Jumping The Shark: Music Edition

Jumping the musical shark” is a colloquialism used by music critics and fans to denote that point in a rock band’s history where they “lose the plot” and veer off into ridiculous or unsavory directions, undergoing too many stylistic changes to retain their original appeal. Bands that have “jumped the musical shark” are typically deemed to have passed their expiration date, gone sour as milk with the Linbergh baby on the carton, a noticeable and severe decline in the band’s overall quality.

Every band has it’s day and every band has it’s moment where it releases an album that disappoints it’s longtime fans and sends said band directly into the abyss. I submit that every band will make a fatal misstep that sends them off in a terrible and tuneless direction. Some find their way back to critical, if not commercial, acclaim. Most just go away, but some poor delusional bastards keep plodding on, ultimately diluting or even destroying their once proud discography.

Like the Rolling Stones.

Many fans think the Stones bit it when they released Emotional Rescue back in 1980, but I think they had one more good album left in ‘em with Tattoo You (leftovers, but quality leftovers). After that they released the terrible Undercover, Jagger danced in the street with David Bowie and…that was it. I, and thousands stopped buying new product.

But some actually do succeed and make that rare comeback album. Take Nick Lowe and his 2007 album, “At My Age”. Most wayward fans had given up after 1983’s sub-par Abominable Showman. Nick rebounded and released some very fine albums after that but it wasn’t until “At My Age” that he started to get some serious ink again. Who knows why that album spoke to so many (myself included), but it did. Good for him, he deserved it.

There are some other examples of notable comebacks but they are few and far between. Most bands fizzle out after such a blow to their ego (and pocketbooks) and never recover.

Here’s my take on some bands and the albums that killed them, commercially and critically.

Queen, Hot Space: The album where the disco infatuations of Freddie Mercury and bassist John Deacon take control. The faux funk of Body Language, Back Chat and Staying Power almost single-handedly destroy the band’s prior achievements. They would never recover their popularity in America. The rest of the world forgave them, though.

What about you? What albums by your (once) favorite bands did you find disappointing? Did you stick with them? If so, for how long and what was the album that made you give up?

An even better question might be: Are there any bands that you think have never released a sub-standard album?

Primal Scream, Give Out But Don’t Give Up: After the genre defining and magnificent Screamadelica, the boys released this album of sub-par Black Crowes tunes. They redeemed themselves with the next three albums, but saw fit to test their fans with an even worse, totally embarrassing Riot City Blues in 2006. Fool me once…

Genesis, And Then There Were Three: This is the moment where the second phase, the Phil Collins phase, of Genesis really began. Follow You Follow Me was the beginning of their AOR soft rock phase and sounded the death knell for millions of prog fans everywhere. Some say this was a good thing, me, well…

The Jam, The Gift: An uneven album with tons of white boy soul overindulgences. You could almost call this a demo version of the first Style Council album. The Jam’s punk swagger was gone, replaced by pasty and stale muzak. Still, Weller couldn’t help but pen at least one classic in the excellent Ghosts. He would, of course, rebound in spectacular fashion, but it took him (and his fans) quite a while to believe that he still had some vitality left in him.