Double albums are a tricky proposition for most artists. Though they can be fascinating listens, they tend to come off as overlong, bloated, and messy, and even some classic ones such as The Beatles' "White Album" are often criticized for being indulgent. Still, some bands pull it off, and the double albums released by these seven bands are often considered to be their best work.
1. The Rolling Stones - Exile On Main St. (1972)
By all accounts, the Rolling Stones' Exile On Main St. should have been a disastrous mess. The band was drugged out and in disarray, with the five members rarely working together in the studio, and its double LP format only encouraged bloat and excess. Still, the album would prove to be the Stones' greatest recorded work, outshining even their late '60s classics such as Let It Bleed and Beggars Banquet.
2. Genesis - The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway (1974)
Even though Genesis' 1974 concept album The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway is a good 40 minutes longer than any album they had released up until that point, it's somehow the most focused, consistent, and exciting album they ever released. The key to the album's success is largely the shortened length of the songs, which were a departure from the 10-minute (sometimes longer) epics that would dominate the previous Genesis albums.
3. The Clash - London Calling (1979)
A double album seems like the last thing a punk band would ever want to do, but The Clash transcended punk with the release of their third album London Calling, which brilliantly blends punk rock with ska, rockabilly, reggae, and the burgeoning new wave sound of the time. The fact that the Clash tricked their record label into selling London Calling for the price of a single album, however, is one of the most punk things they ever did.
4. Hüsker Dü - Zen Arcade (1984)
If a traditional punk band releasing a double album seems unlikely, then a hardcore punk band doing it would be pretty much impossible. Still, Hüsker Dü broke the strict rules of hardcore in a thousand places with their 1984 double album Zen Arcade, which over 23 tracks tells the story of a teenager who runs away from home. Despite how huge the album is, the band managed to record and mix the entire thing in less than four days.
5. Minutemen - Double Nickels On The Dime (1984)
When the Minutemen heard that their SST labelmates Hüsker Dü were releasing a double album, they decided release one of their own, which became Double Nickels On The Dime, released the same month as Zen Arcade. Though the Minutemen's aggressively short songs seem totally unsuited for the double album format (their debut album The Punch Line is a whopping 15 minutes long), Double Nickels On The Dime is somehow one of the richest and most rewarding album experiences of any band from the '80s.
6. Sonic Youth - Daydream Nation (1988)
As the '80s wore on, Sonic Youth's sound became more and more accessible and melodic, culminating in their 70-minute masterpiece Daydream Nation. Though there's still plenty of experimental and brutally noisy stuff on this album, it's all placed within a more song-oriented context, which led to the band's major label deal in 1990.
7. The Magnetic Fields - 69 Love Songs (1999)
Technically, 69 Love Songs isn't a double album, but a triple album (and on vinyl, a sextuple album), so getting into it is a pretty daunting task. If you treat the album's three volumes like three separate albums, however, their traditional pop songwriting and clever lyrics demonstrate that they're clearly the three best albums that Stephin Merritt and co. ever released (though 1995's Get Lost is pretty close).
What are some other double albums that were the band's best? Let us know down in the comments section!