Buzz bands from Arctic Monkeys to The Killers are finding that it’s not easy coming up with a follow-up disc that can match their successful debuts
In the fickle, fast-moving world of rock and roll, it's always nice to be The Next Big Thing. Major labels want you, the press runs to greet you and fans will do anything - yes, anything - to sneak into your dressing room.The album: "Favourite Worst Nightmare" (Domino)
But what happens when you're expected to become The Actual Big Thing - not next, but now?
For every artist who
makes that jump, thousands fall on their faces. Around 2004 and
2005, a slew of energetic bands such as Kaiser Chiefs, The
Killers and Arcade Fire issued explosive debut albums and
injected some much-needed energy into the lifeless rock scene.
Suddenly, there was more competition for the Next Big Thing
crown than fans had seen in quite a while. But just a few years
later - a lifetime, in rock terms - many of those acts are
releasing second albums that aren't generating the same sense of
Then: This young British band came roaring out of the gate last year with "Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not," a disc full of jagged rock and cheeky wordplay. At home, the Monkeys triumphed with a No. 1 album, and record stores couldn't keep enough on hand. Here in the States, the disc sold a more modest 305,000 copies.
Next Big Thing? It's awfully early for the band to be losing members: In May, bassist Andy Nicholson bowed out because of "fatigue." Perhaps replacement Nick O'Malley can stay the course.
The band: Art Brut
The album: "It's a Bit Complicated" (Downtown)
Then: Led by the excitable Eddie Argos, Art Brut tickled the fancy of hipster America with 2005's "Bang Bang Rock & Roll," a hyperactive pop disc built around ridiculous lyrics. (Example: "Formed a band, we formed a band! Look at us! We formed a band!") The album became an underground smash, and Art Brut wound up playing California's Coachella festival and touring with Oasis.
Now: The band just finished a five-date U.S. mini-tour in preparation for its new album, due June 19.
Next Big Thing? Several new MySpace songs prove that Argos has lost none of his Tigger-like energy. Check out "Direct Hit" and "Nag Nag Nag Nag."
The band: Bloc Party
The album: "A Weekend in the City" (Vice)
Then: With its dancey, punky sound, this British band earned comparisons to groups as diverse as Kaiser Chiefs and The Rapture, but became a bigger critical hit than either with its 2005 debut, "Silent Alarm."
Now: Bloc Party recently played two dates at United Palace Theater in Manhattan, proving that it hasn't lost its fans.
Next Big Thing? The new disc, released Feb. 6, is relentlessly downbeat, with songs about terrorism, drug use and general exhaustion. Brits seem to like the topical themes more than Americans do: "Weekend" debuted at No. 2 in the U.K. but here it only reached No. 12 and has already dropped out of the Billboard 200.
The band: The Bravery
The album: "The Sun and the Moon" (Island)
Then: In 2005, The Bravery was the toast of New York, having landed a deal based on demos recorded in singer Sam Endicott's apartment. The self-titled album yielded a synth-driven hit, "An Honest Mistake," and The Bravery made headlines by publicly sniping with fellow new-new-wavers and label-mates The Killers. The album sold about 340,000 copies - respectable, but no blockbuster.
Now: "The Sun and the Moon," is due May 22. The first single, "Time Won't Let Me Go," is currently at No. 21 on Billboard's Modern Rock Radio chart.
Next Big Thing? The Bravery earned fans with dancey pop songs, but the new album is pensive and moody. Along with the more subdued sound comes a plainer look (read: less eyeliner) that may disappoint the band's fashionista following.
The band: Kaiser Chiefs
The album: "Yours Truly, Angry Mob" (Universal)
Then: These Brits gave rock music a shot in the arm with their 2005 debut, "Employment," and the cheerfully aggressive single "I Predict a Riot." For a while, Kaiser Chiefs looked ready to challenge their tour mates, Franz Ferdinand, for the spotlight. During 2005's Live 8 concert in Philadelphia, they wowed early-arriving fans with a sweaty, pogo-worthy set.
Now: The new power-pop single, "Ruby," became the band's first No. 1 in England - but here the song reached only No. 18 on modern rock radio.
The Next Big Thing? With "Yours Truly," Kaiser Chiefs have turned in a stronger disc than many of their competitors - it's tight, tuneful and brisk. Still, fans seem to be tiring of the retro-rock sound that seemed so fresh two years ago.
The band: The Killers
The album: "Sam's Town" (Island)
Then: With their 2004 debut, "Hot Fuss," these Las Vegas boys seemed like the second coming of Duran Duran, complete with flashy outfits and eyeliner. Dancey singles such as "Mr. Brightside" and "Somebody Told Me" were unavoidable, and girls went wild for Brandon Flowers' soulful eyes and plaintive voice. "Hot Fuss" went on to sell 3.2 million albums.
Now: "Sam's Town," released last year, debuted at an impressive No. 2 on the Billboard chart but has sold only about 1.1 million copies. Though the epic-sounding single "When We Were Young" reached No. 1 on modern rock radio, it hasn't saturated the airwaves like The Killers' earlier, bouncier hits.
Next Big Thing? Critics generally blasted the new album's Western motif, cinematic songs and Springsteen-style lyrics ("We're burning up the highway skyline/On the back of a hurricane that started turning"). The consensus: The third album may be the clincher.