With so many bands (Arcade Fire, Modest Mouse, the Shins) releasing high-profile follow-ups this year — to varying degrees of success — we’ve decided to use this month’s podcast to shine a light on albums that are too often overlooked by their band’s commercial and/or critical peak. We dug through some past failures and triumphs, but everything included here could use another look by those who passed them by.
Prefix Podcast 2: The album after (Right Click Save As)
“Serve the Servants”
Nirvana had made what is still considered by many critics to be the most important record of the 1990s and sold millions of records before delivering In Utero, produced by Steve Albini, to a terrified Geffen Records. The label convinced the band members to tone down the intensity on a few tracks so they could at least have some singles, but the album is still probably the rawest record ever released by a band that could lay claim to being the biggest on the planet. It’s the most well-known and respected record represented on this podcast, but it’s relevant for the first line alone: “Teenage angst has paid off well/ now I’m bored and old.”
On the Beach
After Neil Young had his first number-one album with 1972’s Harvest, the legendary malcontent released a poorly received live album and movie and then shelved his dark and stormy follow-up, Tonight’s the Night (which was eventually released, in 1975). Instead, he put out On the Beach, which until a few years ago was stuck in vinyl limbo due to Young’s reluctance to reissue his work in digital formats (and his personal connection to this record). It’s not often talked about as a must-own, but this is essential Neil (and my personal favorite).
“Caroline Says II”
Lou Reed’s solo career will always be tied to two songs, “Walk on the Wild Side” and “Perfect Day,” both from his one real smash success, 1972’s Transformer, his second solo album. Berlin, often mentioned as one of the most depressing records in pop history, followed it up a year later, but it seems light years away.
“Can’t Run But”
Rhythm of the Saints
Warner Bros. 
Paul Simon’s solo career, even including his masterpiece, Graceland (1986), has been ignored all too often over the past decade because of the misguided assumption that his music is for aging boomers who like their rock conventional and acoustic. Though it is true that Simon is one of the few artists who acts his age and writes music about what is happening in his life (cough cough Mick Jagger), taking a closer listen to any of his work from the ’80s reveals a sophisticated artist who had learned how to use the technology being developed in a timeless way that, while the music around it has aged slightly, still seems fresh and brilliant. “Can’t Run But,” one of the best songs from Graceland‘s misunderstood follow-up, Rhythm of the Saints, is a perfect example of the kind of music Simon can make that is at once timeless and on the continual vanguard.
Television only made two records during its original run, and yet for some reason no one can get past Marquee Moon (1977) long enough to acknowledge just how good this follow-up is. Don’t let the same thing happen to you.
Gang of Four
Solid Gold 
Speaking of punk bands that find all the focus being drawn to their debut, you would think Gang of Four never made another record after 19789s Entertainment. Although that record had a catchier edge to it that undoubtedly influenced the recent post-punk revival, Solid Gold is all jitters and bite.
“Safe European Home”
Give ‘Em Enough Rope
Most rundowns of the Clash would make you think the band put out its self-titled debut in 1977 and then followed it immediately with London Calling (1979). Though it isn’t the five-star classic those records are, Give ‘Em Enough Rope is a great record that shouldn’t be ignored.
Odessey & Oracle
It’s hard to talk about this song and this album without resorting to hyperbole, so here’s this: If you love ’60s pop, psychedelia, and/or music, this is an essential record.
The Beach Boys
After 1966’s Pet Sounds, Brian Wilson set out to create his masterpiece, SMiLE, but in the process lost his mind and his way. Smiley Smile was dumped into stores, and until the release of the newly reconfigured SMiLE in 2004, this follow-up was constantly compared to a record that no one had heard. The finished products are both imperfect, but Smiley Smile has a certain off-kilter appeal to it that the later, more polished and invigorating album lacks.
Arthur Or The Decline and Fall of the British Empire
The best Kinks record is not the one that everyone points to, 1968’s The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society, but this follow-up, a great rumination on Britain, war, suburbia, and the middle class. This song has one of the great lines in pop history: “All the houses in the street have got a name/ ’cause all the houses in the street they look the same.”
“Listen to This”
Dexys Midnight Runners
Don’t Stand Me Down
A one-hit wonder in the United States, Dexys Midnight Runners were riding high in their native Britain after 1982’s Too-Rye-Ay and their huge single, “Come on Eileen.” It drove Kevin Rowland crazy, and on this record he consciously rejected the sound that had made him famous. But on second look, Don’t Stand Me Down is just as strong as the group’s previous two (all are underrated in the States). This song had its name changed to “I Love You (Listen to This)” on the “director’s cut” version of the record, which was released a few years ago and also included a new song.
Prince and the Revolution
Around the World in a Day
Paisley Park 
Though it sold two million copies, Around the World in a Day was considered a major failure. Anything would have been after 1984’s Purple Rain, but it was blamed on Prince’s tendency to reject previous success by producing what must have seemed like a bizarre and insular record when it was released. But listening to “Paisley Park” now, it sounds years ahead of its time. The rest of the record, particularly the big hit, “Raspberry Beret,” is equally forward-thinking.
Pinkerton is better than Weezer’s 1994 self-titled debut, known as the blue album. If you have any friends who still don’t know this, tell them now.
After 1996’s Odelay, Beck released an “unofficial follow-up” in Mutations, which painted the way toward both his synth-heavy explorations and his guitar-stroking ruminations. Then, it seemed like a minor aside. Now, even if it lacks the power of his best work, it’s almost career-defining.
Go! Discs/London 
Most people stick with Portishead’s 1994 debut, Dummy, but if it’s darkness you’re looking for, look no further than this smoky crackling masterpiece. So good they’ve taken ten years (and running) trying to follow it up. And is there any worse fate for fans than that never-released follow-up? D’Angelo? My Bloody Valentine? Brian Austin Green?
We’ve always believed the best way to learn about music is to hear it. That’s why we try to accompany each of our reviews and features with audio and video; why we diligently scour the universe looking for the latest gems to populate our media section and forums; why we pepper our news section with streaming and downloadable tracks from your favorite (and your future favorite) rock, hip-hop and electronic artists.
And now we offer this: the Prefix Podcast. On the first Tuesday of every month, we’ll shine some light on a little piece of the music universe. From Delta blues to great songs made by terrible artists, each month will highlight a different genre, artist, or theme. It’s a journey through the music we love that doesn’t fit into our day-to-day functions. We hope you learn a little but, more important, we want you to hear some music you like enough to search out and purchase, music that isn’t being over-hyped on the blogs and in trend-seeking magazines (like this one).
Prefix Podcast 2: The album after (Right Click Save As)