical parade. The album was produced by Dave Fridmann and it is hard to tell if it is his fault or the bands for the first song on offer, which is pretty much impossible to listen to. I tolerate a lot of difficult production from a band, but the remaining songs on the album, whilst perfectly well produced, are just not very good at all. The band play around musically all over the place, but they seem to have forgotten that a good song needs to be the basis of their instrumental indulgences. The band wisely retreated after this and it would be another four years before they released another album.
8. The Strokes – Room On Fire
How do you follow up an album that throws you on the cover of every music magazine and spawns half a dozen instant indie-disco classics? The answer The Strokes had for this question seems to be producing the same album again, but with worse songs and the vocals mixed absurdly low in the mix. There are a couple of half decent singles on Room On Fire, but beyond that I can’t think of one interesting thing to say about it.
7. The Pixies – Bossanova
Including the Pixies in this chart is going to seem like sacrilege to some readers, this is after all one of the most beloved of all the 1990s acts. The thing is, I love the Pixies and even love a number of the songs that are featured on this album. The surf-rock instrumental stuff is cool, ‘Dig For Fire’ is a great single and several of the other tracks are as interesting and exciting as anything else that was released that year. The thing is though that this album followed Surfer Rosa and Doolittle, two of the best records ever released. In that context it couldn’t fail to disappoint, it is just nowhere near as good a record as either of its predecessors. It also differs from these two classic albums in that it is quite dull in parts, it just feels a bit flat and lacking in the excitement I’d come to expect from this most singular of bands. Trompe Le Monde would step things up a bit a year later and (without any sign of a new album) Bossanova remains the worst record in their back catalogue.
6. Elastica – The Menace
The five years Elastica took to release The Menace was longer than the post-punk period they thrived to emulate and marked them as millennium’s first has beens. Their album Elastica was the fastest selling debut ever, spearheading a savvy guitar pop which oozed suave lo-fi and visceral sophistication. It was urban and reinvigorating, an essential classic. The Menace, however, is drowned in the fug of brown sugar, banker talc, scrapped recordings and litigation. When it’s not pandering to Casio bedsit clichés Justine Frischmann rejects angsty vocals for shouting “Your Arse My Place”, relying on Mark E Smith to add oral quality. It’s a disjointed album, much of which had already appeared on an EP, from a one trick band sacrificed to drugs, arguments and time.
5. Blur – The Great Escape
Parklife was a brilliant era defining guitar pop record, a huge leap forward for a band that had started life as an identikit baggy outfit. It was witty, melodic, and despite being heavily influenced by classic British pop (XTC, The Kinks, Madness and Julian Cope all spring to mind) it was a record that was very of its time. If you were to have described the album to a set of suited music executives and asked them to reproduce the record what they would have come up with would be The Great Escape. The same ground is covered, the same style of songs are featured and the same tricks are trotted out, but in all cases they are not as successful. On Parklife Phil Daniels provides guest vocals, on The Great Escape it is Ken Livingstone. On Parklife the videos are colourful and fun, on The Great Escape the colourful video for ‘Country House’ is embarrassing (Graham Coxon looks filled with self-loathing in that one). Albarn is too good a songwriter to produce a total stinker, and there are some good songs on here, but on the whole it is a pretty charmless record.
4. REM – Monster
REM are one of the most important bands ever, it is as simple as that. They enabled many alternative acts to make the popular crossover and produced music that influenced more bands than almost any other act. In 1994 they were at their commercial and critical peak, thir last album, Automatic For The People, was their most popular yet and the reviews were uniformly positive. Two years later their response to this was to produce their worst album to date, an album of murky rock that failed to play to any of their musical strengths. ‘What’s The Frequency Kenneth?’ was a brilliant lead-off single, but a misleading example of the overall quality to expect. The album as a whole is murky, underwhelming and seldom rises above being ordinary. People may listen to the album and wonder why I’m making a fuss, it is a decent set of melodic alt-rock right? But to me it was the sound of a band moving from essential to irrelevant in the space of twelve songs.
3. Bon Iver – Bon Iver
For Emma, Forever Ago was a good album with an interesting back-story. Frustrated love-lorn musician Justin Vernon retreats to a cabin and records a sparse, haunting and subtle album with beautiful yet simple arrangements. The critics went wild for it and a new hero of American music was born. It seems that the critics were so enamoured that when it came to reviewing Vernon’s self titled second album they chose to ignore what a bad album it was, perhaps they had written the reviews in advance of receiving the album. These same critics were clearly too embarrassed to admit their mistake and forced to include Bon Iver high up in their end of year charts. Our review of the album damns it with faint praise and comparisons to Toto and Enya are accurate, this is an album that is overproduced and uninteresting.
2. Primal Scream – Give Out, But Don’t Give Up
When Bobby Gillespie’s Primal Scream released Screamadelica it shocked the critics by not just being a great album but by perfectly marrying rock and dance music in a way that no other artists had managed to achieve up to that point. So, how best to follow up this feat? A by-the-numbers rock and roll album that is the aural equivalent of a pasty faced man in leather trousers dancing out of rhythm. The playing is fine, the music passable with some pretty terrible lyrics and vocals all adding up to a truly mediocre album. You are left wondering whether the success of Screamadelica was really down to Primal Scream at all or more to do with the various DJs and producers who peppered the album. A subsequent career veering between the average and the un-listenable has done little to quell this notion.
1. Stone Roses – The Second Coming
Listen up and listen good Stone Roses fans. Your adored band are crap. There I’ve said it. Yes of course their debut, self titled album (one of our top ten indie/alt albums of all time ) was remarkable. But that is less to do with The Stone Roses and more down to the direction of producer John Leckie (our top alternative music producer of all time) , who expertly mixed the band’s ballsy Mancunian live style with a 1960s experimental feel, some great tunes and wonderful guitar arrangements. Under Leckie the band’s major deficiencies were also masked, most notably singer Ian Brown being complete pants and chief song writer and guitarist John Squire being some kind of megalomaniac, guitar riffing version of Mr G from Summer Heights High. On Second Coming, their atrocious second and final album, they parted company with Leckie and with it any sense of direction. All they were left with were their glaring deficiencies. Ten Storey Love Song is probably the only track that emerges with any credit. Love Spreads, with its depressingly long guitar intro sounds like the kind of tired rock U2 were churning out on Rattle and Hum. Begging You sounds a little like U2 Achtung Baby era but a whole lot more like Bobby Davro doing a bad impression of Primal Scream.
by Dorian Rogers, David Newbury and Joe Lepper