One and Done

 Posted by
Dec 102010
 

Here’s an old thread that came to mind as I read Townspeople’s thoughts on Weezer. We got into a few bands in some depth. I’m sure there are others that will come to mind thanks to an influx of some strong, new Townspeople over the last year.

This post initially appeared 2/6/08.


I’d like to take this time to celebrate bands who made amazing, near-perfect debuts of a quality that they were never again matched.

The prime contenders are Elastica‘s self-titled debut and The Dream Syndicate‘s The Days of Wine and Roses. Additionally, I like to think that some day, when the rubble of her subsequent mainstream bid clears, people will recognize Liz Phair‘s Exile in Guyville in a similarly fond light. Also, I predict here that Art Brut will never match Bang Bang Rock & Roll.

I laud these bands and their seemingly dubious achievements in this regard for a number of reasons. I think that rock-nerd notions of success, importance, significance, etc. are often out-of-whack. More importantly, though, albums like these speak to me very specifically. Sometimes I think there is no more noble artistic goal than to get down your special view of the world just once. Personally, I’d love to write just one book that gave at least an inkling of everything I think is wrong and right about the Way We Live Now. I’m not asking for a new career, just one medium-sized soapbox.

All four albums I mentioned above positioned themselves against the (or a) status quo. Some of them did so in no uncertain terms, basically saying “All of you are full of shit — and I’m going to tell you exactly why!” And they did so effectively, that the need for a second, third, fourth act is rendered pretty much moot.

So I hope you’ll join me in celebrating these artists’ lack of staying power, their triumph of quality over quantity. Any other examples of this trajectory?

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  59 Responses to “One and Done”

  1. mockcarr

    The La’s just had that one album that is really good. That’s very little staying power, right?

    The Monks said their thing with one bizzaro album.

  2. I disagree about Liz Phair. I think the second album is just as good.
    The rest I agree is worthless.
    I know I’m gonna get a bit of argument on this one, but THE STONE ROSES is one such band/album.
    LADYTRON-the one with 17
    BRAN VAN 3000-the one with drinking in LA
    THE VIOLENT FEMMES-SELF TITLED
    THE STROKES-IS THIS IT? (in your case, yes it is)
    CYPRESS HILL-SELF TITLED
    GUNS AND ROSES-APPETITE FOR DESTRUCTION
    THE RAPTURE-ECHOES
    DAG NASTY-CAN I SAY?
    WU TANG-36 CHAMBERS

  3. Sex Pistols.

    Emitt Rhodes by Emitt Rhodes?

    The Flatlanders (It’s country. Sorry, couldn’t help it.)

    The United States of America (the band not the country).

  4. Marshall Crenshaw

  5. BigSteve

    Man, that first Dream Syndicate album is perfect. I actually like Elastica’s second one though.

    Moby Grape also made a perfect first album. They made some other good music, but certainly not a whole album that good.

  6. sammymaudlin

    kilroy beat me to the Violent Femmes but I’ll offer 2 controvertial thoughts:

    1. Fountains of Wayne

    2. The Dream Syndicate’s “Ghost Stories” is a really good album. Yes Wynn was gunning for radio (I’d guess) but that’s why it is good. Comparing it to Wine & Roses would be apples/oranges except that it was released as a DS album when, I think, both Kendra and Karl were long gone.

  7. sammymaudlin

    Is that first Crenshaw album really good? It’s been on my, “If I see it for less that $6 list” forever.

  8. The Romantics!

  9. Television – Marquee Moon

    The Doors

  10. BigSteve

    The first Crenshaw album is very good. So are his second and third albums

  11. To me, the first Crenshaw album is better than good, it’s fantastic. It is THE power pop album, with all of the positives of that genre and none of the negatives.

    Don’t wait for the $6 limit!

  12. Mr. Moderator

    I’m with you on Marquee Moon, Geo, but you know I think the Doors got better with age – and fat and beards.

    The Modern Lovers is the first band that comes to mind for me on this subject. Generation X’s first album may be the second one to come to mind. Good topic!

  13. The Modern Lovers – Self Titled

    Montrose – Self Titled

    Rain Parade – Emergency Third Rail Power Trip

    I also think “Ghost Stories” is a really good record and one greatly overlooked.

  14. sammymaudlin

    Thanks for the Crenshaw feedback. I’m gonna nab it tomorrow. Thanks to petescrutz for the Ghost Stories back-up. Are you Wynn fan as well?

    Modern Lovers is a perfect example but… did they release anything else? Does that count?

  15. Mr. Moderator

    Well, Jonathan Richman has released dozens of albums since that first Modern Lovers album – some with that monker, I believe. I’m not into the sound of a grown man sucking his thumb.

    Sammy, I’m probably in the small minority of people with good taste who finds the first Marshall Crenshaw album boring. It wouldn’t interest me for 60 cents.

  16. A lot of good selections here, but mostly artists who only put out a smattering of albums.

    Here’s one for you — The Pretenders. A stone cold classic. After that, Pretnders II was inconsistent, Learning To Crawl was good, and from there, it’s been a fairly uneventful career.

  17. sammymaudlin

    Mod: I’ve been dancing around that Crenshaw album for 20 some odd years. It’s time. Don’t think less of me.

    mrhonorama: Welcome. The Pretenders first album could potentially be the best example in this discussion except for Talk of the Town and Message of Love being on II which are pretty strong tunes.

  18. Sammy,
    I like Wynn’s work (well enough to check it out), but is fairly uneven.

    As for the Crenshaw record, I actually think his second album, “Field Day” is far superior.

  19. Lots of great suggestions here — Television, The Modern Lovers, Violent Femmes.

    Sammy, I too am on Team Crenshaw. Get that debut ASAP!

    The Pretenders is a tantalizing suggestion, but I think Chrissie did match the material on that first album, even if only with occasional songs (“Talk of the Town,” “Chain Gang,” “My City Was Gone,”) never whole albums. The drop-offs I’m thinking here are much more severe.

  20. I’m with shawnkilroy: The first Stone Roses is the canonical one-and-done. None of the members’ solo records are worth a tin shit, either.

  21. Mr. Moderator

    mrhonorama, I’m with you on the Pretenders. It’s too bad that original band broke up/died. I think they could have bounced back from the sophomore slump.

  22. saturnismine

    that second pretenders album could have easily subbed for the first, and the dip in quality from first album to second album is largely perceived, not actual.

    why hasn’t anyone mentioned “get the knack”?

  23. saturnismine

    oh…also: i don’t see “the doors” as a one-and-done at all. there was a dip, to be sure. but i think “strange days” is really strong, and highly underrated in conventional thinking. but more than this, “morrison hotel” and “LA Woman” are even stronger…two of their strongest.

  24. Mr. Moderator

    Gang of Four’s Entertainment is one of the most stunning debuts ever followed by a muddy second album and then little else of interest.

  25. 2000 Man

    I don’t think the Pretenders, while a bold choice, really fit. Even if you think their second album was weak, the ep that came out between the first and second is fantastic, with Talk of the Town, Message of Love, Cuban Slide and Porcelain being too good to ignore.

    I think I played that live version of Precious five times a day back then. The super expanded versions of the first and second albums are terrific and chock full of extra goodies. After the oriinal band I pretty much lost interest, though.

  26. The Doors NO WAY!
    Soft Parade is the only stinker in there.

    SLOWDIVE-SOUVLAKI

    one and done!

  27. saturnismine

    thanks for backing my points about the doors, kilroy.

    I still think “Get the Knack” is the ultimate one-and-done: a brilliant album from wire to wire, followed up by a pale tan turd. yes, after “…Little Girls…” they put out some valiant attempts at re-capturing the magic, but of course, they failed miserably.

  28. saturnismine

    “england’s newest hitmakers” was followed by nearly 50 years of crap.

    i kid, i kid.

  29. Mr. Moderator

    Saturnismine wrote:

    thanks for backing my points about the doors, kilroy.

    So it was your points about The Doors? These were my points before you and kilroy checked in. I think I can safely demand an apology:)

  30. not frum me ya can’t

  31. saturnismine

    *my* points: see above, in response to geo’s timid submission of the Doors to this thread, beginning “oh…also…”.

    i see your “fat…beards” comment now. missed it before. and how could i? so eloquent! i regret not citing you, mod. forgive me!

  32. Mr. Moderator

    You’re forgiven…Kilroy too, just so it seems like I was pissed at him in the first place!

  33. BigSteve

    Pete sez: You’re all forgiven.

  34. I think Gang of Four’s second record, Solid Gold, is quite strong in a lot of ways, if less catchy, and there are a few good tunes on the third record too. No way would I consider them one and done.

  35. BigSteve

    I probably prefer Solid Gold to Entertainment! If you add To Hell With Poverty as a bonus track, it’s no contest.

  36. Mr. Moderator

    Mmm. I used to like hearing the Solid Gold songs live, but I think too many of them just “sit there” on the album. I do like that yellow ep a lot.

  37. Entertainment’s a better record to my mind, Steve, but the murkiness of Solid still has real drive, albeit not of a poppy sort. Plus I think Gang of Four deserves props for not trying to do a second power pop album.

    Heh heh.

    As we all know, the yellow EP predates Entertainment!.

  38. Mr. Moderator

    What was the first “power pop” album Gang of Four did, Entertainment? If being direct, biting, and uniquely recorded is at the heart of power pop, then I need to rethink this thing.

    Because of my love for the yellow ep, I’ll retract this Gang of Four entry. More power to you guys who can listen to Solid Gold and not wish for a better, richer recording – not necessarily more of the same or a cleaner sound, but something that pushed forward. To me, that album has the same problem as the second Pretenders album: a couple of great songs but a feeling of a band going through a grind sooner than expected.

  39. BigSteve

    I think maybe the dark murkiness of Solid Gold is what I like. Murk can be a good thing. I think the lyrics may be richer. Bold move to open an album with a song like Paralyzed. Gotta give em extra points for that. And you know, when they tried to ‘push forward’ their sound, no one liked it.

  40. For me the anti-catchy murk of Solid Gold comes closer to early Fall, an acquired taste obviously. I think the songs really do have a churning drive; they don’t lay there so much as go inward, almost in layers. Like The Fall and some of Wire too, it’s almost a precursor to the indie rock sound. No surprise then that Mr. Mod would dislike its insular charisma.

    If being direct, biting, and uniquely recorded is at the heart of power pop, then I need to rethink this thing.

    Of course, I was half-joking. But that said, listening from the vantage of many years later, Entertainment, and even more so the first Undertones record and the Buzzcocks Singles collection, strike me as more closely related to power pop than to later developments, although clearly there’s a connection between Entertainment! and The Minutemen.

  41. Great thread so far and I’m sorry for jumping in late on this one.

    The prime contenders are Elastica’s self-titled debut and The Dream Syndicate’s The Days of Wine and Roses. Additionally, I like to think that some day, when the rubble of her subsequent mainstream bid clears, people will recognize Liz Phair’s Exile in Guyville in a similarly fond light. Also, I predict here that Art Brut will never match Bang Bang Rock & Roll.

    I agree re: Liz Phair and Art Brut. I’ve never heard any of The Dream Syndicate’s albums past The Days of Wine and Roses, so no comment there. I think Elastica’s 2nd album is almost as good as the 1st, though.

    STONE ROSES is one such band/album.
    LADYTRON-the one with 17
    BRAN VAN 3000-the one with drinking in LA
    THE VIOLENT FEMMES-SELF TITLED
    THE STROKES-IS THIS IT? (in your case, yes it is)
    CYPRESS HILL-SELF TITLED
    GUNS AND ROSES-APPETITE FOR DESTRUCTION
    THE RAPTURE-ECHOES
    DAG NASTY-CAN I SAY?
    WU TANG-36 CHAMBERS

    Are we talking about strictly debuts or just one album at any point in an artist’s career? If the former, Echoes doesn’t qualify. I like The Rapture’s previous records, though not their subsequent one. I seriously disagree with you re: Dag Nasty. I think of their 3 ’80s albums, Can I Say is actually the weakest, though I love it. I think Wig Out at Denko’s and Field Day are way better.

    And why would anyone disagree with you re: The Stone Roses. Have you ever heard that 2nd album? Turd city. Right on w/ the G’n’R and Violent Femmes choices, though.

    Has anyone mentioned the 1st Suicidal Tendencies album yet?

    Gang of Four’s Entertainment is one of the most stunning debuts ever followed by a muddy second album and then little else of interest.

    I think maybe the dark murkiness of Solid Gold is what I like. Murk can be a good thing. I think the lyrics may be richer. Bold move to open an album with a song like Paralyzed. Gotta give em extra points for that. And you know, when they tried to ‘push forward’ their sound, no one liked it.

    At times, I’ve actually thought that Solid Gold is a better record. At the very least, it’s often overlooked and a great record IMO. Mwall esp. hits the nail on the head here as everyone on here knows how big of a Fall fan I am.

  42. Hank Fan

    Neutral Milk Hotel

  43. pudman13

    Patti Smith. I know there are fans of EASTER and some of her comeback albums, but maybe you ought to listen to EASTER again and see how badly it’s aged (and how much gargabe was on it in the first place.) HORSES is one of the great records ever, and the rest of her career is nothing but a disappointment.

    I’m sorry to say this about two women, but the other obvious example here is THE PRETENDERS.

  44. I no longer think it matters that Patti Smith has run the same two song templates into the ground from Horses forward. After seeing her live last year I realized that her power as an artist greatly outweighs her talents as a musician. If you shuffled the order of her releases I don’t know that Horses would necessarily be the obvious “best” album by her. Maybe it just seems that way because it’s the first album to play her handful of tricks. There are a few really good songs on each of the 5 albums I own, so, I’m not disputing that she’s a “one and done” artist, in some ways, but I don’t think her drop-off is as steep as I once might have.

  45. it’s a stretch to call it an “amazing, near-perfect debut” except perhaps to my at-the-time pre-teen ears, but what about the second-best selling debut album in u.s. history: boston.

  46. Good one! “More Than a Feeling” came on the radio last night, and I could tell my son was a little surprised I didn’t quickly change the station. When the song ended he said, “What was that?”

    I said, “It’s a band called Boston, which put out one giant album when I was just a little older than you. They were by far the best of that entire style of music you know I don’t like.”

    He said, “Yeah, the guitar riff was amazing.”

  47. underthefloat

    FWIW: I like both of Gang of Four’s first two albums. The third took a new (less good) direction but has a few decent tracks. The complete and utter piece of garbage was their 4th release “Hard”…. as in answering the musical question “How HARD does this album suck?”

    I think Violent Femmes is a great pick. Although, I have to admit, I loved the first album back in the day but it hasn’t stood the test of time for me.

    Not sure any one likes him here but I liked Steve Forbert’s first album. I’ve not heard any album of his that is as good.

  48. pudman13

    I actually considered listing Boston and the Cars, both of whom beat their own formula into the ground after the first album with a reasonable amount of commercial success.

  49. pudman13

    A few weeks ago I listened to the entire first Violent Femmes album for the first time in maybe 20 years, or more. I have to say that while a lot of the lyrics really grated on my nerves, musically I was surprised by just how much I enjoyed it, and it was easy to remember why I loved the record so much when I first bought it. They sure are a perfect pick for this category.

    I’m tempted to list Elliott Murphy, whose AQUASHOW album is my all time favorite singer songwriter record. If I were to make a best of from all of the songs he’s done in the subsequent 37 years I couldn’t come up with anything as good as even one side of AQUASHOW, but over time I’ve come to appreciate his second and third albums quite a bit (and a number of his individual songs, if not albums, from the 80, 90s and 00s), even if it’s clear to me that he just didn’t ever have it in him to match that initial brilliant outburst.

  50. That first Steve Forbert album made me think I had a future in liking ’70s-era “singer-songwriter” music. His next album didn’t have half the charm, but I see that, much like Rickie Lee Jones, he manages to stick around as a AAA-radio icon.

  51. underthefloat

    Interesting that we had such different experiences trying that album again. Well, I’ll try their first album again sometime based on your experience.

  52. mockcarr

    The Specials?

  53. I can’t go for that, because over the years I’ve gotten more long-term pleasure from More Specials than the excellent-but-iconic and impenetrable debut. I don’t know if I’m expressing this right, but the first album is so perfect that I experience nothing new from it, while the odder More Specials has “nooks and crannies” that keep me coming back for more.

  54. underthefloat

    Yeah, I recall his second album he “made the album he wanted to”. Gosh, I wish he hadn’t. Not that it was “bad” but as you said it…it lost much of the charm. Nail hit coffin with the 3rd album called “little stevie orbit”. Title alone and cover photo was just a bit to cute.

    I did see him live many years ago and the it was actually a good show. It actually surprised me.

    Yeah, he’s still alive and kicking..

  55. BigSteve

    But I love the leadoff track from Little Stevie Orbit, a song called Get Well Soon, one of those shoulda-been-a-hit-single tracks.

  56. underthefloat

    Agreed!

  57. Do you think Elastica is comforted by the fact that 90% of car commercials that have been produced since their debut disc sound exactly like that song?

  58. Was Never Mind the Bollocks Here’s the Sex Pistols disqualified for some reason. It’s the heaviest one-timer in rock.

    I was tempted to say Blind Faith but they were a supergroup probably only intended to last one album.

  59. No disqualification was suggested, as far as I can recall, k. That was pure oversight. Thanks for correcting the record.

 
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