10 Rock Bands That Saved Their Careers With One Album

Rock and roll has never been known to be the most stable of occupations. Even though it might be fun to make your way to the top, the pop world is unpredictable, and you can find yourself going back down to the bottom of the barrel in no time at all. It can take only a few months for people to forget about you, but it can also take just one project to turn things around.

Because before these albums, these artists were far from their peak. For the past few releases prior to these albums, these bands were either on their last legs or going through some of the rougher parts of their career. This was definitely considered a slump era for them, until these albums turned things around. Now does that mean all of these albums are perfect? No. In fact, there are a lot of albums on here that are far below the usual standards that these bands were known for.

What gave them the edge though was their commitment to the band, with everyone giving as much as they could to the project and no longer trying to phone it on or rest on their laurels. They had spent enough time in the doldrums, and this was the moment where they reminded us why we considered them legends back in their prime.

10. Foo Fighters – Foo Fighters

If you were to look at the state of rock in 1994, it would be safe to say that you wouldn’t have heard from any other members of Nirvana these days. Kurt Cobain’s death was practically a shroud around the entire alternative scene, and there was no reasonable way for Krist Novoselic and Dave Grohl to continue on without him. Though Krist found another life in the world of politics, Dave actually managed to get up and starting walking again just from making a few demos in his spare time.

Because the Foo Fighters’ debut record is just that, made up of a bunch of tracks that Dave Grohl was working on to get him out of his grief and depression. Playing most of the instruments himself, Dave never thought that it would be an actual band or anything, just recording some of his favorite songs that he wrote and even having the chance to become Tom Petty’s drummer at the time. Dave decided to take the gamble with his own band though, and this was the skeleton of what he would become.

While the rest of the band aren’t accounted for yet, the core sound of the Foos is already there, just with a bit of a grunge tinge to it. Though you can hear memories of the In Utero days on a song like X-Static, the more bombastic heaviness like I’ll Stick Around wasn’t nearly as depressing as what had come before. Fans needed to start moving on, and this one gave us a sign that rock could still thrive even with the voice of a generation gone.

9. Everything Will Be Alright In the End – Weezer

Ever since the dawn of the ’00s, hearing about a new Weezer record has always been a mixed bag for fans. For every time that they’ve made something new and adventurous like on Maladroit, there’s always something like Make Believe that has sent fans into a frenzy. After one disappointment after another though, Weezer decided to stop chasing the trends and actually focus on their fans for a little while.

Because the late ’00s were not a good time to be a Weezer fan, with albums like Raditude focusing on pop hooks and falling flat on their faces on nearly every single song. They needed to remind us that they could still deliver, and Everything Will Be Alright In the End is an album for the fans from skin to core. Going through every single track, Weezer almost seem to be apologizing to their fans for going a bit too far in the past few years, with Back to the Shack being the ethos of getting back to basics.

Along with the more traditional Weezer sound from the Blue Album, the more experimental tracks on this record are where things really shine, like Rivers Cuomo’s traditional heartbreak songs getting a different point of view on the song Go Away or the amazing guitar duel that ends the album on the Futurescope Trilogy. There were mistakes to come even after this album, but it was just nice to know that the same band that wrote In the Garage back in the day were in there somewhere.

8. 5150 – Van Halen

For some Van Halen purists, the minute that the band took a sharp decline in quality was the moment that David Lee Roth left the group. Roth had always been the good time spirit of the band, and half of the show pretty much lived and died on the kind of charisma he could bring across. Him leaving after the album 1984 should have been a death blow to any other band, but Van Halen wasn’t built that way.

Though drafting in Sammy Hagar may have been a bit of an odd choice at the time, he was more than up to the challenge of filling Roth’s shoes on 5150. Coming off of an album like 1984, this was definitely a different look for the band, doubling down on the keyboard sounds of the last record with a singer that was not nearly as gruff as Dave’s voice. Then again, having someone like Sammy in the band was actually a blessing in disguise, having a much broader range than Roth that was much more suited to the musical side of what Eddie brought to the table.

Since Hagar also had a hand in the style and structure of the songs, Van Hagar practically sounds like its own unique project for most of this record, from making a keyboard actually sound badass on Why Can’t This Be Love to finding out that Van Halen can perform ballads on Love Walks In. You can call this version of the group a dad band all you want, but if the middle aged era of rock sounds this kickass, it’s more than worth the trade.

7. Suffer – Bad Religion

Anyone who’s going through Bad Religion’s back catalog chronologically is definitely going to be in for a rough ride in the early days of the band. Though their debut might be one of the greatest debut records in the history of punk, their experimentation with prog on Into the Unknown was enough to kill any band, with half of them quitting in protest and fans not being receptive to the shift either. When everyone came back on board though, it felt like we were watching them climb the mountain all over again on Suffer.

Standing at just less than a half hour, this is the proper introduction to Bad Religion that we needed, as Greg Graffin seethes with anger with pointed social commentary throughout every single song. All of those keyboards are out the window this time around, as Brett Burewitz dusts off his electric guitar and crafts riffs that are designed to go for the throat on songs like You Are the Government.

Going back and listening to those first records, it almost feels like the prototype for what Bad Religion was going to be. This was the record that really capitalized on that promise though, giving us the same energy as hardcore punk with a close attention to melody that no one else was working with at the time. Into the Unknown may have been of the biggest sophomore slumps in recorded history, but the songs on Suffer are good enough to practically wipe the taste of prog rock out of everyone’s mouth.

6. Black Gives Way to Blue – Alice in Chains

There was never really a point in Alice in Chains continuing on past 1996. After going on a handful of shows to tour for their self titled record, it was clear that Layne Staley was going to lose his battle with heroin addiction, bringing the glory days of the band to a close. The final nail in the coffin would have probably been the day that Layne passed away, but something funny happened when the band decided to come together one last time.

Bringing in William DuVall from the band Comes With the Fall to fill out Layne’s parts, songs started to be written on the road, which planted the seeds for possibly making that big step to making another album. Though Black Gives Way to Blue is still kickass from start to finish, you can still feel Layne’s loss on the record, starting from the first lines in All Secrets Known where Jerry Cantrell says that there’s no going back. This isn’t a record for moping though, and the rest of the band came to prove they could still hold their own, balancing the heavy stuff like Check My Brain with more mellow acoustic cuts like When the Sun Rose Again.

And DuVall is far more than just a hired hand on this record, blending with Jerry just like Layne did when he needs to while also serving up some real power behind his voice on songs like Last of My Kind. The first iteration of Alice ended with a lot of pain, and this was the record where we saw the veterans of the band still standing.

5. Band on the Run – Paul McCartney and Wings

For a little while, it actually looked like Paul McCartney was going to become the joke of the post-Beatles solo careers. Yeah, the man who had written Yesterday and Let It Be was now starting to be looked at as passe by the critics, as his former bandmates George Harrison and John Lennon blew past him on the charts with songs like Imagine and My Sweet Lord. Critics were itching to call Macca a relic of the ’60s, and Band on the Run shut them all up in just one go.

Which is strange because every single thing pointed to this album going wrong. As the band were set to record in Nigeria, half of the members announced they were quitting before even getting on the plane, and Paul even had a bronchial spasm and was robbed at knifepoint during the recording of the record. Despite all of the chaos surrounding it, Band on the Run might be the culmination of everything that made Wings special, as Paul delivers one great rocker after another, from the piano led bombast of 1985 or giving us echoes of Abbey Road with his suite of songs on the title track.

From this point on, the rest of Wing’s discography put Macca back on top again, becoming one of the greatest touring acts of the ’70s before Paul decided to stick with his solo career as he entered the ’80s. The whole world seemed to be waiting to turn on McCartney, but it’s that trademark optimism of his that carried him through. He couldn’t just play around in the rock field…he could own the entire genre if he wanted to.

4. Death Magnetic – Metallica

The entire concept behind the album St. Anger should have probably killed Metallica. After the documentary Some Kind of Monster didn’t exactly paint the band members in the greatest light, the accompanying album was the stuff of heavy metal nightmares, sporting the worst production job on any album and the band mainly phoning it in just to make sure that they had something that could keep them in the cultural conversation. Any album that notorious should have put them in the past tense, but we got a full blown metal resurrection around 2008.

Though Death Magnetic does have more than a few production blemishes from the loudness wars, this was the return to form that most metal fans had been waiting on since before the Black Album. Almost picking up exactly where And Justice For All left off all those years ago, this is the kind of Metallica that most fans were hoping for, sporting songs that were a lot more episodic in nature and could stand alongside some of their best work, with The Day That Never Comes being in the conversation for one of the greatest ballads they have ever made.

Aside from just the sound of the record, you can also hear James Hetfield going for something a lot more visceral with his lyrics, getting in on different wordplay on tracks like All Nightmare Long and having a grip on his own mortality for tracks like That Was Just Your Life or My Apocalypse. We only have so much time on this Earth, and Metallica made damn sure that they weren’t going to leave us with St. Anger as their final statement.

3. American Idiot – Green Day

In the early ’00s, Green Day were facing the one thing that all pop punk bands have to deal with at some point: growing up. As much as their signature bratty angst may have boded well back in the days of Dookie, hearing them go for classic rock territory on albums like Warning left a lot of their core audience a bit cold. Billie Joe wanted to return to form, only for the tapes to go missing right as they were starting to mix it.

After initially having the idea for a punkier record titled Cigarettes and Valentines, the band scrapped it once the tapes went missing and decided to focus on something a lot more bombastic, with Billie taking inspiration from the modern political climate in ’00s climate. In an era when most artists were too scared to tackle George Bush’s questionable practices, Green Day came out with all guns blazing on American Idiot, creating a pseudo concept record that followed the lives of kids trying to make sense of the world that they’re being brought up in.

For as polarizing as this sounds like on paper, the gamble turned into one of Green Day’s biggest successes of their career, almost eclipsing Dookie in terms of cultural relevance and giving them even more timeless songs like the title track and Boulevard of Broken Dreams. Just because you’ve grown up doesn’t mean you don’t still have something to say, and Green Day had the tunes that could get into any jaded punk’s heart on here.

2. 2112 – Rush

Even when prog rock was starting to hit its stride in the ’70s, Rush was one of the few acts that were almost too complex for their own good. As the album Fly By Night put them in the conversation of great up and coming bands, their habit of making long stretched out songs led to slow record sales and their label cracking down on writing more accessible material. It was time to compromise, and that was the word that Neil Peart couldn’t deal with when going in to make 2112.

Almost as a response to the label wanting to water down their sound, Rush came through with another rock odyssey, with the first taste being just one song tackling the idea of a stern ruling class wanting to stifle creativity. Despite basically trash talking their label right to their faces on the first song, most fans managed to look past the drama and see the band underneath, almost being in awe at how many hooks could be fit into just one song.

Though there weren’t many radio stations that were willing to play this record on the radio or anything, this was the moment where Rush started to get a huge boost in sales, as people started relating to the underdog story behind the lyrics and commending the band to sticking to their guns when everyone was telling them no. Compared to the usual grand epics that other prog rock bands were making at the time, hearing this kind of success story from Rush feels closer to punk in aesthetic than it does with progressive music.

1. Californication – Red Hot Chili Peppers

Almost half of the reason why The Red Hot Chili Peppers are here today is based on coming back from adversity. Before they had even hit the big time, they had already gone through Anthony Kiedis’ drug problems getting out of control and even losing beloved guitarist Hillel Slovak before they had even hit the big time. Though they were finally starting to see some success at the start of the ’90s, the good times seemed to hit a brick wall once John Frusciante left the band.

As the band soldiered on with Dave Navarro for One Hot Minute, it was clear that the band was not in a good headspace, with most of them relapsing on hard drugs while trying to get the record done. Things seemed to go dark for a few years, until John Frusciante got clean and met with Kiedis saying that he wanted to come back to the band. It wasn’t going to be an easy journey, but they actually managed to go the distance on Californication.

Approaching the guitar in a much different way, having Frusciante back gave the band a shot in the arm, having their sessions morph into rock songs that were a lot prettier than normal, even abandoning their traditional formula altogether on tracks like Around the World and the title track. For all of the hardships that went with this record, you don’t listen to this record and feel that pain. If anything, this is what the Peppers sound like when they are finally at peace.

 

 

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