The Case Against Change: Five Acts Whose Sound Evolved for the Worse
If you're one of the many Muse fans around the world or you checked out Nathan's excellent post last week, then you've probably seen the teaser the band put out for their new album, The 2nd Law. To say it's been controversial with a certain segment of their fanbase is putting it lightly. Some people are really upset about the dubstep thing.
That 30 seconds out of context from the rest of the album would cause such a stir highlights one of the many issues that face a band when they hit the studio: some people hate change.
When asked, most music fans would say that they want their favorite artists to evolve but in reality it's rarely that simple. Even shifts that are relatively small in the grand scheme of things, such as Metallica's evolution from thrash to mainstream metal to Southern metal, are met with a vocal minority eager to cry that the band is finished.
While we won't know the 2nd Law's fate until September, music history provides us with multiple examples of bands and artists that changed up their style up, sometimes for good and sometimes for bad, sometimes to the love of millions and sometimes to thousands of returned records. Here are five case studies in what happens when artists flip the script on their sound.
1. Bad Religion heads Into the Unknown: Bad Religion's debut album How Could Hell Be Any Worse hits the ground running from its first second with a charge of guitar, bass, and drums. Over the next 30 minutes and 14 songs it rarely lets up, unleashing a straight forward punk-rock sound that formed the foundation of the band that we still love 30 years later.
It's a sound that may be a bit more refined and better produced, but listen to their debut album and then listen to 2010's The Dissent of Man and you know it's the same band.
A curious thing happened in 1983, something the band has spent the next three decades trying to sweep under the rug. That year they released Into the Unknown, a strange combination of progressive rock, punk production, and Greg Graffin's distinct vocals.
It may start out with a guitar, but before long you're treated to synth that sounds like something out of a bad '80s training montage. Their fans hated it and the band quickly went back to their punk sound. As of this writing Into the Unknown has never seen a CD release and likely never will.
2. Motley Crüe searches for their place in Generation Swine: They are one of the bands that defined that '80s hair-metal sound that is both loved and mocked to this very day. The Crüe were '80s excess personified: The hard partying, the giant hair, the catchy hooks. Then grunge rock showed up, the band experienced some personal turmoil, and it seemed like they would follow their fellow hair-metal brethren into the afterlife.
In '97, they realized that there was more money to be made together than apart and the band reunited to release Generation Swine. To their credit the band decided to release a more modern sounding record rather than put out another Dr. Feelgood. Unfortunately, the result was less than stellar.
Generation Swine sounds like everything going on in modern rock at the time without understanding of any of it. The hooks might be there, but the songs are darker, the electronics are out of place, and it sounds like a band trying too hard to be relevant.
The band blames the commercial failure of the record on their label, but compare Generation Swine to Saints of Los Angeles and ask yourself if it was the label or the music.