Kings Of Leon
There can’t be too many bands that started their career with two albums so impressive. Youth And Young Manhood and Aha Shake Heartbreak were refreshing, new, exciting as hell, and original to boot. Kings of Leon became the best band on the planet. And then they weren’t anymore. Because Of The Times had a few decent tunes and then the growly rockers became boring balladeers who wrote about burning sex and self-help. And then it got worse again. Now, in 2021, they make the same song on a loop and sound more like Coldplay than Coldplay…
While we’re on the subject of Chris Martin and co, I’ll have to admit that I was a huge fan of Parachutes on release. A Rush Of Blood To The Head had its moments, too. But there was more than a rush of blood to Martin’s head as the band progressed and became the overblown, Queen wannabe nonsense we see before us today. And that’s without even talking about the beaming their songs back to earth from a satellite. Size 12 twats.
Whatever your feelings on Oasis, it should be hard to ignore that Definitely Maybe was a kick to the gut of a stale music scene and felt like a true expression of the underdog coming good. Many see their fall-off-a-cliff moment as third album Be Here Now, but there were enough small glimmers on that album to justify their existence as a band. As soon as they released Standing On The Shoulders Of Giants, a title they apparently found on the side of a £2 coin, they became a joke band. ‘Little James’ might be one of music’s most embarrassing moments. No longer were they a tribute band to The Beatles, T-Rex, and The Jam, they became a bad tribute band of a briefly exciting band called Oasis.
I still love Eminem. Yes, I haven’t really enjoyed a full album of his since 2002. Yes, there have been seven albums that I have barely listened to more than five times and I am unlikely to listen to them again. But for the for the shot in the arm he gave me with his first three albums (not including Infinite here) and for the music he introduced me to, I will always love him. But there can no doubt that he teetered on the cliff edge with The Eminem Show, and fell off it completely with the addled Relapse. He has clawed his way back up with some songs since, but he is still waving from the shore as things stand.
Probably the act on this list that has the most potential to strap on a harness and pull themselves back up the rope – but what a precipitous fall. From the rousing and inspiring Joy As An Act Of Resistance to the dull, one tone, repetition fest that was Ultra Mono.
Outkast probably had the longest run of success on this list, before they rather dramatically tipped themselves over the edge. Getting better with each album that reached something close to peak hip-hop with 2000’s Stankonia. One of my favourite albums of all time. It’s fun, it’s political, it’s lush, it’s energetic, it’s frantic, it’s beautiful. So what the fuck happened in 2003 when they released Speakerboxxx/The Love Below. Maybe they hated each other by this point, and maybe if they’d admitted that and released this as two solo albums I wouldn’t be so harsh on them. But they didn’t. And this was a double album of letdowns with only three or four songs that deserve any time in your ears.
Maybe this one should come as no surprise. Mike Skinner’s brand of music always seemed to have a shelf life. But after one of the most exciting debuts of all time in Original Pirate Material, and an equally impressive follow up in the form of concept album A Grand Don’t Come For Free, Mike firmly ran out on The Hardest Way To Make An Easy Living. He’s been searching for them ever since.
I feel a bit harsh including Arctic Monkeys here but I am running out of ideas and I am going to downgrade their fall from a cliff to a hill. But it is simply a fact that they started with one of the most dynamic and enjoyable albums I ever remember hearing and then have been always scrabbling about to find something anywhere near as good since then. I’m one of those strange folk who enjoyed Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino, so maybe the best is yet to come. But even if it does it is a totally different band now and the band that wrote and performed the debut will probably always be lost at the bottom of that hill.
Kanye has fallen off so many cliffs in his career that it seems almost pointless to include him here. As a personality, he is well and truly unrecoverable at this point. But when he released The College Dropout and Late Registration he was well and truly one of the most exciting musicians on the planet. While others may claim some of his later work is even better, it became something I couldn’t really get anything from from 808s & Heartbreak onwards. Which is pretty lucky for me really, because it coincided with him showing his true colours as music’s biggest dickcheese.
Mumford and Sons
Am I admitting to once enjoying Mumford and Sons by including them here? Yes, I suppose I am. I caught this band before they were known, supporting The Maccabees in Manchester, and their energy and instrumentation was extremely exciting. I left that room exclaiming they were going to be huge. Obviously, I was totally and utterly right and should probably be the next John Peel. What I didn’t predict that night though was that, after one decent album, they would suck up every cliché and make some of the dullest and one note music known to man. Plus they’re arseholes. Each and every one of them.
Words by Fran Slater