The Nineties were a difficult time for Mötley Crüe. Having to contend with the newfound popularity of Grunge, which pushed glam and hair metal off the charts, as well as internal affairs with Vince Neil leaving the band, they signed a deal with Elektra Records and seemed to be coming out on top. Unfortunately, their first release, 1994's Motley Crue, was underpromoted (their tour was scaled back from stadiums to smaller venues) and largely unknown due to MTV placing them on a blacklist because of interview mishaps, not to mention the loss of Vince Neil which led to fans disregarding the album (no one even knew who John Corabi was). Which is a damn shame, because it really deserves more praise. After this, they were able to bring back Vince Neil, but this lead to 1997's Generation Swine, which was the result of a tumultuous struggle between the band and their producers, and ended up with a very different sound from their previous work, including the grunge-inspired '94 album. This album was far more experimental and spacey, which the fans couldn't really get behind, since they were expecting the original lineup to return to their sleazy, fast-paced metal roots. To make matters worse, shortly after the release of 2000's New Tattoo, their new drummer Randy Castillo died of cancer. From what's been said of 2008's Saints of Los Angeles, it seems they've left this period behind them.
Similarly, Garth Brooks' experimental pop album and pre-release soundtrack for a movie that never was, The Life of Chris Gaines, did not go over well with his fandom. Not only was the Out-of-Genre Experience unwelcome to his country fans, but taking on a new look, and the identity of the title character just made it worse. Even still, while the album bombed, failure is relative. The album itself peaked at #2 on the U.S. charts, went double platinum, and had a top 5 single.
Loudness has accomplished the feat of having several of these, at least to some fans (other fans will see them as some of the best periods ever in the band's history), as a result of being a Long Runner, and while very successfully averting We're Still Relevant, Dammit, at the same time being so in tune with the current trend in metal that people who hated that trend will hate that era. Pretty much the only era that no one considers a Dork Age is the 1991-1992 era, because it is solid Thrash Metal regardless of time or culture.
X Japan has been in one since 2008 with the possible exception of the 2010 Yokohama show, according to the part of the fandom that believes they stopped being good in 1992 or 1996.
And then there's Jewel, who, for a thankfully brief period, abandoned her trademark sensitive folkie singer Lilith Fair poet persona in order to become... a clone of every crappy pop singer of the noughties. She claimed that her violently-impossible-to-like song, "Intuition", was meant as a ''satire'' of interchangeable pretty blond pop singers. Sadly for her, that's a little hard to believe, considering she made a bunch of money off said song being used to launch a women's razor line called "Intuition".
In a rare case of by the band's own admission, Oasis had at least one of these. Noel Gallagher writes off much of the late 1990s output, and also chunks of the mid-2000s. He even went as far on a Greatest Hits DVD as to ask why somebody didn't just to tell them to "stop", also making much of it an Old Shame.
Does it count as a Dork Age if it only alienates established fans? Bob Dylan grew tired of being viewed as "the spokesman of a generation", and decided to record the country music album Nashville Skyline specifically to alienate people who viewed him as such. This continued with Self Portrait and Dylan, which were popular with critics but sold very poorly. Then Dylan recorded some albums that his original audience liked (including Blood on the Tracks), and then he converted to Christianity and changed his style again, losing most of his original fans over a quarter of a century (and gaining a few back after 1997's Time Out of Mind.)
Many fans consider that everything The Who did after Keith Moon's death as an extended Dork Age. Even more will agree that it started with John Entwistle's death in 2002.
The Dave Matthews Band came off of a creative peak with Before These Crowded Streets, only to shelve the promising work of The Lillywhite Sessions for the mainstream-pandering Everyday. This album was made solely by Dave and pop songwriter Glen Ballard, to the dismay of the bandmates. Don't even discuss Stand Up amongst the fan-base unless you're willing to withstand high amounts of flames. Thankfully, Big Whiskey and the Groo-Grux King has improved things.
And their latest album Away from the World, which reunited them with Lillywhite, is even better.
Black Sabbath went through a Dork Age in the last half of The Seventies, with their two last albums with Ozzy being mediocre after a run of six mind-blowingly awesome albums. Ronnie James Dio saved them from that, but he left after two albums. Ian Gillan hopped onboard for a decent album, then various more lineups got assembled, that nobody can agree which one is good and which one's a dork age.
Again, all phases of the band's career have their fans; including the late-'70s period, "Blackmore Sabbath", and the Black Sabbath In Name Only late '80s Tony Iommi solo albums.
Billy Corgan's assertion that the existing concept of a band releasing an album is a dead one leading to his current Teargarden by Kaleidyscope releases may well prove to be a Dork Age in progress. Time will tell.
The whole of David Bowie fandom seems to consist of various factions who love and hate different phases of his decades-long career, due to his frequent sound/image makeovers.
His 1967 self-titled debut, which he has since disowned as Old Shame. His second album, now known as Space Oddity, was originally a self-titled reboot.
In his "canon" career, the huge success of 1983's mainstream-friendly, pop-rock Let's Dance made him more popular than ever before, even as it alienated longtime fans who regarded him as a sellout. That wouldn't have been so bad had he not acted against his better instincts and stayed with that sound for the next few years, with Tonight (1984) and Never Let Me Down (1987). Even he admits that he just must not have cared when he made the latter, though "Time Will Crawl" is a great song (actually, most of the singles from this period rode high on the charts — they were just quickly forgotten). Side projects like the Live Aid "Dancing in the Street" video with Mick Jagger, Absolute Beginners, and Labyrinth yielded more mockery from the press. The accompanying Glass Spider concert tour for Never Let Me Down was a money-spinner but razzed as overblown (although the concert video of it has its fans), and Bowie was so miserable with it all that he considered giving up on music. Instead, getting out of this dork age led him into...
The Tin Machine years of 1989-1992. Initially, his choice to eschew pop for a Hard Rock group where he wasn't supposed to be the Face of the Band was welcomed by the British music press and listeners, but the bloom swiftly faded from that rose. (However, his solo Sound+Vision tour during this period went over well.)
After Tin Machine came to an end, his output is dotted with studio albums that small-but-vocal chunks of the fandom regard as Dork Ages. Black Tie White Noise (electronic lounge pop, some numbers doubling as dedications to his then-new wife Iman), Earthling (intelligent drum and bass just as it was approaching Deader than Disco status), hours... (softer, more introspective fare that prompted Reeves Gabrels, the guitarist who collaborated with Bowie in Tin Machine and his other '90s works, to leave), and Reality (mainstream alt-rock) all have their haters. This leaves three mostly-loved albums — 1. Outside, Heathen, and The Next Day — and consistently well-received tours.
Van Halen's recruitment of Gary Cherone (formerly of Extreme) after Sammy Hagar's departure is currently regarded as "never happened" by the band, having been excluded completely from a two-disc greatest hits collection put out years after the release of Van Halen III, the only album featuring that singer. The second album they had planned to release with him was scrapped after they realized how unpopular he was. Ironically, he's also the only singer of the band that doesn't hate Eddie Van Halen.
Hey, remember KISS? When they first started they were regarded on the same level as the other two pioneering metal groups, Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin. They realized the potential for making a profit, but overplayed their hand with a video game, a comic book series, and a universally-panned film. The whole thing culminated in the group attempting to cash in on the disco craze of the late 1970s, and they are today blamed for the downfall of the first generation of metal, leading to the rise of punk, hip-hop, and disco.
People often forget that KISS was a fairly obscure group for their first year or so of existence. Fans were already getting tired of glam rock by 1974 (Alice Cooper was starting to move away from it), and KISS's debut album was notably more popular in Japan than in the United States. Dressed to Kill was their true breakout album, as it coincided with the beginning of the "showman" period in which (with a few exceptions) they have since spent their entire career.
And there was their attempt in the '80s to drop the facepaint and sci-fi costumes and reinvent themselves as a "hair" band in the Twisted Sister mold.
Nevertheless...it worked. The "Unmasked" period coincided with the revival of metal: KISS took an honored spot as patriarchs among the newer bands, and their career was revived. Notably, KISS' great achievement is considered to be combining rock with theater, and it should be considered suspicious that they're appreciated for something that actually has nothing to do with music.
The Elder, the hair metal period, Psycho Circus not actually being an original KISS album, Eric Singer and Tommy Thayer performing as psuedo-originals.. Now that I think of it, everything is a dork age except for the original lineup albums, Creatures of the Night and Revenge.
Pat Boone, icon of whitebread, mocked this trope once by appearing at an event with Ozzy Osbourne's family in leather and with pierced nipples and temporary tattoos.
He even released an album of metal covers, called In a Metal Mood: No More Mister Nice Guy, performed in his signature whitebread style. His take of "Crazy Train" was used as the theme for The Osbournes (He and Ozzy were next door neighbors for many years until Ozzy and company moved shortly before the series' run). He's since claimed that his fanbase views that album as not just a Dork Age, but a Devil Age, and it actually resulted in him getting kicked out of his church for a while.
There's argument over whether AFI entered this or left it by switching its sound from hardcore punk to new wave glam rock.
There's also MC Hammer's gangsta rap album — with the possible exception of the single "Pumps and A Bump" (as long as you ignore the video).
Many Queen fans hate the disco album Hot Space with a passion. Ironically, it contains "Under Pressure", the famous duet with David Bowie.
Not only Queen fans hate it: both John Deacon and Roger Taylor expressed their dislike for it several times. On the other hand, Freddie virtually wrote its sequel for his debut solo project, and Brian still claims that without it, there'd have been no 'Thriller' (ridiculous as it sounds).
Michael Jackson himself said that Hot Space was a huge influence on Thriller, though.
Moreover, while most people tend to acknowledge 'The Cosmos Rocks', some of the other activities Taylor have been involved with (e.g. recording with Britney Spears and 5ive) are treated as if they'd never happened. If only...
The death of Cliff Burton/introduction of Jason Newsted is often cited as the cause of these problems. Whilst unfair on Newsted, since replacing him with Rob Trujillo, they have improved, though that may simply be coincidence.
The Napster suit in 2000 perpetuated this for many, as even the people Metallica was (supposedly) pandering to were disgusted with the band afterwards.
There's often a tendency among fans to want every album by that band to sound the same, and when somebody like Kirk Hammett has an adventurous streak and wants to experiment with sound, it alienates part of the fan base. This also happened to Motörhead when Brian Robertson of Thin Lizzy joined them for Another Perfect Day. Robertson's insistence on wearing disco shorts and refusal to play older Motorhead songs didn't help his case any, but the songwriting on that album pretty much defines well-written metal of the early 1980s.
For Helloween, it was the period between Kai Hansen's departure (after Keeper of the Seven Keys Pt. 2) and Andi Deris's arrival (before Master of the Rings). This period comprises the Michael Kiske-fronted albums Pink Bubbles Go Ape and Chameleon, which left the band near dissolution.
Megadeth has a brief decline with Risk, and sometimes Cryptic Writings and/or The World Needs A Hero as well.
Some fans of Rush look at their mid-80s output as this, due to heavy reliance on sythesizers. Although there are still some songs from this period that are considered classics.
Ween's 12 Golden Country Greats was probably a deliberate attempt to create one.
Neil Young's early to mid-'80s output. (You know you're in a Dork Age when your label gets fed up and sues you for your albums being "not commercial" and "musically uncharacteristic of previous recordings.")
Neil made those albums that way on purpose because he was fed up with David Geffen and wanted out of his contract.
The metal community has come to regard Cold Lake, Celtic Frost's one-off shot at glam rock, to be synonymous with "total fucking disaster".
Fleetwood Mac has had two. The first one was the period between Peter Green's departure and the addition of Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks. The second was the period between Buckingham's departure and the reformation of the Rumours-era lineup in 1997.
Techno/rave music went through a bit of a dork age between its initial surge of popularity in the early 90's and the 'electronica' explosion of the late 90's. At least in North America, Eurodance, Garage House and the Handbag genres were largely forgotten once Daft Punk, The Prodigy and Underworld became popular.
The period between original frontman Syd Barrett's leaving Pink Floyd in 1968 and the band releasing either 1971's Meddle or 1973's The Dark Side of the Moon is sometimes considered one of these. Understandable, since Barrett was responsible for virtually all of the band's material before he left. There is also a vocal part of the fanbase that considers the two albums from after Roger Waters left to be a Dork Age, though again, opinions differ considerably (generally, somewhat more bile is spewed at A Momentary Lapse of Reason than at The Division Bell).
Billy Idol went through one of these in the early '90s, when, faced with waning popularity and flagging album sales, he attempted to reinvent his image (and cash in on the emergent hacker subculture) in 1993 by replacing his bleached-blonde spiky haircut with bleached-blonde dreadlocks and releasing the album Cyberpunk, a fusion of glam rock and electronic dance music. With the exception of the single, "Shock to the System" (which was closer in style to his earlier work), the album's songs consisted of overwrought synthesizer riffs, pretentious monologues, and lines lifted directly from William Gibson novels. The album flopped, hard: critics universally panned it, Billy's old fans were left feeling betrayed, and real cyberpunks saw him as nothing but a hopeless poser. Even though the album has managed to acquire a cult following in recent years, it's still universally agreed that the cover of The Velvet Underground's "Heroin" that appeared on this album is the absolute worst version of the song ever recorded.
When irreplaceable guitarist Michael Schenker left UFO in the 1970s, a sizable portion of the fan base considered them to have ceased existing, despite a resultant run of albums that were more consistent than the ones during Schenker's difficult tenure.
The era following his split from long-time record label Warner Bros. (1996-2003) definitely counts. To recap, Prince started to release his album on his own "NPG Records" imprint with various distributors, his tours mainly catered to a small but dedicated hardcore crowd, and started to experiment with different styles of music, mainly Jazz in the latter half. To top it all off, Prince converted to Jehovah's Witnesses near the end of the 90s and decided to stray away from his vulgar, sexual image he initially became known for. The age ended in 2004, first with a high profile appearance Opening the 2004 Grammys with Beyonce, and second with his induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. His 2004 album Musicology and it's corresponding tour marked his return to the main stream and becoming an in demand live act.
The insane popularity of disco in the late 1970s resulted in many artists facing a tremendous amount of record company pressure to jump on that bandwagon. This caused dork ages for many artists of the time, including the aforementioned KISS, the Rolling Stones, and Rod Stewart. Even established jazz artists weren't immune, with Freddie Hubbard, Sonny Rollins, and Herbie Mann, only a few of the artists who produced albums that they later regretted. It came to a head at the end of the 1970s with the controversial "Disco Demolition Night", and with disco on the way out by 1980, the American music industry was at a creative loss. It took MTV and an army of New Wave Music groups from across The Pond to breathe new life into American music.
Duran Duran, contrary to myth, did continue its popularity in the wake of its "Fab Five" lineup being whittled down to Simon, Nick, and John, but the one album where their future was in serious jeopardy was with 1990's Liberty, which while containing such fan-beloved songs as "Serious" and "My Antarctica", was the one moment when the band were at the brink of falling apart. Then they came back with 1993's The Wedding Album. More recently, their post-"Fab Five" reunion (which was short-lived) period brought forth a loathed element of Dork Age with Red Carpet Massacre, which not only contained no songs of any musical merit but had Justin Timberlake getting involved with the production of the album, which many die-hard fans simply could not stomach. Thankfully, they've gotten back their mojo with 2010's All You Need is Now, produced by the much more appropriate Mark Ronson.
Tears for Fears lived its Dork Age with one album — 1995's Raoul and the Kings of Spain. While Roland Orzabal managed to score a hit album minus Curt Smith with the preceding release, 1993's Elemental, and the 1995 album contained solidly good music, Raoul was a little bit too conceptual for some people and it basically flew under the radar.
Some fans argue this trope is what best describes legendary post-punk band Wire's late 1980s descent into more traditional song structures, after making a name for themselves for performing avant garde music with somewhat atonal elements.
Those Gang of Four fans who preferred their rougher, harsher, punkier edge in albums such as Entertainment feel this way about their 1984 album Hard, which was funkier and poppier than anything they'd released before. Others see Hard as a catchy, logical extension of the musical themes explored in their previous album, Songs of the Free (which included their most famous song, "I Love a Man in a Uniform").
Much of the Japan fan base is divided between those who preferred their glam rock era (Adolescent Sex, Obscure Alternatives, et. al.) and those who preferred their New Wave/New Romantic era (e.g. Gentlemen Take Polaroids and Tin Drum). David Sylvian himself considers the debut album (1977's Adolescent Sex) "old shame" and his whole solo career has been an extension of the musical themes first explored with Tin Drum, from the Eastern musical elements to the esoteric lyrics about such things as inner pain and loneliness.
On a lighter note, some fans feel that "Weird Al" Yankovic entered an aesthetic Dork Age after he got LASIK surgery, got rid of his glasses, grew out his hair, and shaved his mustache. *GASP!*
John Cale was a drug-addled, overweight, mentally-unwell shell of his former self for a period in the early to mid-eighties. Fortunately, he cleaned himself up, but not before filming some very embarrassing live performances.
Tokio Hotel with the Humanoid Album. Arguably, that is. The band both lost and gained fans with this album, though it seems to be more on the lost side.
KMFDM tried to break away from its long history by switching record labels and changing their name to MDFMK. While the "new" band's album was well received, fans were incensed that they refused to play any of their old songs in concert. The band relented, going back to their old name and playing selections from their entire catalog.
Two come to mind with Elton John: 1977-1982, when his lyricist Bernie Taupin had little or no influence on the albums of that period, his sales slowed, he dabbled in disco for an album just as the style grew out of fashion, and his albums in general were of an inconsistent quality, and 1985-1990, where Taupin was more involved, but Elton's music became overly produced and synth-heavy, much of the classic 1970's Elton John Band who backed him in his 1983-84 period were fired and replaced by session musicians, and Elton's drug and alcohol habits, bulimia and reckless love life were taking a toll on him.
The output of Rascal Flatts after switching producers from Mark Bright to Dann Huff. While the Power Ballad "What Hurts the Most" was a critical darling and one of the few #1 country hits also to hit #1 on AC, the majority of their output for the next few years was very poorly received almost across the board. Pretty much all of their singls were bombastic, overproduced, over-sung power ballads with whiny, over-the-top vocals and lightweight lyrics. Anything that was outside that mold ("Me and My Gang", "Bob That Head", "Why") inexplicably flopped. Even when they did score another chart-topper, it was quickly forgotten and never heard again — even "Take Me There", which spent 4 weeks atop the country charts in an era where spending more than two weeks at #1 is a rarity on that chart. They didn't break out of their doldrums until their label (Lyric Street Records) closed in 2010 and they moved to Big Machine. Though they've kept Huff as a producer, and though they still do a lot of power ballads, the bombast and oversinging have been dialed down, and they've begun cutting more substantial and varied material.
To most fans of the British post-punk outfit Wire, their early '90s output almost certainly qualifies. The Drill, made up entirely of variations on the band's revolutionary 1985 track "Drill", is interesting in concept but tedious in execution; Manscape, on the other hand, is a continuation of the band's explorations in MIDI technology and programmed rhythm. The latter is notable for being the album that prompted long-standing drummer Robert Gotobed to leave the group, thinking that he had been rendered obsolete, which led to the band changing their name and not releasing another album as Wire until 2000. Both LPs have their defenders, and few will say that Manscape is completely devoid of good material—"Torch It!", "Children Of Groceries" and "You Hung Your Lights In The Trees" are all fairly popular among fans of the band—but likewise even fewer will call them flawless or deny that they are extremely dated (a rare quality in Wire's output).
Depending upon who you ask, Wire's post-Gotobed tenure as Wir (roughly 1991-1996) may qualify, although most agree that The First Letter was a massive step up from Manscape. (It even got them a minor hit with "So and Slow It Grows".) More controversially, some fans of the band's earlier and later work will dismiss their entire '80s/'90s output as this, citing the excess of digital synths and slicker production.
Scott Walker entered into such a phase in the early 70s. After the entirely self-penned Scott 4 failed to chart, his following five albums consisted almost entirely of covers and outside compositions. These days, most fans just pretend that Walker's solo career stopped entirely until Climate of Hunter in 1984.
Tori Amos' eighth album, The Beekeeper, qualifies according to some critics and even a sizable number of fans, especially since it followed the widely popular Scarlet's Walk. It has gotten a bit more appreciation, if only from fans, for how the songs delve into some complex and unlikely themes, including Gnostic Christianity.
Randy Travis had his poorly received 1993 album Wind in the Wire, a Western-themed one-off for a short lived TV series of the same name. Its singles went nowhere (at least in the US — "Cowboy Boogie" went to #10 on the Canadian country charts), but he soon got back on track with the next few albums. A label exec at Warner Bros. Records even referred to that particular album as an "angst period".