January 30, 2013 by NowhereButPop
I’m a sucker for very few things in this life: the Yankees, twix bars, brunettes, Batman Forever, and double albums. That’s pretty much it. I know I’m blowing smoke for no reason, but I love double albums. In fact most of my favorite albums are double albums: Physical Graffiti, The Wall, Quadrophenia, and Use Your Illusion I and II, just to name a few. I’m just so intrigued by the prospect of a double album, which may or may not be a manifestation of my own impatience to hear twice as much music. But the way I see it, if it takes a band more than two years to make a new album, I should be rewarded for my patience and commitment to continually buying their albums, with twice as much music. A wait that produces enough music to occupy more than an hour and a half of my time warrants the need to release said material (granted it’s good material and not filler) to show fans the full extent of the hiatus between albums.
As much as I love double albums, I’m starting to believe that there is a curse on releasing a double album. Some of the greatest bands that ever lived seem to uphold this theory. The Doscas Theorem stipulates that a major band that puts out a double album will suffer one of two fates: either the double album will fail, or it will be a massive success that will cost them their careers. Examples below.
Led Zeppelin created the greatest rock album of all time in 1975’s Physical Graffiti. That’s my opinion, but in this case my opinion happens to be a moral and objective truth. Physical Graffiti was also the last great album produced by the band. Their last two albums, Presence and In Through the Out Door, were underwhelming in the case of the former, and mediocre in the case of the latter. Now some of this was caused by outside circumstance, like a misplaced car accident, and an untimely death, but it all came off the heels of the wildly successful Physical Graffiti, and album that sold over 15 million copies. It was their creative zenith which marked the end of the party for the band, as five years later the band would disband after John Bonham’s death.
Hot off the heels of the masterpiece that was Rumours, guitarist Lindsey Buckingham decided it would be best if he took the creative reins for their next album and what resulted was a sub-par album that killed their careers. The bastard child of Buckingham’s creative, also known as Tusk was a bust, plain and simple. Everyone I know whose heard the album from start to finish still scratches their head with vexation over what they just listened to. Because Tusk was such a letdown Fleetwood Mac would only muster one more #1 hit album, as it had alienated a large portion of their fan base with what’s been described as “stupid marching band music”.
Quite possibly the purest of the alternative bands of the 90s, the Smashing Pumpkins had three great albums. Their first two Gish and Siamese Dream are alt-rock classics and their third album Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness was the little double album that could. Defying expectations the album went to #1 for two weeks. For a time they were the biggest rock band on the planet. But it was time to pay the devil his due apparently. After the successful tour, Grammy award, countless VMAs, and the cover of Rolling Stone, drug addiction forced drummer Jimmy Chamberlain out of the band. His replacement….a drum machine. I needn’t elucidate further.
Guns N Roses
So I typed in “bad double albums” on Google, and four of the top ten searches have to do with Use Your Illusion. This makes me angry. Use Your Illusion I and II are great albums, this isn’t just the ranting of a mad man. They are incredibly nuanced albums that still garner rave reviews and have sold about 10 million copies each. People consider it a bust though. It’s a bust in the exact same way that Chris Webber can be considered a bust. Both were great when they first arrived on the scene but hindsight tells us that they weren’t as great as they should have been. Chris Webber tried too hard to be a superstar, and Use Your Illusion was too much and too long for most people to handle, which has lead to the misconception that it is an album rife with filler. Use Your Illusion appeals to both aspects of the Doscas Theorem in that it both ruined the career of the band, but at the same time was an unheralded success that would eventually catch up to them. Because of the two and a half year long tour they didn’t have time to record new material and instead put out a shitty punk rock cover album that proved to be the dying gasps of the only version of the band that ever mattered.
I’m gonna be cheap on this one and use Lifehouse the failed double album/rock opera as the example for the who instead of Tommy or Quadrophenia. As I’m sure I’ve mentioned before the failure of Lifehouse to ever even be materialized is what drove Pete Townshend insane. Lifehouse failed because it had no other choice. There was no way for it to be live, and its death weighted heavily on the Townshend for the rest of the band’s career. He put so much effort and thought into it that for it to be see the light of day was a catastrophe. Who’s Next was born from the ashes of Lifehouse, but even if Lifehouse had been released in the summer of ’71 as anticipated it still would have failed. It was a silly and abstract concept that would have been ignored or worse misunderstood by everyone. Having never met Townshend, I’m sure he’d rather have it die than be misconstrued. And it did die, it just so happened to bring the rest of the band with it.
Speakerboxxx/Love Below was the last hot album produced. It was the last album that EVERYBODY had. No matter what kind of music you listened to, you owned a copy of Speakerboxxx/Love Below. Did you also know that it’s been a whole decade since the duo put out another real album (Idlewild is not a real album). Apparently Andre 3000 is more interested in Gillette commercials than making another album. The irony being that on multiple tracks the band references the multitude of breakup rumors that plagued the band during the creation of the double album. It seems there was more to the rumors than we thought way back in 2003.
Double albums, are for some reason very polarizing. Some say The Wall is a failure, while others think that History is the greatest Michael Jackson album of all time. Without getting into further detail, know that there are a ton of other albums that adhere to the Doscas Theorem: Sign o the Times, Stadium Arcadium, Wu Tang Forever, and Rattle and Hum just to name a few. Regardless of your stance on double albums, there’s just something about them that automatically makes them more interesting and intriguing then single LP’s. But, like I said, I’m a sucker for double albums.