Tuesday 14 May 2013

Second Album Syndrome

Is it real, or a media/record company invention to excuse potentially lower sales and lesser public reaction than the debut album?

First off, lets go through the obvious:

Sex Pistols - 'Never Mind The Bollocks' is a must-own record.  Ignore the Punk tag, this is one of the greatest Rock albums ever committed to plastic.  Whilst the second album ('The Great Rock n Roll Swindle') does contain some new material (for what its worth), it was released after the band ceased to properly function, and therefore discounted from my ruminations.

The Jam - It would take something special to top 'In The City', especially given there was only 6 months between the debut and 'This Is The Modern World'.  Sadly, 'Modern World' wasn't that special.  Discounted because, although popular opinion says 'This Is The Modern World' wasn't very good, it really isn't that bad.  It just sounds laboured especially when compared to 'All Mod Cons' which followed it

The Stone Roses - The debut album is held in the highest esteem, regularly appearing in Top10 or Top20 Albums Of All Time Listings.  Personally, I prefer 'Second Coming'  - so their not going on the list either

And now my selection of Follow-Up Failures:
Arctic Monkeys -  'Favourite Worst Nightmare' could never live up to the hype it was given after 'Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not'.  And it didn't.  "Flourescent Adolescent" excepted, to these ears the rest sounded like out-takes, re-writes or simply re-treads of the debut album

Stereophonics - 'Word Gets Around' was a corking album, 'Performance & Cocktails' continues in the same vein but runs out of steam about half way through

Guns n Roses - 'Appetite For Destruction' is rightly regarded as a Classic.  It's got energy, passion, danger (and several other clich├ęd descriptions).  'Use Your Illusion' is best described as "the second album".  If it had been a single album, a lot of the vanity and padding would be gone, and you could (almost) forgive the overblown nature of "November Rain".  As it is, a two album release means: too much self-indulgence, not enough substance.

Damned - 'Damned Damned Damned' is one of the holy trinity of punk albums.  A rip-snorting rollercoaster of adrenaline, power and sheer fun.  'Music For Pleasure' is none of these things.  By comparison it is lame, disappointing and a bit of a mess.  However, consider this: if it wasn't for 'Music For Pleasure' we may never have got 'Machine Gun Etiquette'

New York Dolls - the eponymous debut album is perhaps the missing link between Iggy Pop and The Sex Pistols on the Punk Road Map.  Forget about the fake Rolling Stones impersonations, or Bob Harris's "mock rock" put down, this is an album full of attitude, arrogance, sleaze and New York hedonism coupled with raucous, rough-edged, raggedy-arse rock n roll.  The second album has the portentious title 'Too Much Too Soon' and that is probably a fair summary of the content.

Quireboys - Having released their first single ("Mayfair") in 1987 it was to be a three year wait for the debut album.  When the album ('A Bit Of What You Fancy') did arrive the sound was cleaner, but forgiveably so - all the original elements of fun, good time bar room rock n roll were all present and correct.
Releasing a Live album as your second album doesn't really cout, so we move swiftly to 'Bitter Sweet & Twisted'  which (in my opinion) needed more work, and the production was aimed squarely at the American market, losing a lot of UK fans in the process.

Thunder - like the Quireboys above, Thunder can be classified in the little known late 80s/early 90s genre New Wave Of British Heavy Metal Bands Who Sound A Bit Like The Faces Or Bad Company (NWOBHMBWSABLTFOBC) (it is quite a long title, which is probably why Kerrang rarely (ie never) referred to it).
'Back Street Symphony' was a Bluesy-Rock album containing a plethora of corking tunes, raspy vocals, twin guitars and an energetic live act (on the three occassions I swaw them, you really did get the feeling they were putting everything they had into the show). The second album 'Laughing On Judgement Day' is adequate, but to these ears not in the same league as the first.  Add to that the emergence of Nirvana and the whole grunge business, and bands like Thunder found large swathes of their audience gone, and record company support dwindling.
'Laughing On Judgement Day' does however contain vocalists Danny Bowes closest approximation of Paul Rodgers on the track "Low Life In High Places"

The Thrills - songs like "Santa Cruz", "Big Sur" and "One Horse Town" remain superb tracks and make the debut album ('So Much For The City') worthwhile.  However, even nicking the theme tune to Mork and Mindy for the middle eight of "Whatever Happened To Corey Haim" can't redeem the same-iness of 'Lets Borttle Bohemia'

Ordinary Boys - perhaps the biggest fall from grace I can think of.  Their first album 'Over The Counter Culture' was, and is, a superb piece of work.  Since it's release, I never tire of listening to it.  The follow-up 'Brassbound' sounded laboured and un-original.  And then Preston went and showed what a prize prat he was by appearing on Big Brother, marrying a gold digging non-entity, walking of the set of Never Mind The Buzzcocks, and then disappearing up his own backside.
Whatever, the debut album is still a stonking wodge of Mod meets Ska meets Paul Weller meets The Smiths.

Ordinary Boys - Over The Counter Culture

Thunder - Low Life In High Places

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