February 21, 2018 / 9:56 AM

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5 Bands Who Hit Their Stride After Adding a New Member: Nirvana, Rush, and more


Any musician can tell you about inexplicable musical chemistry. There are some people, who for one reason or another, just bring out the best in your playing and writing. Lennon and McCartney had this chemistry together, but some bands don't find this chemistry until after they've started making music. Here are five bands that hit their stride only after adding someone new to the line-up.

1. The Flaming Lips

In 1993, the Flaming Lips had been a band for an entire decade, releasing pretty good (but definitely not great) psychedelic rock albums that sounded like a tamer version of the Butthole Surfers. It wasn't until the addition of drummer Steve Drozd in '93 that the band began creating masterpieces, starting with the noise-pop classic Transmissions from the Satellite Heart. After guitarist Ronald Jones left in 1996, Drozd proved to be much more than just an excellent drummer, becoming the band's primary composer and creating more masterpieces like The Soft Bulletin in 1999.

2. Nirvana

Even without the addition of Dave Grohl on drums, it's likely that Nirvana would have still become a great band. If the Incesticide compilation is any indication, Cobain's songwriting was improving by leaps and bounds between the recording of Bleach and Nevermind, but Grohl's massive, flawless drumming provided the impenetrable foundation that the band needed to take over the world in 1991.

3. Rush

Though Rush's line-up has remained the core power trio of Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson, and Neil Peart for 40 years, Peart wasn't a member of the band for its first six years. The band's eponymous debut featured drummer John Rutsey, and though the album features fan favorite "Working Man," it's a relatively straightforward and forgettable hard rock album. It wasn't until Neil Peart replaced Rutsey in 1974 that Rush's music took on its progressive shape that led the band to success.

4. My Bloody Valentine

Kevin Shields may be the mastermind of My Bloody Valentine, but Bilinda Butcher is an integral part to the band's success, so much so that the band wasn't even very good before she joined. As I explored in a previous article, My Bloody Valentine's music prior to Butcher was sub-par gothic rock, but the band's very first release with Butcher on vocals and guitar, the "Strawberry Wine" single, is when My Bloody Valentine began perfecting its brand of gorgeous dream pop.

5. Fleetwood Mac

There are plenty of rockists who insist that the 1967-1974 incarnation of Fleetwood Mac is the only "real" Fleetwood Mac, and those people are obviously wrong. In its early days, Fleetwood Mac was undoubtedly an important part of the English blues scene and featured some incredible guitarists, but nothing from that period even comes close to the music the band made after the inclusion of Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham. "Black Magic Woman" might be a good song, but is it "Landslide"? "Go Your Own Way"? "Everywhere"? Not even close. The Buckingham/Nicks era of Fleetwood Mac is the best Fleetwood Mac.

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