Returning after a long period of time isn’t easy in the music world, and sometimes, brilliant comebacks aren’t heralded enough. It’s always a shame when great music doesn’t get the attention it warrants, but the music industry can be a fickle place sometimes.
We recently covered the 10 best comeback albums of the 21st century (so far), but what about those comeback LP’s that were unfairly maligned? Well, you’ve come to the right place. Whether they were critically slated, commercially unsuccessful, or just not regarded highly enough – these ten records deserve more credit than they got.
As with our previous list, this one will feature artists that roared back in the 21st century, with the qualification being albums that were released after a decade of stagnation. So without further ado, here are the 10 most underrated comeback albums of the 21st century (so far).
10. Devo – Something for Everybody (2010)
There may not be a “Whip It” on Devo’s first new album in two decades, but 2010’s Something for Everybody was a stellar return for the quirky outfit nonetheless. The influential electronic rock group don’t miss a beat on this wonderfully woven pop record, hitting real moments of reinvigoration on the fizzing anthem “Fresh,” the glitching retro gem “Mind Games,” and the space-bound barnstormer “Human Rocket.” Something for Everybody does exactly what it says on the tin – delivers smorgasbord-esque eclecticism that aims to please at every turn. From a consistency standpoint, this LP should be considered as one of the group’s very best outputs.
9. Goatsnake – Black Age Blues (2015)
Doom metal weavers Goatsnake reunited in 2015 for their first release since 2000’s Flower of Disease. With Nick Raskulinecz on production duties, the group destroy everything in their wake on their long-awaited return entitled Black Age Blues. Fusing elements of Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin, Goatsnake turn the album into one heavy slab of gin-soaked ‘70s-styled heavy metal, complete with mountainous riff peaks and skull-crushing drumbeats. Highlights include the haunting, gospel-tinged opener “Another River to Cross,” the towering monolith “House of the Moon,” and the stunning groove decapitator “Graves.” This one deserved much more recognition upon release, as it’s not only the band’s best work to date, but it was also one of the top albums released that year.
8. Loretta Lynn – Full Circle (2016)
In 2016, one of country music’s great artists returned after a 12-year hiatus – the unstoppable Loretta Lynn. At the age of 83, Lynn miraculously delivered one of her best ever works with the infectious slice of Americana, Full Circle. With Johnny Cash and June Carter’s son John Carter Cash, and Lynn’s daughter Patsy Lynn Russell producing the record, Full Circle was always going to be a heartfelt nod to years gone by. But it’s so expertly put together that it doesn’t sound outdated or rehashed, but rather, comes across as a genuine attempt at reaching new areas in the country music landscape. Sure, it had critical acclaim, but it deserved to do better than number 19 on the Billboard 200 – that’s how good it is.
7. The Verve – Forth (2008)
Over ten years had passed since The Verve released their landmark 1997 release Urban Hymns, when they decided to reform for the self-explanatory Forth album. With it came a return to the spaced-out anthems that Richard Ashcroft’s brainchild nailed so effortlessly in the ‘90s, with lead single (and album highlight) “Love is Noise” being a prime example. It floats in the ether, much like the rest of the record does, particularly tracks like “Rather Be,” “Sit and Wonder,” and the cloud-swirling beauty “Valium Skies.” Some critics were quite harsh on it, mostly stating it as a lack of evolution for the band. However, for fans of the group, more of the same was just what the doctor ordered.
6. Gil Scott-Heron – I’m New Here (2010)
Clocking in at a super brisk 28 minutes, spoken word/blues extraordinaire Gil Scott-Heron’s first release in 16 years rattles along at a fast pace throughout. It marked the end of a troubled period for the musician, with his drug problems and personal demons halting any new material making its way out. However, I’m New Here was most certainly worth the wait. It sees the multi-faceted performer at his most direct, delivering thought-provoking lyricism atop the raw instrumentation. It’s totally enthralling stuff from start to finish, but unfortunately, didn’t chart higher than number 181 on the Billboard 200. Sadly, Scott-Heron passed away in 2011, leaving us with a fantastic final farewell with I’m New Here.
5. Alice In Chains – Black Gives Way to Blue (2009)
Coming 13 years after their last record, Alice in Chains decided to reform in 2009 for the no-nonsense riff-fest Black Gives Way to Blue. After the sad demise of iconic crooner for the group Layne Staley, the band chose to enlist singer William DuVall for the new material. Obviously, he’s never going to replace the former’s exemplary vocal ability, but he does a good job complimenting guitarist Jerry Cantrell’s killer guitar lines. And boy does Cantrell deliver the electric goods. Songs like “All Secrets Known” and “A Looking in View” push forward with unmitigated power, while second single and all-round banger “Check My Brain” sees Cantrell produce one of the most hellish guitar refrains you’re ever likely to hear. Unfortunately, the album has its naysayers who can’t take the record on its own merits, but don’t let that stop you from giving this head-spinner a listen.
4. Jane’s Addiction – Strays (2003)
Another group that decided to spring back out of the woodwork in the 21st century were alternative rockers Jane’s Addiction. Released in 2003, third album Strays is rock music at its finest. Whether it’s the insanely catchy single “Just Because,” the dreamy yet seedy “Price I Pay,” or the cosmic brainstorm “Hypersonic” – there’s much more to like here than there is to hate. Some fans and critics disliked the record, mostly because of its straightforward style and less experimental nature. What they’re missing though is the seismic hooks, infectious singalongs, and glitzy production that combine to make Strays one hell of a rock record.
3. Swans – My Father Will Guide Me up a Rope to the Sky (2010)
After a prolific run during the ‘80s and ‘90s, experimental group Swans called it a day in 1996. However, 14 years later, they were back with a vengeance, releasing the otherworldly experience My Father Will Guide Me up a Rope to the Sky. The sense of foreboding is always present on this moody affair, with an atmosphere and aura that is on another level when compared to their peers. Incorporating elements of post-rock, industrial, avant-garde, and noise rock, the group’s 11th LP picks up right where they left off. It was met with critical adoration, but not so much from a commercial standpoint. Regardless, this is one visceral ride you don’t want to miss.
2. Dinosaur Jr. – Beyond (2007)
After releasing the patchy album Hand it Over in 1997, alternative rock icons Dinosaur Jr. returned ten years later to rectify things with their exhilarating eighth LP Beyond. It marked a return to form for the group, sprouting out several stellar cuts like “Almost Ready,” “Crumble,” “Been There All the Time,” and “It’s Me.” On Beyond, Dinosaur Jr. pack a mighty punch not felt since 1993’s Where You Been. It did moderately well in the charts, but really, it deserved to be heralded to a greater extent than it was.
1. Mission of Burma – ONoffON (2004)
Reforming after a very lengthy time of 22 years between albums, post-punk troupe Mission of Burma shot back this century with one of the finest releases ever put out under the genre’s umbrella. No mean feat either, considering just how good the band’s previous works are. However, with ONoffON, they perfect their angular sound into one that’s much more pleasant to the ear. The results can be heard on spiky, yet accessible tracks like “The Setup,” “Falling,” and “Fake Blood,” where it’s obvious that the group aren’t resting on their laurels for their big return LP. ONoffON certainly demands more attention than it got, particularly for a group as consistent as this lot. It’s raw, it’s confrontational, and it’s Mission of Burma at their absolute peak. Unmissable.