Monday, May 18, 2009

Breaking the curse of the third album

It's a rock cliche that the third album is "difficult". If the first one is well-received, the second one is written while the first album is being promoted and the band still have their feet on the ground. The third album is when it all goes a bit Spinal Tap.

But two bands have really bucked this trend, releasing 'third albums' that I am in love with.

Firstly the All American Rejects new album 'When the World Comes Down' is simply everything that is right with a guitar-based slightly indie-feel album. I loved Move Along - their second album, but the first one I heard. Then I listened to their first album and thought 'Yeah, this is okay, but Move Along is better'. I wasn't really expecting the third album to be any cop at all - it was the 'third album' after all.

Talk about low expectations being completely undeserved. This album is audio magnificence. Personally I think the single 'Gives You Hell' needs a few listens to grow on you. But the tracks around it: 'Damn Girl', 'Mona Lisa', Falling Apart' and the beautiful duet 'Another Heart Calls' would make it onto just about any other album by just about any other band as the stand-out tracks.

And then we have The Killers. I loved their first album. It was on repeat in our kitchen for months. Then their second album came out and I had a new favourite album and felt a bit disloyal for liking the second one more. They couldn't possible pull off that trick again, could they?

Oh, yes they did. Discounting the 'demos and b-sides' compilation Sawdust (well worth a listen by the way), their third album, 'Day and Age', has been a new kitchen mainstay in our house since Christmas. It's very hard for a band to evolve and develop new sounds when their early stuff has been so popular. But somehow Brandon Flowers et al have managed it.

They've also managed to develop a few different styles - the mariachi mildly bouncy "I Can't Stay" contrasts with the stadium rock of "Spaceman" or the dancey "Human" or even the big band blast of the opening track "Losing Touch". Having so many different sounds on one record might alianate a few hardcore fans, but in real terms I think they will give this album staying power in the hearts and minds of fans as it slowly earns legendary status.

And between them AAR and the Killers have thoroughly disproved the myth of the 'difficult' third album. My only worry now is that there's no way they can possibly improve on these.

Or can they?

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