Created By: Sen on September 26, 2009
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New Sound Album

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Really Needs a Better Title, and I don't know if this trope already exists. (all signs point to no)

So, there's Band X. Band X has become popular and generally well-received by critics quite a while ago and are known for a certain style.

However, Band X decide to do something completely different for their next album, for whatever reason. Maybe they're tired and believe they've taken their style to the limit. Maybe they're afraid of being one-trick poneys. Maybe it's Executive Meddling. Regardless, the result will be a change of style. This can be either a total Genre Shift, general simplification for bands with highly complex styles (thrash metal, prog rock, etc.), more prog tendencies for simple pop-rock bands, whatever. The point is that they will continue with this style for a period, to either continued success or diminishing returns.

Cue shock and They Changed It, Now It Sucks from parts of the fanbase, along with a whole spectrum of opinions from others.

The New Sound Album represents an album where a band generally known for a certain style backs away from its roots and makes a radical change, if not a total Genre Shift. Reactions to this tend to vary. There's always a segment of the fanbase that says They Changed It, Now It Sucks and labels them as sellouts, even ignoring that sometimes the band honestly admits to wanting a change. In other parts there's a whole range of reactions, from mixed to positive. In the worst case the album will divide a fanbase into Old Guard Versus New Blood, and in the best case a majority of fans will enjoy both periods of the band's career.

Or to put it shorter: a good New Sound Album will cause a majority of fans to call it a good Genre Shift and a minority to go They Changed It, Now It Sucks, while a bad one will make the majority go They Changed It, Now It Sucks and a minority will like the Genre Shift.

Examples
  • 90125 by Yes. The first album by a reunited band with a new guitarist (Trevor Rabin), 90125 saw the band reduce their song lengths and simplify their structures, while retaining enough weirdness and instrumental proficiency to remind fans that it was still a Yes album despite its newfound accessibility. It resulted in the band's only #1 hit, "Owner of a Lonely Heart". Some parts of the fanbase went straight for Old Guard Versus New Blood, with the "Troopers" representing the former and the "Generators" (named after the band's followup Big Generator) the latter, but the majority seem to enjoy both periods just fine.
  • Metallica and Megadeth simplified their style almost simultaneously, with Metallica (The Black Album) for the former and Countdown to Extinction for the latter. While initially successful, both bands continued with the simplification for the rest of The '90s, to predictably diminishing returns.
  • Queen weren't exactly prog to start with, but were known for highly overdubbed vocal harmonies and guitar work. Starting with The Game they pushed the guitar to the background and focused more on the pop side of their personality instead of rock. This development went hand in hand with Synthesizeritis and reduced songwriting quality, causing them to lose their popularity in America.
  • Rush have gradually abandoned really long songs, extended suites, multiple parts and concept albums. Ever since Signals their songs have been of reasonable length, and ever since Counterparts they've also thrown out the synths they used heavily in The '80s. But they still have the really tricky riffs and drumming (what else do you expect from Rush?).
  • The Beatles did it twice. Starting with Revolver they dove headfirst into trippy, catchy psychedelic rock, and then with The White Album they went back to straightforward rock.
  • With A Northern Soul, The Verve changed their orientation from their previous spacey psychedelic rock with lots of drug abuse to alternative rock with lots of drug abuse. They continued wth this style on Urban Hymns.
  • Starflyer59 moved from their previous shoegazing-influenced guitar-heavy sound to a more pop-influenced sound with keyboards starting with The Fashion Focus.
  • Fleetwood Mac started as a moderately successful blues-rock band led by guitarist Peter Green known for hard-rockin' songs with heavy riffs such as "Oh Well" and "The Green Manalishi (with the Two Pronged Crown)". One long complicated history later, including Green and the other guitarist quitting due to mental ilness and joining a cult and other replacements that didn't go much anywhere, Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham joined the band, now relocated to California. With Fleetwood Mac they changed to a pop/rock style inspired mostly by the Beatles, Beach Boys and the mellow Californian soft rock scene. They refined the formula and obtained massive success with Rumours and Tusk, and never looked back.
  • Jars of Clay does one of these every second album or so.
  • Green Day in The '90s used to be a pop-punk band who wrote catchy songs about being lazy, being insane, masturbating, being bored the works. Cue American Idiot and their shift to a more complex style inspired by Rock Opera and The Who.
  • Pearl Jam moved towards more experimental waters starting with No Code, and they eventually returned to head-on grunge/hard rock with either Riot Act or Pearl Jam (depends who you ask).
  • For now it seems Kanye West pulled this with 808s & Heartbreak, moving from sample-heavy rap to weird bleepy minimalist electro stuff with autotuned singing.
  • The Beach Boys evolved pretty gradually away from surf-rock, but fully went baroque pop with what's considered their masterpiece, Pet Sounds (which sadly didn't have "Good Vibrations" on it). They went back to simplicity later due to intra-band conflict and drug abuse.
  • AFI started off as a hardcore punk band (a la Black Flag) but switched to some entertaining pop-rock with their 2003 album Sing the Sorrow. They haven't switched back since.
  • The Cure started off as a pop-punk group and completely changed their sound with the melancholic tones of Seventeen Seconds, which got them lumped with the gothic rock scene. They continued being bleak for a while, with some poppy bits, until their masterpiece Disintegration. After Disintegration, they increased the pop quotient with Wish, and since then their style is pretty much a mix between bleak goth and upbeat pop, with varying degrees of happiness.
  • Urge Overkill started as a crappy noise-rock band ripping off The Jesus Lizard, Big Black and other contemporary Chicago bands. With Americruiser they hit upon their style, a combination of punk, power pop and arena rock. They never looked back and continued perfecting the formula until they struck the jackpot with Saturation.
  • Muse's most recent album The Resistance, which has raised cries of They Changed It, Now It Sucks.
  • Arctic Monkeys' third album Humbug, which saw a shift from the slice of life indie of their previous albums to a much darker, harder sound and has provoked much They Changed It Now It Sucks from the fans.
  • Bob Dylan (Acoustic to Electric with Bringin' it All Back Home) as above
  • Bone Thugs-n-Harmony (just about every new release?)
  • David Bowie (Let's Dance)
  • Electric Light Orchestra (Discovery)
  • Jewel (can't tell you which, but her article says it keeps happening "to varying success").
  • Linkin Park (Minutes To Midnight) (yet again see above)
  • Radiohead (Kid A)
  • The Decemberists (The Crane Wife then again on Hazards of Love)
  • Tori Amos ("her last three albums" from the page, The Other Wiki says American Dollhouse was "a drastic departure for Amos.")
  • Village People ("The Renaissance Album")
  • 5150 by Van Halen. After 6 albums defined mostly by the combination of Eddie Van Halen's guitar wizardry and David Lee Roth's comic persona, Roth left the band. He was replaced with Sammy Hagar, Eddie started including more and more synths, and their songs became poppier. Cue Broken Base, which endures to this day despite Roth having returned.
  • Napalm Death: Harmony Corruption onwards, when they started to take on death metal influences (and later industrial and black metal).
Community Feedback Replies: 38
  • September 4, 2009
    HeartOfAnAstronaut
    I feel like this might be a trope already, but some bands that did this include... well all I can think of right now is Green Day (snotty pop punk to grandiose rock operas with American Idiot and, um... the new one? Which I forget the name of)
  • September 4, 2009
    Sen
    Well, I only put in examples of complex prog-rock/metal to simplification. But maybe I should broaden this to include the reverse as well.

    I think the last one's name is 21st Century Breakdown.
  • September 4, 2009
    DragonQuestZ
    Not that name. You'll just get loads of confusion with 90210.
  • September 4, 2009
    Sen
    Oh, I hadn't thought of that. I knew the title was bad, but I just thought it's not catchy. That's only a temporary one 'til something better comes along.
  • September 4, 2009
    random surfer
    The Beatles got progressively more and more complex, the pinnacle being The White Album. They decided to "Get Back" to their roots by making the album that ultimately became Let It Be, but due to this-n-that it wasn't released until after two other albums came out, plus by then they had split up.
  • September 6, 2009
    Sen
    Shouldn't the pinnacle be Sgt. Pepper? The White Album marks a return to pure rock 'n roll with minimal overdubs and stuff.
  • September 6, 2009
    nlpnt
    It does sound like a SoCal ZIP code.... New Sound Album maybe?
  • September 6, 2009
    Unknown Troper
    Linkin park went from Nu metal to alt rock on Minutes to midnight
  • September 6, 2009
    random surfer
  • September 6, 2009
    MetaFour
    • Starflyer 59's The Fashion Focus marked their transition from a shoegazer-influenced, guitar-heavy sound to a poppier style with keyboards. But the songwriting itself stayed pretty consistent.
  • September 8, 2009
    Sen
    @Surfer: that's kind of an anomaly in an album dominated by back-to-basics rock. @nlpnt: that sounds kinda bland...
  • September 8, 2009
    dilbert719
    The example I always think of is Weezer, which went from their self-titled debut album, a light, poppy geek-rock album, to Pinkerton, which was much darker, and was credited with being a significant influence on emo and alternative rock. The Mood Whiplash caused the latter to be chosen as the second-worst album of 1996 by Rolling Stone readers. In the intervening decade or so, Pinkerton has been re-evaluated, and by 2002, it was voted, by the same fanbase, as the 16th best album of all time.
  • September 9, 2009
    Sen
    Well, I did specify "simplification"...

    Maybe I should change the trope so it's about an album that heralds a change of style which a band continues in for a while after the fact, not just simplification.
  • September 16, 2009
    Unknown Troper
    OK, I haven't worked on this for a while. School and all that, but I'll make up now. For starters, I'm changing the title.
  • September 16, 2009
    Fishbreath
    Jars of Clay does one of these every second album or so.
  • September 16, 2009
    HeartOfAnAstronaut
    Kanye West's Heartbreaks & 808s. He went from rap songs with lots of sampling to weird bleepy electro pop stuff, and insisted he'd invented a new genre. And then he became an internet meme.
  • September 16, 2009
    Unknown Troper
    Right, thanks. Seems I have trouble with the "getting known" cookie...
  • September 16, 2009
    Sen
    Well, I'm only a fleeting Pearl Jam fan (Ten's cool, otherwise I don't really pay attention, really dislike Eddie's vocal style), so I have no idea if I got the PJ example right. Did I?
  • September 16, 2009
    Sen
    @dilbert: I've really thought about it, but I've decided this trope applies if the band continues with the style for a while. Weezer immediately went back to copying the Blue Album with the Green Album. So it doesn't really count.
  • September 16, 2009
    CodeMan38
    ...Hm. I was thinking The Beach Boys' Pet Sounds, but they eventually went back to the standard surfer-rock.
  • September 16, 2009
    Trogga
    They Might Be Giants' first album with a full band, John Henry, comes to mind.
  • September 18, 2009
    Unknown Troper
    Sen here. I'll add the Beach Boys when I get home - no time to do it from school.
  • September 18, 2009
    Unknown Troper
    5th Album by Muse - The Resistance. it just came out and is being panned by fans for being too different
  • September 19, 2009
    The Jackal
    Arctic Monkeys' third album Humbug, which saw a shift from the slice of life indie of their previous albums to a much darker, harder sound and has provoked much They Changed It Now It Sucks from the fans.
  • September 19, 2009
    Nurfle
    Given the inevitability of Fan Dumb, you could probably mine a lot of examples from They Changed It Now It Sucks. The section on the page for The Decemberists is what made me think of this, actually.
  • September 19, 2009
    Unknown Troper
    AFI started off as a hardcore punk band (a la Black Flag) but switched to some entertaining pop-rock with their 2003 album Sing the Sorrow. They haven't switched back since.
  • September 19, 2009
    Unknown Troper
    Oh, also- The Cure started off as a pop-punk group and completely changed their sound with the melancholic tones of Seventeen Seconds. They continued being bleak for two more albums (Faith, and especially dark in Pornography), and then completely switched things up with a super bright and happy Brit Pop album. They've stayed pop ever since, though, to varying degrees of happiness.
  • September 20, 2009
    AvatarofRage
    Panic! At The Disco's first album was a highly cynical satire of modern values. Panic At The Disco's second album was a highly optimistic compilation about how great the world is, and how wonderful love makes everything.
  • September 21, 2009
    Sen
    OK, I added more examples, but I couldn't mine anything from They Changed It Now It Sucks - that page only has the Nightwish example, and that's not a New Sound Album. Sure, their singer changed, but it's still the same style.
  • September 21, 2009
    Sen
    Should I launch this?
  • September 21, 2009
    Unknown Troper
    "Linkin park went from Nu metal to alt rock on Minutes to midnight"

    They're almost a soft rock band now, with a pinch of electric guitar.

    There's also that time when Bob Dylan went electric.
  • September 21, 2009
    Nurfle
    @ Sen: That's just because no one seems to remember to add wicks both ways when they add examples to pages. Always check the "related to" page. From that page on They Changed It Now It Sucks: Also see Discontinuity/Music, Concept Album for when it's just one experimental New Sound Album, Dork Age music folder (for the same reason as Concept Album).

    And also,
    • Van Halen's OU812 switched singers and was much more synthy than before.

    EDIT: I'm adding those to They Changed It Now It Sucks too.
  • September 21, 2009
    Thinks Too Much
    Ahem. Put on "Dancing Through Sunday" and tell me AFI changed to pop-rock. Last time I checked nothing with pop in the title involved that much screaming. However, they did change (even more with DECEMBERUNDERGROUND.)
  • September 21, 2009
    random surfer
    Didn't The Rolling Stones and Kiss make disco albums for a short period of time? (Indivdually, not a Crossover.)
  • September 26, 2009
    Sen
    @Nurfle: didn't check that page before. :) @Surfer: Er, no, they just made a few songs. Some Girls, Emotional Rescue and whatever the hell Kiss did were still majority rock. @TTM: I don't listen to AFI, so I'm just going with what people say...
  • September 29, 2009
    Sen
    Should I launch this?
  • September 29, 2009
    Nurfle
    Go for it.
  • October 1, 2009
    Sen
    'kay.
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