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2nd albums – What do they teach us? March 18, 2007

Posted by Walt in codger-tation.

There are a number of bands which have recently released or will soon release highly anticipated 2nd albums. Included in this group are “Clap Your Hands Say Yeah”, “Arcade Fire”, “Arctic Monkeys”, “Art Brut” and “Gnarls Barkley”.

What does a second album say about a band? Nirvana’s 2nd album was “Nevermind” (1991), which included “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, “Come As you Are”, “Lithium”. Of course, since Kurt Cobain died 3 years after the release of “Nevermind”, it doesn’t tell us much about what a 2nd album portends for a band’s future. But it was pretty brilliant, eh?

R.E.M.’s 2nd album was “Reckoning”, which I don’t think I have ever heard. It contains “7 Chinese Brothers”, “So. Central Rain (I’m Sorry)”, “Pretty Persuasion” and “(Don’t Go Back To) Rockville”. Allmusic.com gives “Reckoning” 5 out of 5 stars, but does anybody listen to it anymore? Does it even hint at a band that will be able to record “Automatic for the People” in 8 years?

What is typical, though? It is certainly true (or should be) that bands that make horrible 2nd albums should fade rapidly into obscurity. But can a 2nd album be used to predict how good a good band will be?



1. daywalker - March 26, 2007

Second albums are more special because there is a sense of anticipation and extreme joy in the waiting. It is often true that the follow-up is a let down like the Kings of Leon’s 2nd album: “Aha Shake Hearbreak” was. However, you can usually find at least one song on the follow up that is great though. I wonder why it is that often times, the greatest album an artist ever puts out is the first or second one.

2. codger walt - March 26, 2007

You are absolutely right. I feel that way about the upcoming Arctic Monkeys and Art Brut albums. I enjoyed the first ones so much. The Art Brut album “Bang Bang Rock and Roll” was so unexpected for me and so delightful, I immediately wondered what they would do for an encore. Thanks for the comment.

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