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Top 5 Stride-Hitting Sophomore Albums

February 1, 2014

After a month of January debuts, it’s time to move on…to follow-up February!
A look at bands that suffered a sophomore slump, artists that took it to the next level, or others that maintained the consistent level of excellence set by their debut.

Another Top 5 was inevitable.

However, this list is not a ‘Best 5 Sophomore Albums.’  Instead, I’m looking at second albums that were a big step forward from each artist’s rookie release.  The first albums weren’t necessarily awful; more so cases where the first album was one small step for a band, the second was one giant leap for bands of their kind!

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5. Stone Temple Pilots – Purple (1994)
Core has some great moments but STP hit it out of the park with this one (shockingly, not included on the 1001 list).  If there was any doubt of its credentials for this top 5 list, check out the outstanding lounge act secret track with the lyric “the second album, 12 Gracious Melodies.”

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4. Beastie Boys – Paul’s Boutique (1989)
Yes, Licensed to Ill (1986) is fun, not many fans would claim otherwise.  Fewer still would argue it so much as holds a candle to its sequel.

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3. The Tragically Hip – Up To Here (1989)
1989, good year for wine?  It was a great year for second albums.  25 years later, Blow at High Dough, 38 Years Old, and cover band staple New Orleans is Sinking still bring the house down at live shows.

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2. Sloan – Twice Removed (1994)
Was once acknowledged as the best Canadian album of all time.  My only disagreement?  The verb tense of that statement.

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1. Radiohead – The Bends (1995)
I hated the song Creep when it first came out.  Chords?  Too simple.  Lyrics?  Too much self-loathing.  I’ve of course since converted but I didn’t get around to the decent, if unspectacular, Pablo Honey (1993) until after its follow-up was released.  There was no hating (or hatin’) here: I was (and quite frankly, still am) mesmerized by this album.  #1 on this list, a mainstay on my top 10 overall.

I’m realizing I have a bit of a recency bias – what did I miss pre-’89?  Or during/post-’89 for that matter?!

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15 Comments
  1. I am glad you put the Bends in at numero uno. Pablo Honey is good, but definitely overrated and not as lovable as the rest of their catalog.

    • Thank you sir – I flip between The Bends & OK Computer as my favourite in the discography. I guess the good news is there’s no wrong answer!

  2. Can’t argue with anything here. I’m really glad to see Paul’s Boutique on this list. It’s really special.

    • And thank you for being the official judge of the legitimacy of the ‘second’ albums by Sloan/TTH!

      I remember we discussed Paul’s Boutique at one point and you had a great line about how those albums can be intimidating in a way – you wanted to be as blown away as everyone else was. I know I’ll be running into a bunch of ‘beloved classics’ on the list that I haven’t heard yet, hopefully I’ll see the magic that others do.

      That’s excellent to hear you were a big fan of Paul’s Boutique after all!

      • To hear it today wasn’t as intimidating as it would have been to hear it in ’88. The extensive sampling and whatnot is something we’re a lot more used to, today. So I was just able to flat-out enjoy it and I did!

      • Extensive is right, a ‘name that sample’ game would be a challenge to get everything.

      • Oh I wouldn’t even get 10% of them. It really is a great record, and to think they did all that in 88 without the computers we have now.

      • That’s what I have to remember when I listen to ‘Revolution 9’ – nowadays on a computer? Easy to make a collage like that. In ’68? From what I gather, it was quite a process with all those tape loops!

      • Yeah and even something as straightforward as the first Boston album took hours and hours of manual tape editing. Actually cutting master tapes and splicing them. Tom Scholz from Boston was fearless about cutting his master tapes but he was also a master at it. When mixing, he had to manually control the speeds of the tape machines by applying pressure to the tape with his thumb!

  3. Hmmm……. Great list, however I’m thinkin’ that The Guess Who’s American Woman is about as good as it gets for the greatest Canadian rock album.

    • It was a Chart Magazine 1996 countdown that placed Sloan at #1 (I think Joni Mitchell/Neil Young rounded out the top 3).

      But I think American Woman, the song, might have been the #1 Canadian song from that same magazine!

  4. Okay, embarassingly enough, *I* am not as versed in Twice Removed as I should be. ( and I asterix “I” because I have seen them about 4 times live – 3 x in London, ON and once at Kee to Bala in Muskoka). I am in love with Smeared, not as hearted in One Chord to Another, and Navy Blues is the bomb. Twice Removed, however, was somehow passed over. I know Coax Me and others, but srsly, somehow I just completely passed on buying/owning/listening to obsessively their second album.

    Totally agree with Up To Here, BTW.

    • Smeared has 500 Up, which was the first Sloan tune I heard, so it will always have a special place. And agreed about Navy Blues, especially the first half!

      Sloan is a group my wonderful wife & I will listen to together and of all the albums I’d put on, I think she’d pick most of the rest of the catalogue over Twice Removed. So no worries about not being over-informed about it!

      For me, it’s such a perfect album – they have bigger and better singles on other records but as a package, I find it’s tough to beat.

      I quite enjoy Chris Murphy’s banter live, I think I’ve seen them 3 times now so you’re one ahead of me!

  5. I prefer Core to Purple, but that’s just personal taste. Good article.

    • My thanks! Core might have a few of my favourite STP tunes, I really enjoyed seeing Weiland perform ‘sex type thing’ when I saw him playing with Velvet Revolver

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