Last albums. They’re heart breaking in many ways. They mark the end of a musical journey, the final curtain, a sad farewell. They’re also hard to predict, as we constantly see bands on the brink of separation, be it Radiohead during the making of Kid A, The Strokes seemingly every five minutes, etc, etc.
Radiohead, in fact, is where a debate started between a good friend and I. We were discussing “King of Limbs,” the album Radiohead released in 2011, and saying that although we were excited for a new album, it was only really because the two of us had been so underwhelmed by K.O.L. Had that been their last album, which, given the band’s long hiatus, it could well have been, we’d have been disappointed. Which begged the question: which band had the best last album?
We outlined some criteria. A band’s last studio album had to be before a willing breakup, NOT caused by the death of a member [eliminating the Doors and Nirvana, for example], and had to be the absolute final, so albums after reformations didn’t count [greatest hits, remixes, or compilations of any kind were also eliminated]. Additionally, this album didn’t have to necessarily be their BEST album, but had to be an album good enough to give a satisfying conclusion to their musical tale. And finally, they had to have had more than one album. In my opinion, bands, especially ones with one principal songwriter, tend to deteriorate as soon as other members start to want a piece of song writing royalties, and so their material would therefore become worse as the band’s relationship worsened. In short, the band had to have the opportunity to become bad.
Therefore, our question was thus: who produced the most satisfying final album, standing up amidst the material that existed at their peak?
We struggled to find an answer. Some of the examples that came up were Joy Division, but of course this was eliminated on account of Ian Curtis’ tragic suicide, The White Stripes’ ‘Icky Thump,’ though we agreed that this was not a satisfying conclusion to band that had totally reshaped blues rock, and Blur. Blur don’t apply either really, technically they still play together, and besides, their strength, we thought, was more in their singles than their albums.
After wrestling this question for some time, I, in stroke of bizarre clarity, summarised ONE band that had released a satisfactory final album that met our harsh guidelines:
My Chemical Romance.
“BULLSHIT!” proclaimed the masses. Wait. Hear me out. Though I don’t personally count MCR as one of my favourite bands [perhaps I’ll explain why in the future], their final album “Danger Days: The True Lives of The Fabulous Killjoys,” is by far my favourite album of theirs. Many MCR fans were divided by it as an album, as it abandoned the aesthetic that their fans had come to know and love, but on song writing alone, it was quite a strong effort; tracks like “Summertime” are excellent. As a final effort then, it was not their best [that crown I think resoundingly goes to ‘The Black Parade’], but comparative to the rest of their discography, a very good final release.
We were both surprised, and a little annoyed that this was the only band we could think of that had met our criteria, however, given how strict we were with those boundaries, it made sense that our conclusion was not one we expected. Later, I realised that The Police’s final album also met our specifications, but I think it’s fair we let MCR have this one. Either way, it made for an interesting discussion, and demonstrates how important the relationship politics in music are.
In light of our conclusion, what do you think? What other bands had a GREAT final album? Leave a comment below. Tell us your thoughts. Were we wrong? Probably. Prove it.
Happy New Year. Much love