Breakthrough Albums That Never Were

I’m interested in statement albums where the artist was poised to breakthrough but fell flat, sending them into either critical or commercial obscurity. I’m especially interested in what we think the reasons are (assuming the album wasn’t just shit, although I’m interested in that too).

The thing that made me think of this:

I just watched a short documentary on Paul Westerberg’s big solo statement following the demise of The Replacements, Suicaine Gratification. It’s an album I’ve always really loved - and one that had serious money behind it, but it didn’t do what it was supposed to and seems to be the reason Westerberg basically retreated from music into no-stakes lofi cuts.

The doc made clear that people were still processing the end of The Replacements, and were perhaps made uncomfortable by Paul’s new sincerity or whatever. It’s tempting to imagine an alternate reality where he became a solo star but I think he was always too real (or too instinctive) for that - Springsteen, as one example, has always been upfront about building mythology around himself and thinking very hard about where his listeners are in their journey with him (the optimism of BTR into the angst of DOTEOT to the grandiose statement of The River then the minimal one of Nebraska). I can’t imagine Paul ever thinking in those terms - and perhaps that’s why, without a band (which is its own mythology), he just wasn’t an intriguing subject to the masses.

3 Likes

Doesn’t exactly work, but I remember the nme’s review of the debut twang album essentially being an apology for pushing them so much.

4 Likes

Imagine if Antenna by Cave In was a huge success

16 Likes

Everything Picture by Ultrasound

5 Likes

Candy Apple Grey (Husker Du), Major label (Warners), promotional videos, decent promotional campaign at the time (fly posters, etc), tour. Toned down in style but still fantastic. It should have crossed them over but it didn’t, perhaps understandable as people went for REM instead, not a million miles away in style.

7 Likes

Never felt The Long Blondes got as big as they deserved, the 1st album was critically really well recieved but, didn’t seem to translate to them playing Brixton Academy that everyone though they would.

5 Likes

We were exploding anyway should have pushed 65daysofstatic out of post rock obscurity but it didn’t seem to do much :confused:

8 Likes

Not sure if it fits the bill but what about Dry the River? Toured relentlessly, played every festival going in the run up to the debut coming out and seemed to have a big record company push behind them and a decent enough buzz around them, were great live and then the debut came out and it felt like it just all fell away a bit and 3 years and one more album later they called it a day.

7 Likes

Agree with this - was sure this would push them massive but 🤷

2 Likes

This year’s car seat headrest

5 Likes

Because it was shit

13 Likes

That’s a very good shout but, I suppose at the same time you could pick a fair few albums this year that are in that boat. Even if it wasn’t brilliant.

Think his more than most because it had been so long since his last album (of new music) and so the hype had built up over a long period, and it had a big marketing push behind it pre-covid, and everyone forgot about it pretty much immediately

There are a fair few albums from the whole of March that I have basically deleted from my mind as I descended into anxiety. Donald Glover released an album that nobody talks about. Have to go and listen to them at some pount.

I don’t think the mask helped with Car Seat Headrest you’d get rid of that and the Images ASAP.

1 Like

I don’t think the abysmally shit Car Seat Headrest name helped Car Seat Headrest.

9 Likes

Reckon it was mainly making an album that was much worse than his previous stuff that hurt him

3 Likes

It doesn’t matter how good any of the albums are to me. Can’t get past that name.

CSH album certainly isn’t a classic but it’s worth it for There Must Be More Than Blood…an absolute beaut of a song.

5 Likes

Great example, and interesting in the sense that even in the run up he was proudly claiming it would divide his audience. I thought it really stunk and that the mask thing was embarrassing, but confoundingly everything I read from him suggests it was an intentional swerve. Not an un-Paul Westerberg move I suppose (The Replacements named their album Let It Be on a dare, saying they’d take the name of whatever the next song on the radio was while in a car with their manager).

It’s the kind of thing that could set him up for a great album no one’s expecting, or be something he bitterly regrets in ten years.