One album can change everything. Even after a misfire or two, all it takes is one perfect release to get an artist back on track and on the path to greatness once more. Here are 15 artists who, just when it looked like their chips were up, followed subpar, critically-slammed albums with career-reviving mega successes…
1Morrissey – ‘Your Arsenal’
Morrissey – ‘Your Arsenal’: Mozza’s best solo album? Maybe. The one before that though almost sunk the mighty Smiths man’s career, though. “Pale and pasty” was how Morrissey later described the undistinguished ‘Kill Uncle’, released in 1991. Fans had wondered after that unfocused second solo listen if he was cut out for solo life. ‘Your Arsenal’ answered the question emphatically.
2Green Day – ‘American Idiot’
Green Day – ‘American Idiot’: 2000’s ‘Warning’ hadn’t garnered the mammoth sales that Reprise had hoped for, and saw the band accused of turning their back on their punk roots. So Green Day went back to the drawing board with their most snarling political record ever, turning to disillusionment with the US government on an astonishing and ambitious rock-opera.
3Primal Scream – ‘Screamadelica’
Primal Scream – ‘Screamadelica’: Things didn’t look great for Primal Scream in 1991. They’d released ‘Sonic Flower Groove’ and ‘Primal Scream,’ which, aside from a couple of good tunes, were in danger of consigning them to the scrapheap along with a load of other baggy guitar bands. Then came this monstrous dynamo, which launched a druggy siege on the mainstream.
4Blur – ‘Modern Life Is Rubbish’
Blur – ‘Modern Life Is Rubbish’: Blur’s debut ‘Leisure’ sold well, but came with a backlash: suddenly, Britpop’s leading lights weren’t so lovable anymore. Luckily, though, they rebounded with a bang and the superb ‘Modern Life Is Rubbish’ – opening with the peerless ‘For Tomorrow’ – and started their domination of the 1990s.
5Queen – ‘The Works’
Queen – ‘The Works’: With ‘Hot Space’, Freddie Mercury and co alienated many of their fans, who were dismayed at their move from theatrical rock to elements of disco, pop and dance. ‘The Works’, though, made believers of fans once more, buoyed by some of their best-loved songs including ‘I Want To Break Free’ and ‘Radio Ga Ga’.
6Radiohead – ‘In Rainbows’
Radiohead – ‘In Rainbows’: 2003’s ‘Hail To The Thief’ was a slightly over-stuffed 14-track marathon listen, met with the Oxford group’s most lukewarm reviews to date. But Radiohead know how to right their wrongs and, four years later, released the supreme ‘In Rainbows’: a dark, beautiful work of genius.
7Paul McCartney and Wings – ‘Band On The Run’
Paul McCartney and Wings – ‘Band On The Run’: Post-Beatles, Paul McCartney seemed to be struggling. ‘Red Rose Speedway’ and 1971’s ‘Wild Life’ failed to set the world alight. But with ‘Band On The Run’, he re-established himself as a towering creative force once more, from the romantic hue of ‘Bluebird’ to the bassy thunder of ‘Jet’.
8Morrissey – ‘You Are The Quarry’
Morrissey – ‘You Are The Quarry’: Him again. After 1997’s slightly sloppy ‘Maladjusted’, Morrissey took seven years off to lick his wounds. But my, did he come back with a bang: 2004’s superb ‘You Are The Quarry’ was a cultural renaissance which revitalised his career and reintroduced him to a new audience all eager to follow the Pope of Mope once more.
9Rolling Stones – ‘Beggars Banquet’
Rolling Stones – ‘Beggars Banquet’: There was “a lot of rubbish” on the Stones’ ’67 misfire ‘Satanic Majesties’ admits Mick Jagger. “Just too much time on our hands, too many drugs, no producer to tell us, ‘Enough already.'” This ebullient return to form, not to mention their rocky roots, was a critical and commercial smash, fuelling a fruitful five-year burst of creativity for the band.
10Manic Street Preachers – ‘Send Away The Tigers’
Manic Street Preachers – ‘Send Away The Tigers’: Even the Manics are said to have wondered if their career would recover from the disappointment that was 2004’s ‘Lifeblood’ – a record they rarely return to live. This follow-up though saw them return with charisma and energy to spare, sending the Welsh band rocketing out of their rut.
11U2 – ‘All That You Can’t Leave Behind’
U2 – ‘All That You Can’t Leave Behind’: An album which, in U2’s own words, was them “reapplying for the job of the best band in the world.” And if they didn’t quite get there, they certainly became one of the biggest again, throwing off the lacklustre legacy of 1997’s ‘Pop’ to become a stadium-swallowing rock band once more, with total worldwide sales of over 12 million.
12Mark Ronson – ‘Uptown Special’
Mark Ronson – ‘Uptown Special’: There can’t have been many folk hankering after a new Mark Ronson album following 2010’s ‘Record Collection’ – but what a difference one Bruno Mars-featuring banger makes, eh? ‘Uptown Funk’, 2015’s biggest earworm so far, has turned Ronson into a chart fixture once more, just when everyone thought his turn in the spotlight was over.
13The Horrors – ‘Primary Colours’
The Horrors – ‘Primary Colours’: ‘Strange House’ had made The Horrors seem like a cartoon goth gang who had the image but lacked the tunes. ‘Primary Colours’, though, changed all that: a swirling, krautrock-inspired epic that turned Farris and co from trendy clotheshorse punchlines into one of the UK’s most innovative, exciting bands.
14Pulp – ‘His N Hers’
Pulp – ‘His N Hers’: For 11 years, Pulp had struggled gamely on without little reward. But they hit their stride in 1994 with the immaculate ‘His ‘N’ Hers’, as Jarvis settled into his role as the wry, witty voice of a bemused nation – bolstered by top-notch singles including ‘Babies’ and ‘Lipgloss’, and paving the way for the mainstream success that would come with ‘Different Class’.
15Bruce Springsteen – ‘Born To Run’
Bruce Springsteen – ‘Born To Run’: The Boss’s first two albums had been sleepy and sluggish when it came to the charts – beloved by critics, but largely ignored by the masses. ‘Born To Run’ was conceived as a last roll of the dice by Springsteen and his label, backed by a major production budget so he’d finally get a mainstream hit. He didn’t disappoint.