15 times an artist's THIRD album has been their best

30 April 2023, 16:00

Best third albums collage
Best third albums collage. Picture: Press

Which artists have released amazing albums third time out? Radio X has some suggestions from Radiohead to Blur.

Back in 2019, music writer Corbin Reiff set Twitter alight by asking a simple question: “Name a band/artist who’s THIRD album was their best.”

The answers came thick and fast - so Radio X has pitched in with a selection of third albums.

  1. The Smiths - The Queen Is Dead

    The Smiths' third album album, which was released on 16 June 1986, spent 22 weeks on the UK album chart and peaked at number two overall. Following their eponymous debut and Meat Is Murder albums, the record saw Morrissey and Marr reach writing perfection, boasting fan favourites in the likes of I Know It's Over, The Boy With The Thorn In His Side and There Is A Light That Never Goes Out.

    The Smiths - The Queen Is Dead album cover
    The Smiths - The Queen Is Dead album cover. Picture: Press
  2. Radiohead - OK Computer

    Radiohead's third studio effort arguably saw them transform from just another post-Britpop indie band to the critically acclaimed artists we see today. Regularly thought of as one of their most popular works among fans, their 1997 album includes the likes of Karma Police, No Surprises and their epic Paranoid Android single.

    Radiohead - OK Computer album cover
    Radiohead - OK Computer album cover. Picture: Press
  3. Suede - Coming Up

    Suede's Coming Up was released on 2 September 1996 and marked their first studio effort since the departure of guitarist Bernard Butler. Forging ahead with his replacement Richard Oakes, the band went ahead to create a seminal album which received both commercial and critical acclaim. With a tracklist which boasted the likes of Trash, Filmstar, Lazy and Beautiful Ones, it's not difficult to see why Brett Anderson and co's third album reached No. 1 in the UK album charts and received a Mercury Prize nod.

    Suede - Coming Up album artwork
    Suede - Coming Up album artwork. Picture: Press
  4. Blur - Parklife

    The 1994 album saw Blur come back fighting following the disappointing sales of the previous year's Modern Life Is Rubbish. Spurred on with hits in Girls & Boys, Parklife, End Of A Century and To The End, the album went four times platinum in the UK, peaking at No.1 in the chart.

    Blur - Parklife  album cover
    Blur - Parklife album cover. Picture: Press
  5. Green Day - Dookie

    Green Day's Dookie saw the band reach punk rock perfection. The album - which includes enduring anthems in Basket Case, When I Come Around and Welcome To Paradise - helped bring the band into the mainstream, scored them a number two in the US Billboard Chards and a GRAMMY Award for Best Alternative Music Album.

    Green Day - Dookie album cover
    Green Day - Dookie album cover. Picture: Press
  6. Primal Scream - Screamadelica

    The Scream released two albums of underwhelming garage rock before acid house hit and Loaded made them superstars. Bobby Gillespie guides the band through a sprawling trip of sounds and textures with psychedelic interludes like Higher Than The Sun and Don’t Fight It Feel It rubbing shoulders with rock and roll classics like Movin’ On Up and Come Together.

    Primal Scream - Screamadelica album cover
    Primal Scream - Screamadelica album cover. Picture: Press
  7. The Verve - Urban Hymns

    The Verve's Urban Hymns was deemed both a commercial and critical success, regularly featuring on numerous Best British Albums lists across the past two decades. Featuring singles in Bitter Sweet Symphony, Sonnet, The Drugs Don't Work and Lucky Man, the album - which was released in 1997 - confirmed Richard Ashcroft's status of part of the great British songwriting canon.

    Despite this, one of their most successful hits was marred by a controversial legal battle.

    Find out why Bitter Sweet Symphony was so bittersweet here.

    The Verve - Urban Hymns album cover
    The Verve - Urban Hymns album cover. Picture: Press
  8. The Clash - London Calling

    Released as a double album on 14 December 1979, The Clash's London Calling served as a blueprint for many punk bands to come. Incorporating everything from reggae to rockabilly, the record played with a variety of styles and genres and spawned the likes of London Calling, Spanish Bombs and Train In Vain.

    The Clash - London Calling album cover
    The Clash - London Calling album cover. Picture: Press
  9. Metallica - Master Of Puppets

    Released on 3 March 1986 and produced by Flemming Rasmussen, Master Of Puppets was the band's last album to feature bassist Cliff Burton, who died in a bus accident in Sweden during the album's promotional tour. Released to critical acclaim, the record - which includes the title track as a single - was the first thrash metal record to be certified platinum.

    Metallica - Master Of Puppets album cover
    Metallica - Master Of Puppets album cover. Picture: Press
  10. Smashing Pumpkins - Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness

    Billy Corgan surprised the world in 1995 by releasing an ambitious and accomplished double album. While Gish (1991) and Siamese Dream (1993) were true to the band’s grunge roots, their third LP was a mix of heavy rock, ballads, gentle acoustic songs and string-laden anthems. Influenced as much by 1970s LA rock as 1990s alternative bands, it remains their greatest moment.

    Smashing Pumpkins - Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness album cover
    Smashing Pumpkins - Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness album cover. Picture: Press
  11. The Doors - Waiting For The Sun

    Often overlooked in favour of the self-titled debut and Jim Morrison’s swansong LA Woman, the psych-rockers’ third outing is a more richly-textured instalment, with early synthesiser washes and even an acapella number. It starts with the classic Hello I Love You and takes on the Vietnam War in both The Unknown Soldier and Five To One.

    The Doors - Waiting For The Sun album cover
    The Doors - Waiting For The Sun album cover. Picture: Press
  12. Massive Attack - Mezzanine

    Blue Lines was such an acclaimed debut it took the Bristol trip-hop collective seven years to release another album of the same quality. From the beautiful Teardrop to the dark Man Next Door, it’s a deep record that was so acclaimed it was was encoded into synthetic DNA on its 20th anniversary - this album will live forever!

    Massive Attack - Mezzanine album cover
    Massive Attack - Mezzanine album cover. Picture: Press
  13. The Jimi Hendrix Experience - Electric Ladyland

    The Experience only lasted three albums and this ambitious double-album was their last offering, which includes the 15 minute jam of Voodoo Chile (and its chart topping reprise), the peerless cover of Dylan’s All Along The Watchtower and enough studio trickery to make The Beatles look on in envy.

    The Jimi Hendrix Experience - Electric Ladyland album cover
    The Jimi Hendrix Experience - Electric Ladyland album cover. Picture: Press
  14. The White Stripes - White Blood Cells

    Jack and Meg’s big breakthrough album, which includes the hits Fell In Love With A Girl, Dead Leaves And The Dirty Ground and Hotel Yorba. The non-stop garage rock is interrupted by the charming We’re Going To Be Friends.

    The White Stripes - White Blood Cells album cover
    The White Stripes - White Blood Cells album cover. Picture: Press
  15. The Prodigy - The Fat Of The Land

    The Prodgy's third outing spawned Breathe, the controversial Smack My Bitch Up and even threw in the No 1 hit single Firestarter for good measure. Ensuring that big beat electronica remained relevant in the second half of the 90s, i's a record that evokes an odd euphoria, while still retaining an angry edge... coming a month after Labour's landslide win in the General Election of 1997.

    The Prodigy - The Fat Of The Land
    The Prodigy - The Fat Of The Land. Picture: Press

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