The Best One-Album Bands Of All-Time!


The La's

Lee Mavers seems to be a man plagued by his own quest for unattainable perfection. Knowing just how crippling this obsession is for him, we music fans should be thankful he managed to release any album at all. The La’s is a perfect blast of melodic pop that owes a lot to the Beatles, the Byrds and the Kinks, featuring a fistful of great songs, the least of which is the band’s best-known track, “There She Goes”.

For a band that made only one album, the mountain of bootlegs that have surfaced over the years reveal a band that recorded the same album with a number of producers –Mike Hedges, John Leckie and Bob Andrews, to name but a few - none were able to accurately capture the sounds Mavers heard in his head. Even the album that was released, produced mostly by Steve Lillywhite, was quickly disowned by the band.


David & David

There are few albums that so wonderfully - and accurately – capture the quiet desperation and spiritual bankruptcy of ‘80s Los Angeles as did David + David's Boomtown. Singer/songwriter David Baerwald’s teaming with multi-instrumentalist David Ricketts was a stroke of genius, as Ricketts was capable of building sonic landscapes to match the already cinematic quality of Baerwald’s lyrics.

The end result is an album that finds ugliness in beauty, and beauty in ugliness, painting a vivid image of the same noveau riche depravity of L.A. high life that Brett Easton Ellis explored in “Less Than Zero” and “American Psycho”.

While it is incredibly sad that the duo soon broke-up after the release of “Boomtown”, they did manage to create in one album what most artists spend an entire career trying to capture.


Sex Pistols

While the sole studio album by the Pistols remains a widely revered punk classic some 35 years after its release, Never Mind The Bollocks is a testament to the disposability of the punk movement, where all bands should make only one album and break-up immediately afterwards. The Pistols themselves did just that, albeit only after turning into a horrid caricature of themselves within months of releasing one of the greatest rock records ever made.

Had they continued recording, they’d have almost certainly irreparably tarnished their own legacy like so many other punk bands…The Damned, anyone? The Pistols’ implosion thus freed Johnny Rotten to almost singlehandedly create the post-punk template with his next band, Public Image Ltd.


Rockpile

For pub rock veterans Dave Edmunds and Nick Lowe, the ‘80s were an unexpectedly heady time as the duo found themselves pioneers of the British New Wave. Lowe’s entry was as staff producer for Stiff Records and for producing Elvis Costello’s first five records while Edmunds was savvy enough to turn production credits for the likes of The Flamin’ Groovies, Brinsley Schwarz, and Ducks Deluxe into a collaboration with Lowe that would breathe new life into his career on all fronts. While Edmunds, Lowe, Billy Bremmer, and Terry Williams would record four albums together, only one was released under the Rockpile name. Seconds of Pleasure is by far the best, and most focused album of the four is only fitting. The album is a crackling, live-in-the-studio effort driven by great song selection and a love for the material that is infectious. It remains a creative high point for all involved and an album that sounds just as fresh and inspired as it did when it came out.


The Grays

The Grays was an interesting experiment – a band comprised of four talented singer/songwriters tired of playing in bands – that yielded one brilliantly flawed album (Ro Sham Bo) that is made all the more intriguing by the extreme stylistic mood swings that seem to take place from song to song, detailing the disparate personalities and musical directions of its four members. At times, even the best songs seem overloaded with ambitious arrangements, intricate guitar parts, and multi-layered harmonies, as if all four seem madly determined to contribute to each track.

While Jon Brion seems to have enjoyed the most success post-Grays, Jason Falkner, Buddy Judge, and Dan McCarroll have made great albums on their own and with the likes of Aimee Mann, Michael Penn, and Sheryl Crow, to name but a few.


Blind Faith

Blind Faith were one of rock’s first super-groups and, as a result, saddled with an immense level of pressure to meet unrealistic expectations. Steve Winwood, Eric Clapton, and Ginger Baker may have been eager to leave their pasts in Traffic and Cream behind, but it wasn’t long before the band was essentially playing their greatest hits to sold-out arenas rather than trying to focus on defining their own sound.

Despite a very accomplished and jam-oriented debut effort, the band was never able to fully escape the shadow of their past successes. In hindsight, Blind Faith is an album that bristles with possibilities that never quite materialized, much like the decade in which the album was released.


Derek & The Dominos

Within weeks of leaving Blind Faith, Eric Clapton formed the equally short-lived Derek & The Dominoes with Bobby Whitlock (a Stax Record session musician), Carl Radle (who’d worked with Clapton in Delaney and Bonnie and Friends), and Jim Gordon (an in-demand L.A. session drummer). Of course, the band’s only album, Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs, remains a highlight of Clapton’s career due to the success of the album’s title track, “Layla”.

Aside from boasting some of the best songs of Clapton’s career, what makes the album truly noteworthy is the inclusion of Duane Allman on 11 of the 14 songs. Allman’s guitar playing seems to raise Clapton’s game considerably, resulting in one of the most inspired periods of Clapton’s career.


Jeff Buckley

Okay, not a band, per se, but definitely worth including on such a list.  While a number of albums have seen the light of day since his tragic death, Grace is the only full-length album Buckley recorded during his life.  The album is both embryonic - showing an artist taking his first bold steps toward coming into his own as both a singer and a writer - and fully-developed, hinting at the greatness Buckley might have accomplished had he lived.

His ability to wrap his voice around one heart-wrenching tale of longing and despair after another sets the tone for an album loaded with vulnerability, raw emotion, and poetic observations of the heart.  To recognize the impact of this one album, one need only count the number of albums to see the light of day since his passing.  Current count: 13.  Not bad for a guy whose solo career lasted a mere two years.


The Postal Service

This side project of Ben Gibbard (Death Cab For Cutie) and Jimmy Tamborello (Headset and Dntel) took its name from the manner in which the duo collaborated, trading demos through the mail, and came dangerously close to eclipsing the popularity of Gibbard's main band.

What set the Postal Service apart from Death Cab was the duo's embrace of electronic elements, not to mention sparse arrangements that allowed Gibbard's vocals to shine without having to compete within a full-band arrangement.  "Such Great Heights" became a huge hit and the album, Give Up, became the biggest selling album for Sub Pop since Nirvana's Bleach.


Heavens

On the surface, this short-lived duo may seem like Epitaph Records' version of The Postal Service, but the sole album by Alkaline Trio singer Matt Skiba and former F-Minus guitarist Josiah Steinbrick is a sterling ode to Joy Division-esque post-punk mood pop.

For Skiba, the change in musical setting seemed to release him from the expectations of the "loud & fast" punk community and allow him to explore another side of his musical talents.  Truth be told, his voice and songwriting skills are better served in such an environment, as proven on such tracks as "Heather", "Dead End Girl" and "True Hate".


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