Fifth albums are often a big deal for a band. That doesn’t necessarily mean The Long Afternoon’s fifth album, for which recording sessions are getting under way this month, will be a big deal…but a quick survey of fifth albums made by some of our heroes and antiheroes suggests that the fifth album in a band’s career is an opportunity to make some kind of defining statement.
Let’s see, just off the top of our heads…
- Fifth Beatles: Revolver. Inarguably a classic.
- Fifth Rolling Stones: Aftermath. A Jagger/Richards juggernaut.
- Fifth David Bowie: The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. The one to own if you own just one.
- Fifth Stereolab: Dots and Loops. A groundbreaker.
- Fifth Sonic Youth: Sister. Pure joy.
- Fifth Bob Dylan: Bringing It All Back Home. Amazingly great.
- Fifth Prince: 1999. The breakthrough.
- Fifth Yes: Close the Edge. A prog-rock pinnacle, to be sure.
- Fifth Jandek: Living in a Moon So Blue. Relentless reaffirmation of his radical approach.
- Fifth Jefferson Airplane: Volunteers. Revolutionary in nearly every sense.
- Fifth Yo La Tengo: May I Sing With Me. The beginning of a remarkable run of great records.
- Fifth Doors: Morrison Hotel. A powerful return to form.
- Fifth Talking Heads: Speaking in Tongues. The beginning of the end, but their commercial zenith.
- Fifth Cars: Heartbeat City. Artistically, not their high-water mark (see Panorama), but certainly their best-selling.
And the list goes on, and the evidence accumulates: fifth albums can be career-defining moments.
Now, we are not forecasting that the forthcoming album by The Long Afternoon will approach the level of mastery or the sales of any of these records, or of any other album, for that matter. Moreover, it’s hard to call something the high point of a musical career when you’ve largely rejected the conventional approach to a musical career.
Nevertheless, we must acknowledge that the very act of making a fifth collection of recordings amounts to some sort of milestone, or anti-milestone, or something-or-other. If nothing else, it means we have one album for each finger on any of our given hands. So there’s that.
All of this raises the issue of what to call the record. We’re thinking about Volunteers Bringing Revolver Aftermath and the Spiders from Mars Speaking Dots and Loops in Tongues Back Home to the Edge.
But what do you think we should call the new record? Please tell us!