Monday, June 04, 2007

THE FABLED SOPHOMORE SLUMP

All this jawin’ on the comments section of my GUN CLUB post last week got me thinking about the much-discussed “sophomore slump”, a condition endemic to baseball, television seasons, film directorial follow-ups and of course to rock and roll albums. I figured it might make a great comment-starter to list some big sophomore slumps - records that alienated audiences, lost fans, disturbed critics, or perhaps just annoyed me and no one else. There is of course the opposite phenomenon, which is nearly as prevalent. That’s the band with the good or mediocre debut who then goes on to up the ante considerably the second time around, and record a disc much better than its predecessor. I have a few examples of those as well, though I didn’t think too much about either category, hoping that any readers of this site could do the thinking for me. Let the kerfuffles begin.

CLASSIC SOPHOMORE SLUMPS


Masterpiece debut album/Disappointing Follow Up

TELEVISION – “Marquee Moon” / “Adventure”
THE GUN CLUB – “Fire Of Love” / “Miami
THE DREAM SYNDICATE – “The Days of Wine and Roses” / “The Medicine Show”
COME – “Eleven: Eleven” / “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”
GIBSON BROS – “Big Pine Boogie” / “Dedicated Fool”
CIRCLE JERKS – “Group Sex” / “Wild In The Streets”
PINK FLOYD – “Piper At The Gates of Dawn” / “A Saucerful of Secrets”
UNION CARBIDE PRODUCTIONS – “In The Air Tonight” / “Financially Dissatisfied, Philosophically Trying”
THE GORDONS – “The Gordons” / “Volume Two"
ROYAL TRUX - "Royal Trux" / "Twin Infinitives"
BUZZCOCKS - "Another Music In a Different Kitchen" / "Love Bites"

BANDS THAT BEAT THE SLUMP & EVEN TOPPED THEMSELVES

Debut Album/Superior Follow Up

BIG STAR – “#1 Record / “Radio City
THE STOOGES – “The Stooges” / “Funhouse”
NEIL YOUNG – “Neil Young” / “Everybody Knows This is Nowhere”
DINOSAUR (JR.) – “Dinosaur” / “You’re Living All Over Me”
LAZY COWGIRLS – “Lazy Cowgirls” / “Tapping The Source"
SUPERCHARGER – “Supercharger” / “Goes Way Out!"

CHEATER SLICKS
- "On Your Knees" / "Whiskey"

22 comments:

jon manyjars said...

As much as I love Pink Flag, I think Wire topped themselves with Chairs Missing.

Jay said...

See, I didn't want to count records like that - BOTH albums rule, so it didn't make a lot of sense to me to list them. I think the jump between "The Stooges" and "Funhouse", though, was great enough to merit inclusion on the second list.

Kyle said...

I think The Medicine Show bummed me out more than any other follow up in history. Especially because I'd heard them belt out "John Coltrane Stereo Blues" or whatever the fuck it's called live and I was really excited to hear it on an lp. uggh, it still bugs me to this day.

James said...

In the latter category (beating the sophmore slump), I'd drop in Pere Ubu, for The Modern Dance (great) and Dub Housing (even greater).

Anonymous said...

my picks for better follow up albums,

Polvo - polvo / core crane secret

Unwound - fake train / new plastic ideas

i think it can be mentioned as well that it's a great thing to watch a band grow. seeing them progress from album to album. it is my hope that this is what is happening with deerhunter.

David said...

Jay
I'm trying to keep from going too crazy here so here's just a few thoughts:
I think I ended up liking "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" even more than "Eleven: Eleven" and I don't think I could classify any Gibson Bros record as a slump. Also, not to get too picky but where does that Aussie Cheater Slicks record fit into this all?

Dave

MACGOOHAN said...

dude, if you were gonna do obvious picks you should've included bob dylan. also, "miami" and "adventure" are both pretty good records, while "twin infinitives," despite what you may think about it, is in no way a "sophomore slump>"

Dave said...

Now here's a task I could waste some serious time with! For a major step UP w/ a sophomore release, you can't go past the Meat Puppets' 2nd effort, and when it comes to seriously alienating an audience w/ a second LP, nothing beats Black Flag's "My War" (I still love it, though the shorthairs at the time certainly didn't). I don't think Royal Trux really hit their stride 'til their 3rd album, and your constant praise of Big Star's 2nd LP is going to have me digging it out this weekend for a reappraisal. And another example of true greatness the second time around: Swans taking the leap from "Filth" to "Cop".

Anonymous said...

Urge Overkilll’s second album, Americruiser, was a righteously smokin’ effort that surpassed their patchy debut, Jesus Urge Superstar, by some distance.

Same goes for Black Sun Ensemble’s Lambant Flame (2nd Album), packed with unbelievably great mystical sounds. The first untitled album wasn’t a dud as such, but just wasn’t nearly as good.

Can only really think of one sophomore slumper at the moment and that’s the MC5’s Back In The USA second album. Boy, does that sound crap after Kick Out The Jams.

Jay said...

Hey anonymous,

Actually Urge Overkill had a fairly boring first album called “Strange, I…” before their Touch & Go stuff. If they didn’t, I would believe the exact opposite of you – I was totally bummed when “Americruiser” came out and thought it was exceptionally weak after the “Jesus Urge” record, which is the only one I listen to to this day. But that’s what makes horse races or whatever.

I’ve decided that “Back In The USA” still rules in its way, and I can’t in all good conscience call it a slump, even though I much prefer the first album….

MattG said...

Gotta agree completely on Union Carbide Productions...second one SUCKED...and the first is one of my all time faves...

On the other side, Spacemen 3 probably made my all time fave 2nd album...(first was okay, but Perfect Prescription was...Perfect...).

Anonymous said...

“Back In The USA” is my favorite MC5 LP. S3 was amazing until Recurring, no slouches released. I must be one of the only people who like the second UCP record, at least most of it (it was kinda RAWK but there are killers there).

-trickknee

Alex said...

Debut Album/Superior Follow Up:
Hot Snakes- "Automatic Midnight"/"Suicide Invoice"

Anonymous said...

I have to say I don't think the 2nd UCP sucks THAT bad. I was going to sell it the other day and it strangely got refiled. The Only Ones "Even Serpents Shine" is truly the greatest leap in the history of rock.

Anonymous said...

jay! i can't believe you didn't include the flesh eaters as a band that beat the slump! "a minute to pray, a second to die" is miles above "no questions asked." i also think that bauhaus and the new york dolls should be bands that beat the slump. "mask" and "too much too soon" are better than their respective debuts (at least in my opinion).

scott b

Kyle said...

Fleasheaters is a great call. Not sure I'd agree with Bauhuas and NY Dolls, though, but it is certainly arguable in either case. I think they're about on par with the debuts, personally

Anonymous said...

Didn't Destination Lonely come out between On Your Knees and Whiskey? Destination Lonely is in my opinion weaker than On Your Knees. Whiskey is however better than either of the two.

Bryan G said...

Is The Gordons Volume Two really that bad? I've never heard it since its a hard one to find at any price.

Anonymous said...

Sophomore tops:

feedtime / shovel
I'm stranded / eternally yours
radios appear / living eyes
sonic yoot all the way till Daydream Nation
velvet underground& nico / white light/whiteheat
blank generation / destiny street

China said...

Oh goodness, I'll agree with that Anonymous post that Eternally Yours is brilliant.

On the other hand, about that list of slumps...I adore Love Bites. Sorry to say!

Joe Stumble said...

Slumps:

The Clash - The Clash / Give Em Enough Rope
Bad Religion - How Could Hell / Into The Unknown
The Next - Cheap Rewards 7inch / Kick Ass 7inch
Gang of Four - Entertainment / Solid Gold
Pylon - Gyrate / Chomp

Anonymous said...

Gotta disagree on the Gibsons... Dedicated Fool is maybe not quite as unhinged as Big Pine Boogie, but it still cooks on an open fire.

Otherwise great stuff! I dig.