It’s one thing for a band to explode from nowhere with a classic debut album. Following it up is a far greater challenge.
The second album, traditionally, is a band’s opportunity to transcend their original fanbase, infiltrate the mainstream. A great sophomore effort can catapult a band into the superleague – take Coldplay’s A Rush Of Blood To The Head. Equally, it can kill the buzz stone dead. Remember how the lustre of unassailable cool surrounding The Strokes evaporated in the wake of Room Of Fire?
Recently, Arctic Monkeys have negotiated the Tricky Second Album syndrome with consummate ease on Favourite Worst Nightmare. But the best second albums ever made? Q would make a case for the following. But what do you think?
1. Nirvana - Nevermind
From the sludgy, dissonant punk-metal of Bleach to the gleaming hooks of Nevermind: a creative quantum leap few could have predicted.
2. Bob Dylan - The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan
His 1962 self-titled debut was a competent collection of folk and blues standards (plus two originals). A year later, Dylan was penning jaw-dropping lyrical masterpieces such as A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall.
3. Oasis - (What’s The Story) Morning Glory?
Interesting fact: the two men pictured on the sleeve (shot on Soho’s Berwick Street) are Owen Morris, who produced the album, and DJ Sean Rowley, later of Guilty Pleasures fame.
4. Led Zeppelin – II
Singer Robert Plant was unable to write songs for Led Zep’s debut for contractual reasons. His input on the follow-up, notably on tracks such as Ramble On, helped define the band’s trademark, Tolkien-esque aesthetic.
5. Public Enemy - It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back
One of the first hip-hop albums to penetrate the mainstream, the synapse-frying sonic onslaught of It Takes A Nation… established Chuck D and Flavor Flav as the most potent dissident voices in music.
6. Velvet Underground - White Light/White Heat
If their 1967 debut contained moments of chiming prettiness, the follow-up was dense, overloaded, and, in John Cale’s words, “consciously anti-beauty.”
7. Eminem - The Marshall Mathers Album
On this staggeringly successful album (1.76 million copies sold in the first week alone) Eminem transcended the juvenile braggadocio of his debut and entered darker, more thoughtful territory, best evidenced on mega-hit Stan.
8. Ramones - Leave Home
Their debut was recorded on a budget of just $6,200. Leave Home was a slicker, more accomplished affair, establishing them as punk’s first hitmakers.
9. The Beatles - With The Beatles
Many of the key tracks, such as I Wanna Hold Your Hand, were Lennon/McCartney co-writes in the purest sense – in Lennon’s words, “we wrote together, one on one, eyeball to eyeball.”
10. Radiohead – The Bends
1993’s Pablo Honey found Thom Yorke adopting a strained, grunge-influenced sneer. By the time of The Bends he’d found his own voice - a far more delicate instrument. It enabled him to write acoustic ballads as heartrending as Fake Plastic Trees.
4:38 PM | 09/05/2007
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