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Wednesday, 24 June 2020

Second is better than first, Part 1.

He's back with a new series!

George writes:

I’m sure many of us have read about “second album syndrome”, or something about “the difficult follow-up album”. Or might have thought such a thing when playing The Beauty Stab. Some bands never recover from this, not just ABC. The Flying Burrito Brothers are another example, but it is quite possible that Gram Parsons’ antics did not help in that case. The Gang Of Four also spring to mind. That’s not to say that these bands never released a decent song or decent-ish album. Oh No. Although ABC never did.  And The Smiths recovered their form, quite majestically with the release of their third album (The Queen is Dead). 

But some acts make a second album that is better than their first. You, dear reader, are free to disagree with my choices, and can argue your case below (or possibly in a piece for these pages). And that’s not to say that the first album is necessarily bad. It can even be a fine album. But the follow-up is better. This is the case with today’s selection, the majestic “Celebrate The Bullet” album by The Selecter.
The debut, Too Much Pressure, was a fine debut, very much a ska album, some great pop songs and clever lyrics, and featuring only one duff track. Absolutely not this one:

But musically, it’s a bit one-dimensional. The follow-up was a slight change or adaptation of musical direction, still some outright ska songs (“Bristol and Miami”), some with ska influences (“Bomb scare”) and some with a post-punk/new wave feel (“Their dream goes on”). It’s, well, just more sophisticated.  And man alive it is a dark album, with not a cheery song on it. 

I’ve just discovered that many people’s least favourite DJ, that cretinous, odious buffoon Mike Read would not play the single Celebrate The Bullet, once again showing his remarkable ignorance and stupidity. Quite clearly the lyric “Do you really have to prove it, 'cause you know it won't bring them back to you, back to you” has a different meaning to the clown than the rest of us. Such is the man’s idiocy I’m surprised he’s not a minister for Culture in the Cummings/Johnson UK government.

Some of the tracks reflect the political atmosphere in the time, such as Bombscare, the title track, Bristol and Miami, and there’s some less-than-cheery sentiments in Selling Out Your Future and Red Reflections. Overall, I think it’s a remarkably powerful album, and far far superior to Too Much Pressure. It’s an album that I still play often, much more so than the debut.

The making of Celebrate The Bullet caused two original band members to leave, and shortly after its release the group disbanded. Maybe its relative failure and (idiotically) critical reviews played their part.

Thank you kindly.

CC writes:
Feel free to agree or disagree
Celebrate the Bullet is an album I'm not familiar with at all. I don't even recognise the cover. So I have found this educational.
George advises that he has a few more up his sleeve. I'll also offer up one or two but it's harder than you think. If anyone else wants to join the party you are more than welcome - one song from the first album and two from the second.


  1. The Manics second album - Gold Against The Soul - is better than the sprawling hype-inflected double debut.
    Gold Against The Soul may not be a belter in itself, but I prefere it to the debut.
    Interestingly, "Third Album Recovery" is a thing - see The Jam, The Clash, Iron Maiden, Bruce Springsteen, Rod Stewart etc - by the third album they were at the top of their game.
    But I don't believe this applies to The Manics - for all it's love, I just don't see the greatness in The Holy Bible

  2. I can't really comment RD as I came to the Manics much later than that
    Third Album Recovery - another potential series there! I maybe would add Billy Bragg to that list

  3. I'm with Charity here, I've never heard those Manic albums, and I have six of their albums.

  4. It's good to have you back, George. Although I hadn't really noticed you'd gone away. Only really know the Selecter from their singles so I'll take your word on that.

    Agree about the Manics though and I never saw the appeal of The Holy Bible either. It's probably my least favourite Manics album. Ritchie's 6th Form Poetry Project,

    I'll throw Warren Zevon into the ring though. His first album from the late 60s wasn't the best, to the point that it's almost been airbrushed out of history and people think his eponymous album is actually his debut. There's another one in the tip of my tongue but... I'll have to get back to you.

  5. Billy Joel ! There you go. That'll cement my cred. His debut album Cold Spring Harbour had some great songs on it but it was mastered at the wrong speed by the record company and only given a proper, remastered release many years later.

    I can hear you laughing, you know.

    1. Feel free to submit a post Rol
      There will be worse than Billy Joel in this series - trust me!

    2. I too look forward to reading any justification that Billy Joel has made anything decent! Bring it on.

  6. I never think of Gang Of Four's sophomore album Solid Gold was a dud! It has my favorite Go4 song on it What We All Want.
    Favorite 2nd album of all time - Heaven Up Here by Echo And The Bunnymen.

    1. I think of Solid Gold as a disappointment. It does get played very very occasionally.

  7. Hi George. Too Much Pressure is the better of the two album covers, however. One of my all-time favorites. Talking Heads bettered a very good '77 with More Song About Buildings and Food.