Do bands always have their best material behind them?

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
So did the band stop there or did their audiences expectations stop in the past?

An artist's audience ultimately decides what's good and the best era of the music. I think it's a question of relevance in terms of the music itself, the production, and the lyrics. Many artists leave that relevance behind in the name of growth, or maybe they've simply run out of appealing material. It happens.

I have first-hand knowledge of how staying relevant keeps an artist at the top of their game. With Weird Al, the music, production and topics are up-to-date with pop culture and hit songs. That applies to most of the original songs as well... they sound current. If audience attendance is any indication - and indeed it is - his best material is always right now. The continued growth and appeal over the last 37 years has yet to level off. That's not just because there are loyal fans from the past, but due in large part to new generations of fans getting on board with his music. The audience at an Al show ranges from pre-schoolers to senior citizens (and not just the ones on stage!)

Granted, Al is a unique artist, but I don't think there's a way to say when his best era was. It's always now.
 

toddbishop

Platinum Member
The Metallica movie was real educational that way-- they had a real limited palette to work with, just in terms of what they knew how to do musically. I don't think any of them are truly dedicated career songwriters. If they never got signed and got any kind of big money behind them, they might have made 2-3 decent records. It was through the process you see in the movie-- a grueling, lengthy, massively-budgeted process of working with a producer that they hammered out some product that basically sounded like a professional record. When it was clear at the beginning they had no real ideas and not much interest.
 

Xstr8edgtnrdrmrX

Well-known member
I love that Rush sort of did the opposite of what most groups did with their releases....the "money guys"/A&R guys would say "less epics, more hits", and Rush would say "see ya".

I think with they 2112 lucked out and were catching an early wave of heavier stuff with Temples of Syrinx...and Something For Nothing...but then they followed up with A Farewell....no clear radio hit there at first. They were writing and playing for that loyal fanbase that they were creating who believed in them and the music. They were not a band that was "just on in the background at a party", like most other chart topper bands. They were not fickle....I think that is why their original fanbase was soooo strong.

I have always thought of Rush as a punk band of sorts in that they rarely did what the man wanted them to do, and still gained popularity. They always went the other direction with their writing. I am in the minority that likes all of their albums...I do not have a favorite era of Rush, I like it all

I do agree that most bands first albums have the most energy, and genuine feel and creativity. Depending on the genre, and the bands strive for monetary fame, it can change.

Right away, the RHCP come to mind for me...the first 4 albums were great, but they were all just missing some kind of "glue"...Blood Sugar Sex Magic found that glue for me, and to me, it is monumental....then fame hit, and every album after that was all sterile and trying to recapture the feel of BSSM...but guided by money men instead of Rick Rubin

I also think of The Barenaked Ladies too...Gordon is a masterpiece to me. It totally embodies a vibe, feel, passion that was completely indicative of the group for me. Maybe You Should Drive and Born On A Pirate Ship were sequels that did not fail to continue that vibe. They gained a great amount of popularity, and also had some member changes, and the Stunt came out, and I was like "Oh...this is....different" I could tell that they were not in the same frame of minds now. I followed them for about 3 more albums but then they fell by the wayside....especially as they were being played along side of pop crap in the mid 2000's etc....blech
 

cbphoto

Gold Member
I have always thought of Rush as a punk band of sorts
I have always considered The Who as the first punk band.

Rick Rubin is a genius. He single-handedly brought Johnny Cash back from the brink of obscurity. When Black Sabbath went to create their last album, they call Rick in as producer (and it sounds great).
 

GruntersDad

Administrator - Mayor
Staff member
Two things to consider IMO. One, when they are new, most of their material is not only new, but different , unlike anyone elses. Then the next album may be basically "their style" and is not longer as "fresh" as the first. Second, a lot of what they play and write before the first album isn't worth being on the album, so all of it isn't good. So it's not like they have a vault full of goodies ready to record.
 

bud7h4

Silver Member
Two things to consider IMO. One, when they are new, most of their material is not only new, but different , unlike anyone elses. Then the next album may be basically "their style" and is not longer as "fresh" as the first. Second, a lot of what they play and write before the first album isn't worth being on the album, so all of it isn't good. So it's not like they have a vault full of goodies ready to record.

That ends up on the second and third albums.
 

Xstr8edgtnrdrmrX

Well-known member
I have always considered The Who as the first punk band.

I would actually go as far back as Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, Gene Vincent and His Blue Caps....that era was pretty punky as well, but The Who was defintiely one of the first Brit punk bands

Rick Rubin is a genius. He single-handedly brought Johnny Cash back from the brink of obscurity. When Black Sabbath went to create their last album, they call Rick in as producer (and it sounds great).

yep...and his first "Claim to Fame" albums were Reigning Blood by Slayer and all the early Def Jam rap stuff too...you could see the genius back then
 
As the original post said, an artist has a lifetime to write the first album, and then six months to write the second, generally while touring the first. Which is why the sophomore slump is such a real thing for so many good artists. So you can often tell if an artist is the real deal by their third album: either the downward trend continues, or they rally and show they're in it for the long haul. The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, David Bowie, Bruce Springsteen, The Clash, R.E.M., the Replacements, U2, The Smiths, Nirvana, Green Day, Radiohead and Wilco are just a few of the artists which proved this to be true.

On the other hand, in many of those cases—the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Bowie, Springsteen, R.E.M., the Replacements, U2—they then went on to create even greater (or at the very least equally great) albums.

Sometimes artists, even truly great ones, lose their mojo, for whatever reason—it happens. Brian Wilson, John Fogerty and Stevie Wonder are three who leap to mind. For a few years every single thing they created seemed like pure spun gold. And then afterwards, while still putting out often very good stuff that could attain greatness, it just wasn't the same as during that astonishing peak. (I am aware of the various reasons each of these guys in particular lost it.)

Other artists seem to have moment of greatness in them—Matthew Sweet's post-punk power-pop breakup album Girlfriend deserves to be mentioned along with masterpieces such as Blood on the Tracks, Here, My Dear and Tunnel of Love, and yet while he's since written and recorded some amazing tracks, Sweet never again was able to capture the magic he had on that entire record.

Then there are your Bowies, your R.E.M.s, your U2s, your Wilcos, who continue to strive to change, evolve, grow, improve. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes their very best stuff is unpalatable to those who loved them from the beginning. It happens.
 
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DrumEatDrum

Platinum Member
Of course, personal preference always plays into it.

I think, for Van Halen, "Balance" was their best album and the pinnacle of their career. Not even Sammy Hagar agrees with me. Nor do most Van Halen fans. lol

I was recently reading Roger Daltry's autobiography, and he talked about "Who By Numbers" being one his favorite albums from his career, an album I've always thought of was a kind of a "meh" point in their career.

I love Fates Warming. To me, they didn't get great until their 6th album, and their 8th album is their masterpiece, followed by their 9th and 10th albums. Others swear their 5th album was their best. And at every live show, there is always some begging them to play their really old material.

You can't please everyone!
 

Xstr8edgtnrdrmrX

Well-known member
Of course, personal preference always plays into it.

I think, for Van Halen, "Balance" was their best album and the pinnacle of their career. Not even Sammy Hagar agrees with me. Nor do most Van Halen fans. lol

I was recently reading Roger Daltry's autobiography, and he talked about "Who By Numbers" being one his favorite albums from his career, an album I've always thought of was a kind of a "meh" point in their career.

I love Fates Warming. To me, they didn't get great until their 6th album, and their 8th album is their masterpiece, followed by their 9th and 10th albums. Others swear their 5th album was their best. And at every live show, there is always some begging them to play their really old material.

You can't please everyone!

oh hell yes!!!! Fates has been in my top 5 bands since Spectre Within. Super influential to my life! For me Inside Out is their masterpiece, and while I love the stuff with Arch and Zimmerman, I don't think Aresti and Matheos found their own sound until Perfect Symmetry, and then Alder and Zonder were also gelling in the mix.

to me personally, they don't have a bad album - the only other band for me like that is Rush - but I do feel like they were losing touch with each other around Disconected...it took DArkness in a Different Light for me to feel like they were sort of "back"
 
I was recently reading Roger Daltry's autobiography, and he talked about "Who By Numbers" being one his favorite albums from his career, an album I've always thought of was a kind of a "meh" point in their career.

Who by Numbers is often my favorite Who album and in their Top 5 for me—although not even close to being their very best—but it surprises me that Roger likes it so much, since it's so very Pete-centric, thematically.
 

toddmc

Gold Member
The Metallica movie was real educational that way-- they had a real limited palette to work with, just in terms of what they knew how to do musically. I don't think any of them are truly dedicated career songwriters. If they never got signed and got any kind of big money behind them, they might have made 2-3 decent records. It was through the process you see in the movie-- a grueling, lengthy, massively-budgeted process of working with a producer that they hammered out some product that basically sounded like a professional record. When it was clear at the beginning they had no real ideas and not much interest.
Sorry, but that's not quite true.

While their most commercially successful album was indeed a result of the process you describe, their BEST albums were made in a relatively short timeframe with a limited budget (compared to the black album anyway) while they were still young and hungry.

In any case, no amount of money could save St. Anger from being what it turned out to be given where the band's heads were at at the time.
 

DrumEatDrum

Platinum Member
Who by Numbers is often my favorite Who album and in their Top 5 for me—although not even close to being their very best—but it surprises me that Roger likes it so much, since it's so very Pete-centric, thematically.
Well, most Who Music is rather Pete centric.

While Roger will admit to not always getting along with Pete as a person, he makes quite clear throughout the book he has the utmost respect for Pete's songwriting, and Roger realized early on it was in his best interest to let Pete write whatever Pete wanted to write.
 
Well, most Who Music is rather Pete centric.

I mean, yes, in that Pete was obviously by far the primary songwriter. And he often (usually? always?) wrote about things which mattered to him deeply: the transcendental nature of music, perhaps, or the artist-audience relationship, or the One Perfect Universal Musical Note. But that's not what Who by Numbers was. To my ears, Who by Numbers was much more akin to a Jackson Browne setting my diary to music/baring my soul kind of singer-songwriter album, albeit with the incendiary Who as the band rather than The Section.

Yes, obviously, this is reductive, but I don't think it's inaccurate. Daltrey could lose himself in the character of the deaf and blind kid, and he could get behind the story of the mods, and obviously he was great on all their early hits, but he himself has talked about how he didn't feel it was right to sing "However Much I Booze," and while he obviously sang much of the rest of the album, I see it as so much of a piece that I'm surprised he doesn't either. Either way, I'm with him on the record's merits.
 

iCe

Senior Member
Best... hmmm... sometimes new material is so different that it's hard to compare. Take Status Quo for example; i'm huge fan of their older material (pre 1982) and everything after that is just so different. Wouldn't call it worse although there are a couple of albums i dont care for, but that doesn't mean they're bad albums.

The latest Delain album... well as far as you can say latest since it was released a year ago hehe. Anyway, i feel that the new album really ties everything together. It's their 6th album and it really brings everything from the previous albums together. With that it mean that each album has it's own distinct sound and feel, but also songwriting. This new album really feels to me like that hit the nail on the head with being the 'best album'. Before i didn't really had a fav album because each album had it's own unique sound, but after hearing this the first time last year i went 'yup, this is it' hehe
 

Swiss Matthias

Platinum Member
I think it depends on the commercial orientation of the band in any given point of their career. One Norwegian band that I've become a big, big fan of quickly comes to mind: Leprous don't seem to care about success in the commercial sense that it would influence their output. They do what they want to do. They do polarize quite much with every album they've put out in the last few years, but their newest one arguably contains some of their best material – despite stilistic tastes –, just world-class and artful songs, pop-oriented but still unconventional.
 

Xstr8edgtnrdrmrX

Well-known member
I think it depends on the commercial orientation of the band in any given point of their career. One Norwegian band that I've become a big, big fan of quickly comes to mind: Leprous don't seem to care about success in the commercial sense that it would influence their output. They do what they want to do. They do polarize quite much with every album they've put out in the last few years, but their newest one arguably contains some of their best material – despite stilistic tastes –, just world-class and artful songs, pop-oriented but still unconventional.

yep....they are like Rush in that sense...and Primus
 
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