Sunday Sesharoo: The Three-Album Hat Trick

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The number of bands who have released three stellar albums in a row is somewhere between 0 (zero) and <∞ (less than infinity). Come inside, help yourself to some coffee and count them with me.

Very few bands burn brightly for a long time. Heck, it’s arguable that on even the most modest of scales no bands burn brightly for a long time. Most either burn dimly for a long time or brightly for a short time or not at all (because they suck eggs). The lucky few somehow manage to put out one stellar album before capitulating to mediocrity. The luckier fewer can pull off this miracle twice in a row. But three times in a row? That’s practically impossible.

Dispensing with quibbles over what criteria could objectively constitute a stellar album, let’s explore some bands who we (I) perceive to have succeeded in writing, recording and releasing three back-to-back career-redefining albums without seriously fucking up. We are not going to talk about good albums. Nor are we going to tarry with great ones. We are exclusively going to consider those albums without which life, in retrospect, appears meaningless.

Who, in my stupid opinion, hath achieved the unholy Hat Trick? A ton of bands come instantly to mind–until I subject them to scrutiny, brutal honesty and a bit of light torture. I really wish I could throw Opeth on the list but c’mon, while My Arms Your Hearse and Still Life are to this day unrivaled in their folk-death grandeur, Blackwater Park is only half an album worth of amazing ideas stretched out over a full album’s length. And even the really juicy parts do little to differentiate themselves from the juicy juices already juiced on the previous album.

Maudlin of the Well might have made the cut with Bath, Leaving Your Body Map and Part the Second if not for the fact that the first two are just one double-album released in two separate packages.

I want to nominate Solefald. I really do. (I still might.) Buuuuuuuuut . . . Gosh, this one is really going to screw up my circadian cycle. I don’t know how I’m going to get to sleep tonight if I don’t give the trio of Neonism, Pills Against the Ageless Ills and In Harmonia Universali their due. There is no way to overstate the effects that these albums–especially the first two–have had on me, not only as a listener but also as a writer. Aside from being a couple of recklessly avant-garde disruptions to black metal’s international image, Neonism and Pills contain thought-provoking lyrics rife with socio-political criticism and mind-bending imagery. I’ve looked to these lyrics for literary inspiration throughout the years–hell, I even wrote out the words to “Hyperhuman” and pinned them to the wall above my writing desk. And as for In Harmonia Universali, the lyrics to “Buy My Sperm” are pretty neat; otherwise it is just flat-out one of the most lush, well-produced and unpretentious experiments in symphonic metal I’ve ever heard. The problem with this trio of albums is that I actually hated Pills when it came out, to the point where I sold it. It wasn’t until years later that I gave it another shot, fell in love with its black-metal-meets-punk-meets-Vivaldi charm and bought it again. Even so, there are two songs on there that I skip every time, so . . . I guess Solefald doesn’t quite measure up.

I’ve just sifted through my entire music collection, and no one will be more surprised than I was that there is only one band in there that has ever pulled out the Hat Trick . . .

That band is Faith No More. Here are the facts:

The Real Thing

There are no bad songs on this album. Even the goofy or intentionally anachronistic ones are still charming as fuck. Enduring single “Epic” is sort of annoying for its indebtedness to The Red Hot Chili Peppers and its contribution to rap-rock fads to come; that said, They still play it on the radio all the time and I never change the station when They do.

Angel Dust

There are no bad songs on this album. It trades in the zany eclecticism of The Real Thing for a louder and darker sound, bolstered by lyrics that are much more relevant to the experience of living in this world. And, whereas The Real Thing sounds perhaps a wee bit dated, Angel Dust has aged like fine gorgonzola. “Midlife Crisis” sounds even more menacing now than it did when I first heard it. And the goofy songs?–they’re still funny to this day.

King for a Day . . . Fool for a Lifetime

There are no bad songs on this album. It’s got a more stripped down rock edge than the vibrant Angel Dust, and lucky for us, Faith No More excels at stripping down just as hard as they do at dressing up all fancy. Not that King for a Day serves up nothing but grit: It also boasts more wild genre diversions than its predecessor. It suffers a dual personality disorder, at one moment possessed by a raw punk attitude, the next by shades of soul, R&B and, uh . . . let’s just be lazy like every record store on the planet and call it world music.

Faith No More has released two more albums since King for a Day, both of which leave a little something to be desired. That’s fine. There’s negligible shame in slowly petering out after releasing three of the strongest, most forward-thinking commercial rock albums of all time.

That’s all for me. Whatchoogot?

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