Celebrating the Unpopular Arts

Question of the Week: What’s your favorite album by a ‘short-lived’ band?

There are a lot of bands out there, and most never make an impact on the music scene, because there’s just so much competition and bands tend to be fragile things. Many acts don’t make money recording, and that’s probably why so many don’t last very long. But some manage to crank out an album or two, and some of those are quite good … but the band still fails, due to things out of their direct control, perhaps. So my Question this week is: What short-lived band released an album that you love?

I have to define “short-lived,” of course, and probably “band.” “Short-lived,” for me, means one or two albums. If a band manages to release three albums, I don’t think they qualify. Any band can make an album, and a sophomore effort doesn’t seem too hard, but after that, you’re not “short-lived” anymore. So, the answer to the Question can’t be an album by a band or singer that released more than two albums. ‘Salright? ‘Salright. In regard to “bands,” I don’t mean special collaborations by one-off bands that come together for some other reason than that’s the way the band evolved. I shall call this the “Temple of the Dog” Rule, as that album (which is superb, by the way) was the result of musicians coming together to celebrate the life and mourn the death of Andrew Wood, the lead singer of Mother Love Bone, who died in 1990. That kind of album doesn’t count, alas. If a “super-group” comes into existence with every intention of staying together, that counts, although, again, they need to release only one or two albums. Derek and the Dominoes counts, in other words, because they planned to release more than one album, but didn’t. The Traveling Wilburys count, too, because it’s pretty clear they wanted to stay together as a band, but then Orbison went and died. You get the gist!

I mentioned my favorite in passing, and that’s Apple by Mother Love Bone. Apple is a superb album, the only one the band released (they released an EP before it), and it came out after Wood had died and the band had broken up. There’s not really a bad song on the album, and the band’s brilliant, lush hard rock music combined with Wood’s weird, sinuous voice and bizarre lyrics make it a wonderful listening experience. I often wonder how music history would have changed had Wood not died – MLB wasn’t quite grunge, but more glam/grunge, and had they been more popular if Wood had died, would Nirvana been the tip of the spear for a musical revolution? Two member of MLB formed Pearl Jam, of course, but if Pearl Jam didn’t exist, how would music history be different? It’s an interesting thought experiment. Anyway, Apple is a tremendous album. Two other candidates for me are Pour in the Sky by Liquid Jesus, their second and last album, which also has that glam/grunge thing going on that got overwhelmed by the flannel brigade in the 1990s; and Like the Idea by Think Tree, a terrifically weird album influenced by Hinduism and featuring superb and oddball lyrics. I love this album and get a bit bummed because Think Tree broke up after the album came out. So those are my choices. What are yours?


  1. tomfitz1

    BURGAS: In this case, I must say in my defense: “I know nothing!”

    No snarky witty comments about the Will Smith slap/Oscar win? (or is that for another blog?)

    1. Greg Burgas

      I have very little interest in the Oscars these days, because I see so few movies in the theaters. So no, nothing to say there. Except why Smith wasn’t accepting his Oscar from jail is a bit beyond me.

  2. IrregularMatt

    We only ever got the one album from Propellerheads, a band literally everyone has heard because of The Matrix but hardly anyone seems to talk about.

  3. I believe this counts, as I think they only put out 2 albums and maybe an ep, but Neutral Milk Hotel put out the Avery Island album (which isn’t the exact title) and then the absolutely amazing In the Aeroplane Over the Sea. They have toured some since, which I was so lucky to have seen several years back, but they’re essentially not a band any more.

  4. Slam Bradley

    “Things Have Changed” by a little Wisconsin based band named Andy’s Automatics. They released an EP in 2003 and “Things Have Changed” in 2005. And nothing since, though they do appear to still be performing in the Great Lakes area.

    It’s just a fun joyful Honky-Tonk album that reminds one of the best of The Derailers.

  5. Darthratzinger

    The Mother Love Bone Album is great choice. In the 90ies I listened to that quite often. Incredible stupid band name though.
    Does Sugar count? Bob Moulds post-Hüsker Dü band released 2 regular studio albums plus one EP and a b-side/rarities collection. Their first album Copper Blue is easily as awesome as the later Hüsker Dü albums.

  6. Le Messor

    Shakespear’s Sister released two albums and an EP before they split up, but one of the members carried on the name (ages later), so if they count: Hormonally Yours.

    If they don’t, my backups are Bonk, by Big Pig – but I don’t know how many albums they actually released. It might be more than two.

    Which leaves Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s Welcome To The Pleasuredome.

  7. Eric van Schaik

    I had to go through the collection and could only find 2 band that fit the criteria:

    After Rob Halford left Judas Priest he went solo which gave us Fight and later Two (with help of Trent Reznor). As Two he released only 1 record unfortunately : Voyeurs. In Priest he was known for his high notes which he didn’t do with Two, but still it is a great album YMMV. After that he went on as Rob Halford and later on he returned to Priest.

    Lush was a great shoegazer band but disbanded after the suicide of their drummer.
    Emma Anderson formed Sing-Sing which releashed 2 albums (The joy of Sing-Sing and Sing-Sing and I). It’s a pity they quit after that.

    It was sad news to hear of Taylor Hawkins death. He will be missed. 🙁

    1. Darthratzinger

      Taylor was such a nice guy and outstanding drummer. They´ll probably postpone the movie release now because a splatter movie featuring his death would be in poor taste.

  8. fit2print

    “Living in a Dream,” the 1992 debut (and final?) studio album by supergroup Arc Angels.

    Produced by Miami Steve Van Zandt of the E Street Band (and The Sopranos), it’s pretty much a flawless record (at least to me), served up by a bluesy rock outfit made up of drummer Chris Layton and bassist Tommy Shannon (ex of the late, great Stevie Ray Vaughan’s backing band and charter members of the similarly too short-lived Storyville (three studio albums plus one live, so not a qualifier for this edition of Question of the Week under the Burgas Rules), keyboardist Ian McLagan and singer/guitarists extraordinaire Doyle Bramhall II and Charlie Sexton. Wow, that was a long sentence…

    I could’ve picked just about any cut on the record as my favorite (the album is that good) and “Living in a Dream” also happens to be the title of the group’s 2009 concert film (also a one-off). Just about 30 years after the record’s release, Arc Angels are apparently still doing shows, albeit mostly in the southwest. I really can’t recommend this album highly enough…

  9. fit2print

    Jeesh! “Arc Angels” is the title of the debut album (and the band).

    “Living in a Dream” is a song on the album and the title of the DVD.

    I really need to fact check (and copy edit) my posts a bit better

  10. JHL

    Copper Blue by Sugar. I actually really like both of the Sugar albums but Cooper Blue has more songs that get stuck in my head in a regular basis. To be fair, the argument could be made that they exceed the two album limit. While there were only two studio albums by Sugar they also released an EP, B-Sides compilation, and a Live Concert recording. Some of Bob Mould’s solo albums sound like a continuation of Sugar and some don’t. And I know some people who would consider this heresy, but I’ll listen to Sugar over Husker Du any day.

    Black Pumas by Black Pumas probably isn’t in the spirit of the question since the band is still active, but it is their only album so far and the more attention they get the better as far as I’m concerned.


  11. Jazzbo

    I’m gonna have to go through my cd collection and do a little research for this one. As I’ve discovered quite often in the past, a lot of bands I was super into in the 90s that I assumed broke up kept on making music for years after I was aware of. I just wasn’t as up to date on the music scene anymore come the 2000s. And here I had thought I stayed young and hip to this very day.

    1. Greg Burgas

      I know what you mean. I have some bands that I really do try to keep up with, but some I just don’t, and I’m always surprised to find out they’re still making music. But I’ve accepted that I’m old and unhip! 🙂

  12. daniel

    I was going to say Pillar of Fire, the second album by Tau Cross. The album was pretty sweet, but after they released it the band’s founder was ousted for being a Holocaust denier and they broke up. (They had a song called ‘Deep State’, so, in hindsight, maybe that should’ve been some tip-off.) However, I checked their wiki and apparently the Holocaust guy did a third album under the band’s name.


    Was also thinking about No Warning by Venomous Maximus, but apparently they did more than two albums.


    So I was going to go with one-album prog stuff like McDonald and Giles or Quatermass, maybe Silver Apples, but I don’t know… I like that Paris Hilton record she did in the aughts, it’s got some catchy songs, I kinda want that to be my pick.

    1. daniel

      I just remembered a couple more.

      I’m not a black metal guy, but the album Between Two Worlds by supergroup I is pretty cool. Some of these guys also play in Audrey Horne, which goes further into their classic ’80s metal, stadium rock influences.


      Polish post-punk group Siekiera basically had two albums (one classic one in the ’80s). I think the rest are bootleg and demos compilations.

  13. Chris Schillig

    “Fizzy Fuzzy Big & Buzzy” by The Refreshments, who released one more album before disbanding. “Disbanding” is a bit of a misnomer, as the band’s two principal members, Roger Clyne and P.H. Naffah, started a new effort, Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers, and continue to record and tour today.

  14. Tim Dennie

    Joy Division qualifies under this criteria. Both albums are great, but I’ll go with Unknown Pleasures, because “She’s Lost Control” is one of my all time favorites.

    I’ll also throw in an Honorable Mention to X-Ray Spex’s Germ Free Adolescents, just because I could listen to Polystyrene sing the phone book.

    Heaven & Hell feels like cheating, considering they were just Black Sabbath undet a different name.

    1. OOH, that’s right, Joy Division!

      And X-Ray Spex only lasted one album? (Or one good one, anyway).

      That reminds me that there are probably some good punk bands that would qualify as well — shit, Never Mind the Bollocks counts, doesn’t it?

      1. daniel

        Out of Step, by Minor Threat, also counts. But I have it on a compilation with a bunch of their EPs, and I don’t think I ever listened solely to the album.

  15. Call Me Carlos the Dwarf

    Neutral Milk Hotel was mentioned above, so I’ll also throw in NWA.

    Straight Outta Compton is an all-timer, and they definitely qualify as short-lived: The last time they all appeared on the same record was their guest appearance on the final track of No One Can Do it Better in 1989.

  16. Peter

    “The La’s” by… The La’s is one of the great one-and-done rock albums. Everyone knows “There She Goes,” but it’s probably not even in the top half of the album. It’s a pity that Lee Mavers kind of went crazy and never recorded a follow-up, but the album we did get is excellent.

  17. Jeff Nettleton

    The Raw and the Cooked, by the Fine Young Cannibals. Poor Andy Cox and David Steele. First, they were part of the quickly rising band, The Beat (aka The English Beat, in the US), when Dave Wakeling and Ranking Roger walked off to form General Public (without telling the guys they were quitting, face-to-face). Then they go looking for a singer and fine a terrific young soul singer, Roland Gift, and put out their first, awesome album, The Fine Young Cannibals. it gets some play on MTV and they follow up with The Raw & the Cooked, with their big hit, “She Drives Me Crazy.” The whole album is fantastic and a real showcase for both Gift’s voice and Cox and Steele’s musicianship. The first album is a close second, though dominated a bit more by Cox & Steele. This one felt more of a synthesis.

    So, what happens? Gift decides he wants to be an actor (why do musicians always want to be actors and vice versa?) and Cox and Steele are left out in the cold, again.

    Short-lived is open for debate. They got 8 years, before Gift was completely gone and the reformed in support of their greatest hits album (with a couple of new songs) and for a few tours. Still, two albums and pfft!

    I’d put The English Beat right next to them, though it is hard to choose between their first album, I Just Can’t Stop It and their last, Special Beat Services. Two vastly different sounds, but I loved both.

  18. Bright-Raven

    Oh geez…

    I cannot believe none of you had already said the Sex Pistols. They only had ONE album, NEVERMIND THE BULLOCKS, HERE’S THE SEX PISTOLS, 1977. Shame on you all. SHAME, I SAY!

    The United States of America (1 Album, Self-titled, 1968) Trippy Psychedelic Proto Punk.

    The Wreckers (1 Album, STAND STILL, LOOK PRETTY, 2006) Should have been a power Country-pop sensation with Michelle Branch and Jessica Harp. Not sure what happened but I think Harp needed to break from the group and Branch went on to a solo career. Favorite Track: “Leave The Pieces”; “Rain”.

    But as for the acts that few to none of you have likely ever even heard of…

    Maggie’s Farm (1 album, GLORY ROAD, 1992 via JRS Records distributed by BMG) – the co-lead singers, Allison McLeod and Claudia Russell, split and went on to separate careers. Personal favorite songs are “Glory Road”, “That’s Not Love”, “Get Out of Town”. They were probably “too country for rock” and “too rock for country” at the time? I don’t know. I always thought they should have been at least indie darlings like the Indigo Girls.

    The Beaumonts (1 Album, INDIAN SUMMER, 1992, self-distributed ) – College Garage Band I went to college with, knew the drummer and lead singer. Personal favorite songs of theirs are “Clumsy” (unfortunately that track isn’t on the album), “Indian Summer”, “My Girl Is Like Meijers”, “Another Angel Fell”.

    All Those Fatal Flowers (1 EP, I *think?* 1993?) The Beaumonts either broke up or took a hiatus and the drummer, Karen McBurney, and I were still going to college at the same school when she joined this band. Wasn’t as fond of their sound as I was of the Beaumonts, but they were still good. I’ll have to reach out to “McBee” on Facebook and ask her.

    The Birds At The End Of The Road (1 Self-titled EP 4 tracks, 1987) – High school garage band that mostly did covers of the Eagles, the Byrds, the Who and the Rolling Stones. Did their one ep of original songs. I don’t have the EP anymore so I can’t remember all the Tracks but my favorite was “Whiskey Winter”, which was sort of their homage to the Eagles’ “Tequila Sunrise”, about a person who is drinking themselves to oblivion after a break up and stuck inside their home alone from the snow of winter.

    Excalibur (1 Album, KNIGHTS OF THE SOUND TABLE, 1989, Pizzazz Records Bay City) They were “White Boy Gangsta” rappers out of Bay City Michigan. I can’t really recall their sound – I got the album because I liked the visual of their album cover of the sword Excalibur being the record needle on their sound table, but I was and am not a fan of rap. I do think that both Kid Rock and Eminem were influenced by their sound, though, just via locality. I don’t have the album anymore. “The Pen Is Mightier Than The Sword” is the only track I can remember – it was an anti-violence song.

  19. John King

    I’ve hunted through my sizeable cd collection

    Of course not all qualify
    The Million dollar quartet was a jam session not a group
    The class of ’55 reunited 3 of them as a group (replacing Elvis with Roy Orbison) but that was just a one-off
    The Cherry Thing was also a one-off collaboration

    In the 70s Ace featured the talented singer Paul Carrack (still touring and releasing albums as a solo artist) but they had 3 albums.
    As did the new-wave group New Musik.
    Hipsway split up after 2 albums but, 29 years later, reunited for a third album

    now for the groups that do qualify

    honourable mentions

    Bankstatement (Tony Banks of Genesis trying to find the same success that Mike Rutherford had with his Mechanics (which used to include Paul Carrack) but didn’t so quit after one album)

    the Graeme Edge band did a couple of albums before Graeme returned to the Moody Blues and the Gurvitz brothers moved on to solo albums

    Savage Garden only released 2 studio albums

    If we were restricting it to groups who had only released one album I would have picked Maybe You’ve Been Brainwashed Too by the New Radicals

    but allowing groups with 2 albums

    The Age of Plastic by Buggles

    But my favourite would be

    vol. 1 by the Traveling Wilburys

    1. John King

      the Cherry Thing was a collaboration between
      a Norwegian/Swedish Jazz trio the Thing (named after an album track from Don Cherry)
      and Don’Cherry’s half-Swedish/half-African step daughter Neneh Cherry

  20. Chris Schillig

    The Billion Dollar Babies — the original Alice Cooper group minus lead-singer Alice Cooper — released Battle Axe in 1977. One song from the album made it into the Alice Cooper boxed set back in the late ’90s.

    1. Le Messor

      I have that box set, but nothing else by the band. The one song of theirs is very much in his style, which is what you’re looking for in an AC box set. 🙂

  21. David107

    1981 Scottish band Scars released just the one great LP, Author! Author. Literary post punk, for want of a better term; literary as in covered a Peter Porter poem and based a song on the existential French thriller novel The Lady In The Car With Glasses And A Gun. Music New Wave/Glam in style.

    It’s been reissued twice, once on CD with most of their singles a-sides and b-sides added, recently as a triple CD adding demos and live material.

    If you want to hear the original LP for free, go to

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