Music History

Question: Which legacy acts still create excitement when they release a new album?

The problem with having a long career is that after a while, audiences lose interest in any new music you might release because all they want to hear are the hits. For example, while the Rolling Stones may occasionally release new material, only the super-hardcore faithful care. What was the last Stones album to really capture the zeitgeist and contain some genuine hits? Could be Tattoo You from 1981?

U2 has found itself in this rut for almost 20 years. The last album the general public really got into was How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb back in 2004. While No Line on the Horizon (2009) sold five million worldwide, that was half of HtDaAB. Songs of Innocence (2014) didn’t even make it to a million in the US while Songs of Experience struggled to 1.3 million worldwide. Can you name any hits from any of those last three albums? Me, neither–because there were none (at least as big as singles from past albums).

And as much as I love The Who–and Pete still has it as a songwriter (check out Who, a 2019 album)–I really don’t love any Who album since It’s Hard came out in 1982.

This brings me to this question: What legacy acts still get people excited when they release a new album? For our purposes here, a “legacy act” is a group that achieved superstar status prior to 2000 and the disruption wrought by the internet.

Here are a few suggestions. Please discuss.

  1. AC/DC: Despite having roots going back to 1973 and multiple, any new AC/DC album is an event and fans usually embrace the one or two singles that come from it.
  2. Depeche Mode: They were formed in 1980 and from what I can tell, the DM universe is frothing at the prospect of Memento Mori, a new album coming next month.
  3. Green Day: If they release something, it’ll still get airplay.
  4. Red Hot Chili Peppers: Established in 1982, they’re still treated by everyone–especially alt-rock radio–as a hot new band.
  5. Foo Fighters: They’ve been around for almost 30 years. No one ignores a new album.
  6. Pearl Jam: They’ll never have another album as big as their first three, but we still pay attention when a new record comes out.
  7. Blink-182: Now that Tom is back in the band, it’s a whole new ballgame.
  8. Weezer: Still getting love from radio whenever Rivers decides to put something out–which is often.
  9. Ozzy Osbourne: Frail and sick but still winning Grammys for his new albums.
  10. Radiohead: Definitely still a force.

Who else can be on this list? Think long and hard before you comment.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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14 thoughts on “Question: Which legacy acts still create excitement when they release a new album?

    • I would say one legacy act that has CONSTANT-yet-baited hype around them is my bloody valentine. They may only have three albums in their 30+ years of existence, but every time there’s whispers of a new one, it’s all I see on music discussion boards.

      Another band that is a bit more underground but drives quite a bit of excitement whenever a new release comes up is Swans. Their fantastic run of albums in the 2010s which essentially defined the cutting edge of post-rock during that decade and shifted the gold standard from where it had been left by Godspeeed You! Black Emperor is certainly something to behold, and of course there is the obvious question of whether or not Michael Gira has decided to take the band in a new direction into something completely different.

  • Personally, I don’t think album sales are the best indicator anymore of a bands popularity… for a number of reasons including piracy which wasn’t previously possible technologically back in the day when album sales did reflect popularity in a meaningful way… and there is YouTube and other things where you can hear music without paying for it… Adjusted for streaming – that measure would be better… so it also depends on which numbers you use…. I think a better and more reliable measure are ticket sales… why? because ticket sales for a concert are the undeniable measure of actual dollars coming out of people’s pockets – people who go, after music effort and time invested, to see the bands perform music live. So while there has been a decline in album sales for U2 – the opposite data of concert ticket sales (out selling even the legendary Rolling Stones) suggests the band is much more popular than the album sales figures show nowadays… U2 have sold more concert tickets than any other band in the past 40 years.

  • To be honest, I haven’t bought a “new album” from anyone in at least 15 years. I’m screaming towards 60, and my 256GB phone can hold literally weeks of songs I already know and like. I’m trying to downsize, not upsize, so I’m not buying physical product, and none of the bands that I used to like to see live are doing anything really interesting anymore (okay, P!nk still kills!!).

    The days of waiting for a new release of anyone were gone decades ago…

  • I’m a huge U2 fan, and think NLOTH and Songs of Innocence are both fantastic. While there were no massive hits, there are incredible songs and both tours were off the charts. The Songs of Innocence tour may have been better than ZooTV; I say that because the set list and pacing worked better. I got NLOTH the day of release (remember how that used to be) and sat in my car and listened to the entire thing. Moment of Surrender took me to another place.

    That said, I was really excited for the release of Songs of Experience…and really let down. And the new re-recordings has left me wondering why.

    but do any of the bands on your list have massive hits any more? When was the last Pearl Jam or Foos hit? DM? AC/DC? IMO your list is really about the super fans and not general listeners.

  • I think Muse should probably be on this list as well.

    And if they ever released something new, add Led Zeppelin and Oasis.

  • Tool, enough said!

  • Dave Matthews Band

  • Nick Cave, with or without the Bad Seeds.

  • tool
    nine inch nails

  • McCartney. He may not be getting #1s, but he is still getting out new music that’s interesting to listen to and is able to pack stadiums.

  • Metallica, even if it isn’t very good.


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