Who doesn’t love a good comeback? With The Avalanches‘ releasing second album, Wildflower 16 years after their debut Since I Left You, we look back at the eight best comebacks in music. How will Wildflower compare?
1. AC/DC, Back in Black
We kick off with the shortest gap between albums on the list, but easily one of the greatest musical comebacks of all time. After six years and four albums, AC/DC finally broke into the international scene with the critically acclaimed and commercially hit Highway to Hell. Tragedy struck within a year of the release however with the death of 33 year old frontman Bon Scott. What could have easily resulted in the end of the band actually became their greatest success, as only a year later they released Back in Black with Brian Johnson. The album went on to become their most well-known work and remains the second highest selling album of all time.
2. Green Day, American Idiot
Despite the massive success of 1994’s Dookie which helped propel punk rock into the mainstream, Green Day failed to recreate their successful formula on subsequent albums and saw their popularity slump for the better part of ten years. The band reinvented themselves with their 2004 concept album American Idiot which tackled complex themes like the Iraq War and the increasing disillusionment with president George Bush. The released tapped into the collective conscious of the time, and demonstrated punk’s incredible ability to rebel against the mainstream.
3. Alice in Chains, Black Gives Way to Blue
The world (rightfully so) gave up on Alice in Chains in the early 2000s. Having not released an album since 1995, and after the death of lead singer Layne Staley in 2002, many thought the curtains had been closed. Against all odds, they began to play reunion shows in 2005/06, featuring William DuVall on vocals. The singer was met with overwhelmingly enthusiasm, with fans amazed at how well he was able to match Staley’s distinctive vocal style. DuVall became a permanent mainstay on 2009’s critically acclaimed Black Gives Way to Blue which managed to live up to the hype created by the band’s early releases.
4. Santana, Supernatural
Despite early success in the late 60s and early 70s, Latin rock band Santana (led by guitar god Carlos Santana) disappeared into obscurity for almost twenty years which culminated in them being dropped by their label. Under the guidance of legendary producer Clive Davis and an impressive roster of guest musicians, the band returned in 1999 with Supernatural. The album became a global hit, launching the band back into superstardom and spawning massive singles like ‘Maria Maria’ and ‘Smooth’. Read our interview with Santana here.
5. Johnny Cash, American Recordings
Probably a case of over-saturation, singer-songwriter Johnny Cash hit a commercial and critical slump in the 80s and early 90s which saw him dumped by his label, Columbia Records. He was picked up by Mercury Records, but still failed to recapture his earlier popularity. His comeback came in the most unexpected of places, with the help of hard-rock and rap producer Rick Rubin who coaxed the musician into releasing an album of covers. American Recordings was a massive hit, put the singer back on the charts and paved the way for many more successful releases.
6. David Bowie, The Next Day
We’re willing to argue on this one, but Bowie seemed to lose his way in the late 90s and early 2000s, with his earlier successes with experimentation and reinvention becoming sloppy and unfocussed. After 2003’s Reality, Bowie disappeared for the longest gap in his career and hardly returning until 2013’s The Next Day. The result was an incredibly focussed and acclaimed return to his art-rock root which would continue into his final masterpiece, Blackstar.
7. Elvis Presley, ’68 Comeback Special
The King of Rock and Roll also lost his way in the middle of his career. After a massive start, Elvis almost disappeared in the 60s, overshadowed by Beatle-mania and mocked for his bizarre and critically-panned forays into Hollywood. His comeback came in the form of a television special, aptly referred to as ’68 Comeback Special, which marked the singer’s first performance since in 1961. The performance, which saw Elvis performing in a stripped-back manner for a small, intimate crowd, relaunched his career and went on to become the inspiration for MTV’s critically acclaimed series Unplugged.
8. Blur, Magic Whip
Although casual listeners may only know them as the band behind ‘Song 2’, Blur are actually musical chameleons, effortlessly moving between genres like Britpop, indie-rock, lo-fi and electronic. Despite receiving critical acclaim for their eclectic 2003 album Think Tank, the band entered a six year hiatus and left fans waiting for new music until 2015’s Magic Whip. The album was once again critically acclaimed and saw Blur return to their older, indie rock sound, whilst still effortlessly incorporating their new experimental elements.