DO find some new influences. The Horrors’ debut ‘Strange House’ had a scrappy charm, but it was too in thrall to obscure garage rock bands. For their second album the band eased up on the goth stuff, and embraced shoegaze and krautrock (listen to a Quietus playlist of influences here. It made for a hypnotic, expansive-sounding record.
DON’T forget to bring the tunes. The Strokes’ ‘Is This It’ was almost ludicrously perfect, every song a melodic gem. Then they went and recorded ‘Room On Fire’, a weirdly charmless record that had many of us scratching our heads and wondering what had happened to the band we fell in love with.
DO work with a brilliant producer. Nirvana’s debut album ‘Bleach’ had good songs, but thanks to cheap-and-sludgy production it never really soared. Then the band signed to Geffena and hooked up with producer Butch Vig and mixer Andy Wallace for ‘Nevermind’. Together they sculpted Kurt Cobain’s melodies into huge-sounding radio anthems – a sound Cobain later (ungratefully) claimed to hate.
DON’T leave it too long. The Stone Roses’ ‘Second Coming’ is not as bad as people make out – ‘Love Spreads’ still sounds pretty immense – but it could never hope to match the expectation that had built up in the five and a half year gap since their debut. Of course, the lengthy legal battle with their original label Silvertone didn’t exactly help.
DO find a distinctive lyrical voice. Blur’s debut album ‘Leisure’ was all too easily lumped in with the baggy/shoegaze scene of the early ’90s. But during a tour of America, while listening to a lot of Kinks, Damon Albarn realised he wanted to write in a more recognisably English voice. Cue ‘Modern Life Is Rubbish’, which Alex James has called “a fucking big two fingers up to America.”
DON’T get strung out on drugs. Not many people enjoyed Dirty Pretty Things’ second album ‘Romance At Short Notice’. It’s debatable whether the band themselves remember making it, since according to Carl Barat’s autobiography they were wired on Californian meth-amphetamine almost the entire time.
DO turn the volume down. Originally Radiohead’s ‘The Bends’ was conceived as a noisy, anthemic rock record like ‘Pablo Honey’. Lacking inspiration, the band went to see Jeff Buckley in concert. His unaccompanied performance left such an impression, Thom Yorke went back to the studio and tried ‘Fake Plastic Trees’ acoustically. It worked, and suddenly the tone of the record was transformed.
DON’T completely fall apart. By the time Elastica knuckled down to record their second album ‘The Menace’, guitarist Donna Matthews and bassist Annie Holland had already quit the band. The result? A little-loved grab-bag of a record featuring contributions from Mark E Smith, Loz Hardy of Kingmaker, and some bloke from the band Linoleum.
DO ditch the cover versions. Bob Dylan’s self-titled debut album featured only two original compositions. For his second, ‘The Freewheelin’…’, he wrote all but two songs himself. A sensible move, when you’re capable of penning tracks as ridiculously good as ‘Blowin’ In The Wind’, ‘A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall’ and ‘Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right’.
DON’T completely abandon everything that made you good in the first place. Canada’s The Stills released a brilliant, Strokes-esque debut in 2003, ‘Logic Will Break Your Heart’. Then singer Greg Paquet quit, and the remaining members released a country-influenced and largely tune-free follow-up, ‘Without Feathers’. It sold terribly.
DO man up a bit. Coldplay’s first album ‘Parachutes’ was perfectly pleasant – and ‘Yellow’ was a massive hit – but it lacked guts. Thankfully, they ditched the jangliness and worked out how to write songs as streamlined and impactful as ‘Politik’ and ‘Clocks’. The result was ‘A Rush Of Blood To The Head’, and a band that looked like world-beaters, rather than students.