Sophomore Blues, Winners & Losers Of The Difficult Second Album

on 4 June 2012 in Slideshows


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With mixed critical reactions, the Temper Trap's sophomore effort is fast becoming labelled with the 'difficult second album' tag. It may have debuted at the top spot in the ARIA charts, but it's sales in the UK were far more lacklustre, coming in at #17.

The Temper Trap are treading down a well worn path that their contemporaries, Jet and Wolfmother followed when they disappeared off the international radar with their own respective second albums. We look back at one of music's most prominent diseases; 'the difficult second album syndrome' and the artists that succumbed to it or have managed to fight it.

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    With mixed critical reactions, the Temper Trap's sophomore effort is fast becoming labelled with the 'difficult second album' tag. It may have debuted at the top spot in the ARIA charts, but it's sales in the UK were far more lacklustre, coming in at #17.

    The Temper Trap are treading down a well worn path that their contemporaries, Jet and Wolfmother followed when they disappeared off the international radar with their own respective second albums. We look back at one of music's most prominent diseases; 'the difficult second album syndrome' and the artists that succumbed to it or have managed to fight it.

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    Jet – Shine On (2006)
    Pitchfork posting a YouTube video of a monkey pissing in it's own mouth for their review of Shine On might say something about just how difficult the bands second album was. Whether you agree with their thoughts (or lack of) on the album or not, the four-piece couldn’t recapture the worlds attention after they broke-through with 'Are You Gonna Be My Girl' in 2004. Jet soon went from being Australia's greatest international export to fading into the play-list at your local pub.

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    MGMT – Congratulations (2010)
    The summer of 07 and 08, you remember it right? 'Electric Feel' and 'Kids' went from being indie hits to mainstream chart stayers. Every girl in fake tan and every guy in a Bin tang singlet wanted to dance to these Summer anthems at every festival possible, even if the band weren't playing, a DJ would always step in. The duo remembered it too, but obviously enjoyed the success less than you'd think. The follow-up, Congratulations was their response to the mainstream-crossover that was Oracular Spectacular. Nothing could prepare you for the ultra weird psychedelia of their second album, there were no hits to be had here. The album was difficult, but you get the feeling that the fans, not MGMT, found the change hard to bear.

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    Meat Loaf - Dead Ringer (1981)
    Meatloaf's debut solo album (if you forget his duet LP Stoney & Meatloaf) Bat Out Of Hell was a runaway success selling more than 30 million records worldwide. But after falling out with his songwriting partner Jim Steinman and drowning himself in drugs, the larger-than-life singer developed a psychological singing block. Four years later when Loaf was finally ready to release his follow up, the audience had moved on and Dead Ringer managed to sell only a measly 6 million copies - which sounds good but was a massive disappointment at the time.

    Meat Loaf's career languished for the next decade until he finally made up with Steinman in 1993 and released Bat out of Hell II - an international hit which went number one in over eleven countries.

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    The Avalanches – ? (still waiting)
    The Avalanches debut album Since I Left You is regularly voted in the top 10 Australian albums of all time and also received critical acclaim overseas. Since the release of that album in 2000 music lovers have been waiting patiently for a follow up. It seems that every other year an update is provided by the band or through their record label Modular stating that the album is pending sample approval or some other excuse. All we want to know is whether its actually coming!

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    Joy Division- Closer (1980)
    What would end up being their final studio album as a result of Ian Curtis’ suicide, Closer affirmed Joy Division’s position in the dossier of music history as one of the most influential post-punk bands of all time.

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    Lou Reed- Transformer (1972)
    Lou Reed was already kind of a big deal by 1972 thanks to his band The Velvet Underground. However, Reed firmly entrenched his position as a rock and roll legend with the release of Transformer, his second solo album behind Lou Reed, which he also released in ’72. David Bowie produced transformer and even played the saxophone on the synonymous ‘Take A Walk On The Wild Side’.

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    The Horrors- Primary Colours (2009)
    The Horrors first album Strange House matched the band’s aesthetic and defined them as a marketable, fashion-driven outfit and aligned heavily with their horror-punk signifiers. Primary Colours did everything to shatter the image established by the band’s first album and threw an almost shockingly stark curve-ball that was resoundingly well received by fans.

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    Nirvana - Nevermind (1991(
    Single-handedly one of the greatest albums of all time and undoubtedly one of the greatest second albums, Nirvana proved against the odds that not only can you kick out two members and migrate from an indie label to a major - but you can do so while selling millions of records and keeping your credibility. Songs off Nevermind such as Smells Like Teen Spirit, and Come As You Are, turned Nirvana into the hottest musical act on the planet, earning them millions of adoring fans and earning themselves a place in music's history books.

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    Bob Dylan - The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan (1963)
    Whereas musical legend Bob Dylan's debut album contained only two original songs, his follow up, The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan, marked the beginning of Dylan's transformation from poet to songwriter. Blowin' In The Wind, which kicks off the album, would go on to become one of the anthems of the 1960s and turned Dylan into the poster boy for the 60s folk music scene. The album went platinum in the United States, and went number one album in the United Kingdom - the first of numerous others later in his career.

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    The Kooks- Konk (2008)
    The Kooks were one of the forefront artists in the British indie-scene, appealing mostly to soft-hearted teenage girls with their honky-fender driven love songs from their commercially and critically successful debut Inside In, Inside Out. Despite this, the groups second release Konk, pretty much went the opposite direction, failing commercially and generally just being pretty darn rubbish.

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    The Stone Roses- Second Coming (1994)
    Sadly for The Stone Roses, the title of their second studio album Second Coming wasn’t quite indicative of what was to come of the bands first record in six years since their debut. The album suffered greatly from high expectations from fans, as a result of both the success of their first record and the sheer number of years between albums. Furthermore, the Stone Roses found themselves in a new musical climate, unable to compete with the ‘90’s Britpop juggernauts Oasis and Blur, who ironically sight the Roses first record as a significant influence in the birth of the Britpop movement.

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    Ting Tings – Sounds From Nowheresville (2012)
    Their debut album, We Started Nothing was released four years prior to Sounds From Nowheresville. It was home of the all famous and albeit slightly annoying after the number of plays it received, ‘That’s Not My Name’ and ‘Shut Up and Let Me Go’.

    The Ting Tings' second album, Sounds From Nowheresville was actually their second attempt at recording after they deleted their first attempt when they learnt the record label actually liked it.

    Although in doing so they have tried to bypass the second album curse, it is unclear if they have. The album has been almost universally panned by critics, with one review labeling it ‘ a little bereft of ideas’.

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    Oasis - (What's the Story) Morning Glory? (1995)
    Formed in 1991, Oasis were hit factories from the word go, their debut Definitely Maybe going straight to #1 in the UK. But it was their sophomore album, (What's the Story) Morning Glory?, that cemented their grip on the world's stage - going number one in seven countries and going 14x platinum in the United Kingdom. Although it initially received lukewarm reactions from the music press of the time, (What's the Story) Morning Glory? is now considered one of the defining albums of the Britpop era.

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    Cat Empire – Two Shoes (2005)
    For The Cat Empire, their success was quite the opposite to others, gradually sailing their way into fame. Their second album, Two Shoes, released in 2005, debuted at number one and being the band’s only top album to date. The most well known single being ‘Sly’. This album, being recorded in Cuba and having more of a Latin sound, gave fans something different to what is usually in the charts.

    This led to other projects, such as featuring on Triple J’s Like A Version compilation. Although the single from their first self-titled album, ‘Hello’ was quite popular, the record itself did not interest listeners.

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    Eminem - The Marshall Mathers LP (2000)
    Although technically his third album (Eminem released a little known local album in 1996), The Marshall Mathers LP marked Eminem's second major label release, following his breakthrough The Slim Shady LP. Spawning rap anthems such as The Real Slim Shady, The Marshall Mathers LP was a worldwide phenomenon selling over 22 million records, and earned Eminem a Grammy Award. Rolling Stone has since placed the album at number seven on its list of best albums of the 2000s, and it is generally considered one of the greatest hip hop albums of all time. Not bad for a white boy from Detroit whose life just a few years earlier had spiralled so out of control he attempted suicide.

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    The Vines – Winning Days (2004)
    The Vines debut album Highly Evolved, went double platinum in Australia and received five ARIA nominations, while their follow-up record, Winning Days, debuted the best in Australia at number seven. Singles released from the album, ‘Ride’ and ‘Winning Days’ did not even make the charts in Australia.

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    Wolfmother – Cosmic Egg (2009)
    Wolfmother broke-through with their debut in 2005 and the track that propelled them to rock stardom, 'Women' has since become a staple inclusion into Hollywood’s biggest films, most of which you probably don't need to see. Then in 2008 the trio split, leaving lead-singer Andrew Stockdale to pick up the pieces. Stockdale gathered an entire new band to record Cosmic Egg and the album received, for the most part, decent reviews. But a falling out amongst old friends and essentially having to start over again, isn't quite what you want to happen before you start recording the dreaded second album.

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