Speculation gets the best of us. We feed on it. It’s sort of like Devil’s food cake, or something sweet and alarmingly harmful to our diet. We know it’s unhealthy for us, but we can’t help but return to its flavor. More often than not, speculation runs the music industry.
Day in and day out, artists drop cryptic hints at everything they’re involved in: an LP, a tour, a reunion, a breakup, or, sometimes, a collaboration. Some stay true to their words (e.g. Jack White), others forget about them (e.g. Dr. Dre). Fans never do, however. That’s why you have countless legions of fanatics, all raving about this and that, when this and that never amounted to anything, anyhow. But, it’s fun, nonetheless. It’s why folks continue slaving away on message boards and searching the footnotes of Wikipedia, all looking for more.
The truth is out there.
Ah, of course. The quest for truth. Well, in this industry, truth is what you hold in your hands, whether it be a ticket or a sealed LP. Nothing is certain until it’s a product. Take Guns N’ Roses 2008 myth-turned-reality, Chinese Democracy. For 14 years, the album drove speculation to epic heights. People bootlegged shows, they squandered over demos, they debated over lineup changes, and they held onto every vague quote that Axl Rose spit out. It became a deep-seated fascination that couldn’t, and wouldn’t, die… that is, until that fateful Sunday morning in November, when fans strolled into Best Buy and ended their “pain” and “suffering.” Although, for some, it just began.
Most will agree that the journey leading up to the album happened to be more exciting than the end result itself. That’s what hype and speculation does to us. It’s sort of a hobby. No, it is. People flock to these myths in the industry no different than Fox Mulder to an alien conspiracy, all because it’s the quest for a truth we believe in.
Or, it’s just too damn fun.
Having said that, we rounded up our list of the industry’s most overdue albums, the ones “we’ve heard about” for years. Our next “Chinese Democracy“, if you will. Some of them might never see the light of day – well, probably the majority, actually – but if we learned anything from our time with Mr. Rose & Co., maybe we’re okay with that.
Kurt Cobain’s solo album
The Internet can be a useful tool for digging up obscure or unfinished media, but sometimes, even a myth that far outweighs an actual product is precisely that — a myth.
The oft-idolized Kurt Cobain committed suicide in 1994, amidst abandoned rehabilitation efforts, a European tour for Nirvana, and uncontested mental distress. Prior to that, the release of MTV Unplugged ignited rumors of a possible breakup, probably due to that album’s straightforward intimacy, alongside Cobain’s dwindling sanity. Since that time, the now-released Nirvana recording “You Know You’re Right” has vaguely dispelled any rumors of an immediate breakup being planned then.
Despite this, people have, in circles, insisted upon there being a bevy of Cobain solo material lurking in the vaults. I am positive that there is no Kurt Cobain solo album, nor has there ever been one in the making, for if there had been, we would surely have known it by now. Meanwhile, long live Nirvana. Live at Reading, anyone? -David Buchanan
Odds of Release: Zilch
The Weird Sisters’ first album
Ever wonder what rock music sounds like in Harry Potter’s world? Turns out it’s kinda like Radiohead fronted by Pulp. For the fourth entry in the film franchise, Goblet of Fire, the bigwigs at WB formed an unfathomably impressive super group to play a band of wizarding musicians. Originally to feature members of Franz Ferdinand, The Weird Sisters were fronted, instead, by Pulp’s Jarvis Cocker and Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood. Behind them were Pulp bassist Steve Mackey, Radiohead drummer Phil Selway, Jason Buckle from All Seeing I on guitar, and Steven Claydon of Add N to (X) playing keyboards and bagpipes. Yeah, wow. Three songs appeared on the soundtrack, including one performed during the movie’s Yule Ball scene, “Do The Hippogriff”.“This is the Night” and school dance slow-jam “Magic Works” were also included. Initially, Cocker had plans for a full album’s worth of Weird Sisters music, with contributors ranging from Franz to Jack White to Iggy friggin’ Pop. However, and despite reported death threats, a small Canadian outfit calling themselves The Wyrd Sisters filed suit against WB. The case kept the fictional band’s name out of the movie and would-be collaborators out of the studio. Greenwood and Selway are currently finishing up Radiohead’s impending eighth album, and Pulp has joined the ranks of bands reuniting to play festivals. With no further word, odds aren’t looking great for the fruition of a Weird Sisters record. Then again, the lawsuit was settled back in March, and next July sees the final Potter movie’s release. Though the settlement details are sealed, everyone knows production companies love to squeeze every cent out of franchises, and a Weird Sisters album could see major cross-audience profit. It’s a long shot, to be sure, dependent on the musicians’ schedules and the terms of the settlement. But, if you believe in magic… -Ben Kaye
Odds of Release: 100/1
The Postal Service’s second album
In 2003, Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie and Jimmy Tamborello of Dntel flooded college radio airwaves and independent film soundtracks with the song, “Such Great Heights”. It wasn’t long before the duo, under the moniker The Postal Service, became an indie household name, and their album Give Up went gold. Eight years later, there doesn’t seem to be much, if any, movement on a follow-up. Word got out back in 2008 that five songs had been started in the duo’s collaboration, but nothing has yet come of those. Gibbard himself joked to Rolling Stone, “The second Postal Service album is threatening to become the Chinese Democracy of indie rock. It will come out eventually, or maybe it won’t.” Since then, the DCFC frontman has found himself working with scores of other artists, including his new wifey, and is now in the studio working on his main unit’s next record, with a tour surely following. Tamborello is currently recruiting collaborators for his next project, while also pumping out Dntel material. The most recent news comes from an interview Tamborello did with Spinner, in which he says, “I don’t think it’ll ever be officially over, but there’s a good chance it’ll never come together.” So while we shouldn’t expect this album anytime soon – if ever – one can find hope in the fact that Chinese Democracy, while taking almost twice as long, ultimately did find its way onto shelves. Will history (eventually) repeat itself? -Ben Kaye
Odds of Release: 80/1
The Blue Nile’s fifth album
“Absolutely thrilled that you’re back. Please don’t disappear again.” So reads the last comment on the enigmatic Glasgow, Scotland, outfit’s MySpace, and that was made a year ago. Fans of The Blue Nile are patient folks. The band has released precisely four albums in the last 26 years with the last one, High, out in 2004. So, it should be almost time for another one, right? Let’s try the official website, an exercise in such minimalism that these guys must be into serious Feng Shui. So, we register. “Brand new music and video downloads are coming soon to this page!” it proclaims. The exclamation mark is promising. Unfortunately, that’s about it. You can download an exclusive instrumental version of “Stay Close” from the last album, sample the first three releases, and allegedly view a (it had to be) hidden YouTube channel. To add to the mystery, the link took me to an invite to download the Flash Player I already have. Let’s just safely say that the next Blue Nile record may be out in the next 10 years. But going on past experience, at least it should be a good one. -Tony Hardy
Odds of Release: 25/1
The Avalanches’ second album
Almost 10 years ago electronic Melbourne, AU collective The Avalanches released their debut album, Since I Left You, an alternative dance meets hip hop mash-up which has become regarded as one of the best albums of the 2000s. Since then, The Avalanches have left us with nothing but yearly hints and vague promises of a second album since the latter half of the aughts. In 2006, the band’s record label, Modular Records, released a statement joking that they were not releasing The Avalanches’ next album because it sounded rushed, which later caused the label to release a statement explaining that they were being facetious and the next album was, “everything we dared not hope for, and so much more. They’ve made the record of their lives basically.” In January of 2007, the band stated on their website that 40 tracks were being considered and described the record as, “so fuckin party you will die.” They were even more incredulous about a prospective release date, explaining that, “one day when you least expect it you’ll wake up and the sample fairy will have left it under your pillow.” However, 2008 saw the biggest let down of them all when Modular Records executive Steve Pav said he expected the album to be delivered to him on Christmas Day. He stated: “After many, many moons and several years that have passed by and several promises of getting a new album I’ve been assured that on Christmas Day they’re going to deliver their new album to my little grotty hands.” Whether or not he received the album, it doesn’t matter… we didn’t.
Something odd happened in 2009, though. Fans kept hope alive when they found a photo-shopped version of the back cover to The Who’s The Who Sell Out on the band’s website. The cover had been remade by adding Clearasil spot remover and the words “clearing samples”, insinuating that the album had been completed and was in the process of clearing copyrights. Still, nothing. Then came 2010, by far the most promising year yet, when the band’s webmaster Clint announced in June, “I hear Ariel Pink is recording some guest vocals for it and once those are done, the album will be finished (!).” Five months later – that’s November, everyone – the fan’s cajoling continued when the band revamped their website, leaving a message that read, “Stay tuned in the coming months for special announcements.” A few days after their website was given a new look, the band re-tweeted a tweet from The Roots drummer Quest Love about their new album: “I need a new album by The Avalanches STAT….” Hey, J Fal can do wonders on his show, reuniting bands we never thought possible, could the magic have passed on to his pal? Let’s hope. –Mark Sabb
Odds of Release: 4/1
Outkast’s seventh album
Outkast’s future as a group has been in doubt ever since the release of 2006’s Idlewild. Since then, both Big Boi and Andre 3000 have focused on their solo projects, leaving behind the name that made the celebrated duo popular. Most figured this was the end of everyone’s favorite rap duo, but the two artists assured everyone that they weren’t breaking up. According to Big Boi, a new Outkast project will occur after both he and Andre 3000 release their own records. Andre picked up on this in 2007, saying to MTV, “After we do those solo albums, we’re planning on doing another Outkast album. I don’t know how long that’s gonna be; it could be two years.” Even though it’s now been four years, there haven’t been any major steps taken towards a seventh Outkast record.
Since the band’s future depends on solo work first, any progress made in that field is progress towards an Outkast LP. Big Boi released Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty earlier this year. The album was supposed to feature “Royal Flush”, a single featuring a guest appearance by Andre. But the track was removed from the finished product due to legal complications stemming from Big Boi resigning from Jive Records. Andre’s own track, “I Do”, found its way online in August, proving that his solo album may be on the way soon as well. Hopefully, once Andre’s record drops, concrete info on the next Outkast project will begin to pop up. -Joe Marvilli
Odds of Release: 3/1
My Bloody Valentine’s third album
Dublin’s wicked shoegaze unit My Bloody Valentine could have owned the ’90s. Their sophomore masterpiece, 1991’s Loveless, sugarcoated plenty of critics’ minds, enough that they’d eventually list the album as their favorite of the decade. The album catapulted them onto a major label (Island Records), where they received enough dough to build their own studio, somewhere in South London. Given that the landmark effort took two years to create, it wasn’t surprising that principal songwriter Kevin Shields took his time on the follow-up. But, then came a meltdown and then 1996 arrived. Several band members went off to do their own thing, leaving Shields on his own to either record, jam with Dinosaur Jr. or Yo La Tengo, or disappear. He did all three, but he did remain productive. By the late ’90s, according to David Stubbs, Shields would go on to deliver 60 hours worth of music to Island Records. Nothing came of this, however. In fact, years later, he would go on to trash the work, which Wikipedia reports as having been influenced by “jungle music.”
Shoot to 2007, the band reunites and jams once again, leading to a world tour and appearances at countless music festivals over the next two years. They even curate 2009’s All Tomorrow’s Parties ‘Nightmare Before Christmas’ festival. But, still there’s no new album. In 2008, Shields tells The New York Times, “I realized that all that stuff I was doing in 1996 and 1997 was a lot better than I thought,” insisting that the band would follow up Loveless and record again. It’s 2011, nearly 20 years after Loveless, and we’re still waiting…sadly. But, what better time than now? As Jakarta Globe reported earlier this month, “shoegaze is looking up.” You should take advantage, Mr. Shields. -Michael Roffman
Odds of Release: 2/1
The Heads’ second album
When the Talking Heads officially disbanded in 1991, the only malcontent was David Byrne. The rest of the band, Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth (better known as Tom Tom Club) and Modern Lovers guitarist Jerry Harrison wanted to carry on making dark, funky art rock. In 1996, they re-banded and re-branded themselves as “The Heads”, and their first and only album, the scathingly titled No Talking Just Head, is one of the greatest forgotten albums of the ’90s. The former Talking Heads were a musical force even without Byrne, but how do you replace as enigmatic a vocalist as David Byrne? An all-star collection of singers, a different one on every track, including Debbie Harry, INXS’ Michael Hutchence, Concrete Blonde’s Johnette Napolitano, XTC’s Andy Partridge, and Violent Femme’s Gordon Gano. No Talking Just Head was drastically different from anything Talking Heads had ever done, and though the sound was different, the music was as rich and evocative as ever.
What happened? What put No Talking Just Head outside everyone’s radar? Why no follow-up? Well, apparently, “The Heads” and the sexually connotative “No Talking Just Head” hit too close to home for a certain Mr. David Byrne, and he sued. The lawsuit, plus the dissolution of the MCA label, killed the album’s launch, and the act faded into obscurity. However, recently it was confirmed that an entire second album was recorded. In Ian Gilchrist’s essay included with the Deluxe Edition of Tom Tom Club and Close to the Bone, he says: “Intent on embarking on a second Heads album, they joined forces with trumpeter and vocalist Jimmy Helms of Londonbeat, but by mid-1997 corporate restructuring at MCA spelled the end of The Heads (their second album remains unmixed), and Chris and Tina began writing songs for a new Tom Tom Club album instead.” Aside from this quote, this album might as well not exist.
Recently, I had a chance to chat with Mr. Frantz and, naturally, I had to ask about this album. “It’s sitting on the shelf in our studio right now,” said Frantz, “It’s not finished, but all the basic tracks are there. It could be finished, if someone was enthusiastic enough to finance that.” An entire second album by some of the greatest talents in alternative music is safe and sound, not rotting, forgotten in the back of a studio vault. I was relieved. Currently, Tom Tom Club are mobilizing on a new album, so if the long-lost Heads album is ever to see the light of day, it will still be a while. The good news is that Frantz and Weymouth own the second Heads album, unlike their incredible debut, which is at the whim of Universal to re-release. The fate of both the first and second album are in your hands: Let the demand be known! For more on the development of the original Heads album, the unreleased second album, and upcoming plans for Tom Tom Club, check out the interview. -Cap Blackard
Odds of Release: 1/1
Damien Rice’s third album
You’d think wounded Irish singer-songwriter Damien Rice would have even more material than usual since losing lover/band member Lisa Hannigan after his last album 9. But while you couldn’t turn on the television without hearing one of his weepy ballads early last decade, Rice has been largely absent since 2007. When Rice has turned up, it’s been doing songs for Tibet documentaries, busking with Bono in his home country of Ireland, or doing an occasional one-off show. According to a rare interview in late 2009 with Irish magazine Hot Press, Rice had plans for a new album, but he was far more candid about other topics. This, coupled with the lukewarm reception to his sophomore effort, makes for a murky future for Rice. The murk, however, is alleviated by the fact that the man is 37 and has already gone the move-to-Tuscany-and-become-a-hermit route. He’s a musician, and the question of his third album is less a question of whether it will happen than when he can pull his shit together and put something out. -Harry Painter
Odds of Release: 1/1
Bruce Springsteen – Electric Nebraska
Released in 1982, Nebraska was a collection of ten haunting, bare-bones demos that Bruce Springsteen recorded on a four-track before supposedly fleshing them out with the E Street Band. Most fans say there is no doubt that an electric version of the album exists, and those closest to Springsteen confirm the speculation. Jon Landau, who produced Springsteen records from 1975 to 1991, has been quoted as saying that “the right version came out,” and former E Street drummer Max Weinberg went as far as to say that “[we] actually did record all of Nebraska and it was killing.” He added that the plugged-in version was hard-edged, but that Springsteen still preferred the demos to what they caught on tape. “There is a full band Nebraska album,” Weinberg told Rolling Stone in June, “all of those songs are in the can somewhere.” The Boss just re-released Darkness on the Edge of Town and seems to be in a nostalgic mood, so while the earliest we may hear full-band takes on Nebraska cuts may be when the album turns 30 in 2012, we think this mythical beast will show itself sooner or later. -Ray Roa
Odds of Release: 1/2