Q: What’s worse than the curse of the ‘difficult second album’?
A: The ‘unreleased second album’.
Yes, surely never having the opportunity to release their much-laboured over second album is even more soul-destroying for a band than having it mercilessly torn apart by the music press. Take, for example, The Departure. Now, I liked The Departure. That statement may have immediately caused me to plummit in your estimations, but fuck it, I thought their debut album Dirty Words was fantastic – a mesh of wirey guitars and brooding emotion. Having teased their follow-up on Myspace and in live shows, I was ready to be impressed again… but then the band were unceremoniously dropped, dooming the album to remain unreleased. The band didn’t even get to keep the rights to their name for fuck’s sake!
The most recent victim of this cut-throat business are GoodBooks (or Good Books, if you prefer), who released one of my favourite albums of 2007, Control. Their demise seemed rather unexpected to the casual observer – in January they reported via Myspace that their second album, Cry Of The Hunters, was finished and due for release in summer. When summer came around, however, instead of an album, we got the news that the band’s performance at this year’s Glastonbury was to be their last. And so, another fully recorded and mixed second record now sits in limbo, owned by a major label that presumably has no intention of releasing it.
It’s not just second albums that have suffered this ignominy, and in that regard Pull Tiger Tail are surely one of the most luckless bands in recent history. Having finished their debut record in February 2007, they were then dropped by their label, B-Unique – and over two years later, the record still remains unreleased. The band’s Wikipedia page claims that the band finally have the rights to the record and intend to release it independently later this year, but I haven’t been able to find any confirmation of this – though I do hope it’s true.
There is, however, a crumb of comfort in the fact that some bands manage to survive such adversity – like Blood Red Shoes, for example. With plans to release their album in late 2007 well and truly buggered up when their record label, V2, was bought out by Universal, the album eventually saw the light of day in April 2008 – and it was certainly worth the wait.
But unfortunately, when it comes to major labels, money talks. There’s no sense of duty towards a band, and any ‘belief’ in them rarely extends beyond the belief that they’ll sell some records. And if they don’t meet up to that expectation, then it’s likely that their careers will be prematurely curtailed – no matter how good they are.