As the saying goes, you have your whole life to make your first album, and then about a year to make your second one, thus accounting for the dreaded “sophomore slump.” The third album, then, is a crucial litmus test, one when many artists hit their stride and prove if they’re really in it for the long haul. Testing out that theory, Billboard/Rolling Stone (and former A.V. Club) contributor Corbin Reiff posited a simple question to Twitter, which kind of exploded.
Turns out many bands (arguably) hit that apex with the third record: like Public Enemy (Fear Of A Black Planet), Green Day (Dookie), Blur (Parklife), The Clash (London Calling), Radiohead (OK Computer), and Metallica (Master Of Puppets). From hip-hop to pop stars, many stellar third albums stand out. Many though, are pointing to Nirvana’s Steve Albini-produced In Utero as the best third album ever, an assertion made even more poignant by the fact that it was the band’s last. Testing this theory among our own record collection—The Smiths (The Queen Is Dead), Big Star (Big Star’s Third/Sister Lovers), Bruce Springsteen (Born To Run), The Replacements (Let It Be)—we’d say that, yep, it checks out.
See a few notable responses below.