Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The best album with the worst follow up of all time.

We're not talking sophomore slump here. Nor a record that fits the old, worn axiom about having "a lifetime to write your first album and having six months to write your second". Lord knows there are plenty of those out there. The real trick is to birth such a horrific monstrosity after a great record, one that has stood the test of time. Then to follow it up with a world class, career ending, epic blight on the world of music. Not even a blip on the musical radar. I take that back, fading quietly into the good night would be simple. Putting out a great record and then follow it up with a record that is not only ignored but savaged both critically and commercially is a real, rare trick. I offer up some also-rans and then the king of all bands who left it all out there with their first record and had nothing left in the tank.

3rd Runner Up: Terence Trent D'Arby-
                         Debut: Introducing The Hardline According to Terence Trent D'Arby
                         Follow up: Neither Flesh Nor Fish

2nd Runner Up: Michael Penn-
                         Debut: March
                         Follow up: Free For All

1st Runner Up: The Knack-
                        Debut: Get The Knack
                        Follow up: But The Little Girls Understand

Winner: The Spin Doctors-
             1st album: Pocket Full Of Kryptonite
             2nd album: Turn It Upside Down

Pocket Full Of Kryptonite. That record simply oozed danceable pop funk with witty lyrics and hook after hook..after hook. When my personal tastes were running to R.E.M., Hoodoo Gurus and The Pixies (Tromp Le Monde era) this straight up pop funk gem got a hell of a workout on the cassette player. Opening with "Jimmy Olsen's Blues" and closing with the 12+ minute ass whooper "Shinbone Alley/Hard to Exist" there is not a misfire on the record. "Little Miss Can't Be Wrong", "Two Princes" and "How Could You Want Him (When You Know You Could Have Me?)" are all in the running for the best straight up rock and roll songs of the decade. Pocket...was a sure fire party starter with just about any crowd.

Three years later, The Spin Doctors roll out the follow up to this kick ass joint and....

They trot out "Turn It Upside Down" which was frankly a mess. Allmusic kindly calls it "a stillborn album that shows everything that could go wrong when a jam band decided to plunge headfirst into the mainstream." and that was amongst the nicer things said about it at the time of it's release. "Cleopatra's Cat" had what was the closest simile to a catchy/hooky thing going for it and other than that it was simply a feeble stab at crossing over to jam band status. Blech. While I generally try to stay away from the toilet humor here on this up market blog ("Ha" he says to himself derisively) I can't get the phrase "a real turd in the punch bowl" out of my head while contemplating my thoughts on this follow up.

Sadly, as mentioned, this was a knife in the heart of The Spin Doctors from which they have never recovered. They did put out several more albums but they were nothing but an extended death rattle.

On the plus side, I can throw on Pocket Full Of Kryptonite and shake what the good Lord gave me until the memory of the second album is no more. The good news is that it rarely takes more than the first few bars of "Jimmy Olsen's Blues" to make it all right once again.