A couple of weeks ago, we looked at when bands peak – I’ve always enjoyed band’s later albums where they are more confident and more diverse. My graphs based on my ratings bore this out – this graph was based on 24 bands, where I’ve covered at least their first 6 albums on this site. The graph showed that overall, bands build up through their second and third albums, before peaking with their fourth and fifth albums, then going into a decline. Not every band fits this profile, but the graph showed this is the overall pattern. The results looked like this:
One question I had was whether I favour bands’ 4th and 5th albums, or if they’re actually considered stronger overall. To verify my findings, I looked at the same 24 bands in Rate Your Music (https://rateyourmusic.com/). If you’re unfamiliar with the site, it’s a ratings aggregator, where music fans can rate albums and the site database holds average ratings for each album.
Please note that Rate Your Music rates out of 5, while I rate out of 10, so the scales of the two graphs aren’t comparable. Also, because it aggregates scores, most albums score between about 2.5 and 4.1 out of 5, so it’s not surprising that the graph is flatter and the trends are less pronounced. This is the Rate Your Music scores for the same 24 artists used in the original graph* (see below for the list of artists):
As you can see, the Rate Your Music results are similar to my results – it’s less pronounced, but the fourth and fifth albums are still the strongest, and there’s a drop off from the 5th to the 6th album, just like on my graph. If there’s a difference, it’s that generally the debut album scores better on Rate Your Music than with me – as noted in the first post, I often find debut albums a little bland, and prefer bands as they become more adventurous and diverse.
24 bands seemed a little low, so I tried adding a “control group” of an extra 10 bands to see if it made a difference. It mainly served to pull the overall ratings down – many of the original 24 bands used are among the most critically acclaimed bands of all time. The line with the extra 10 bands is blue, while the original RYM line is orange. The extra ten bands used are listed at the bottom of the page.
The extra ten bands used do show some evidence of the famous sophomore slump, which wasn’t as evident in the original graph – the bands include a couple from the class of ’77 who had a ill-received second album (XTC and The Jam), and another couple who hadn’t hit their stride by the time of the second record (Earth, Wind and Fire, Yes). It might be interesting to look at the first three albums of a wider group of bands to see if sophomore slump is quantifiable.
But overall, it looks like bands peak with their fourth and fifth albums – it’s not just a personal preference but an observable trend.
When did your favourite band peak?
* Original 24 Bands Used
The Beatles, The Byrds, Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Decemberists, Eagles, Genesis, The Go-Betweens, King Crimson, Led Zeppelin, The Moody Blues (in this case, I forgot that Days of Future Passed wasn’t their debut, until after I’d run all the numbers and prepared this post, but I think it’s OK to count it as a debut as it feels like the work of a new band….), The New Pornographers, Pearl Jam, Pink Floyd, Prefab Sprout, Queen, Radiohead, Red House Painters, R.E.M., Roxy Music, Split Enz, Steely Dan, Talking Heads, U2, Wilco
** Extra 10 Bands Included in Control Group
The Jam, The Tragically Hip, Earth, Wind and Fire, Echo and the Bunnymen, Phoenix, The Posies, Ween, XTC, Yes, Fairport Convention