When R.E.M. released its critically panned 2004 album Around the Sun, the band considered breaking up, but realized that they couldn't end their career on such a failure, which prompted them to release two acclaimed albums before calling it a day in 2012. That was R.E.M., though. Not every band is able to control its legacy so gracefully. Here are six bands that broke up after their weakest albums.
1. The Velvet Underground - Squeeze (1973)
When Lou Reed left the Velvet Underground in 1970, it should have been the end of the band, as he was the lead vocalist and primary songwriter. However, bassist Doug Yule continued the band for several years afterwards (with no original members), and released an album Squeeze in 1973. Though Squeeze was basically a Doug Yule solo album, it was released under the Velvet Underground name, thus ending one of rock's greatest discographies with a collection of bland pop-rock songs.
2. The Clash - Cut the Crap (1985)
Mick Jones and Joe Strummer of the Clash had a classic songwriting partnership: Jones would typically write the music while Strummer would write the lyrics. When Jones was fired in 1983, however, the band would never recover. Joe Strummer and producer Bernie Rhodes wrote the Clash's final album Cut the Crap, but the band's punk energy was ruined by awkward, messy production and lackluster songwriting. The Clash disbanded in 1986.
3. Talking Heads - Naked (1988)
Though Talking Heads' final album Naked isn't a critically reviled disaster like Squeeze or Cut the Crap, it's clearly on a much lower level than the band's previous masterpieces. The African influence to the band's music is still very apparent, but rather than creating something dense and extreme like Remain in Light, the songs on Naked come off as a second rate version of Paul Simon's Graceland. Even the presence of Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr couldn't liven things up. Speaking of the Smiths...
4. The Smiths - Strangeways, Here We Come (1987)
Let me get this out of the way: I think Strangeways, Here We Come is a very good album. Even Johnny Marr and Morrissey consider it to be the Smiths' best. Despite this, the album just doesn't sound as fresh or exciting as the Smiths' previous three. Each of those albums has an essential Smiths characteristic: the debut has a gloomy atmosphere, while Meat is Murder has a punchy precision, and The Queen is Dead has a sweeping pop majesty. Strangeways simply has some great songs, but with production that's a little bit too sterile and inhuman.
5. Led Zeppelin - In Through the Out Door (1979)
The consistent quality of Led Zeppelin's first six albums is unmatched by any other artist in rock, give or take an Elvis Costello. The band's final years, however, is where the magic started to slip away. 1976's Presence is a major step down, though it's still recognizably Zeppelin. 1979's In Through the Out Door, on the other hand, is filled with bizarre synth tones and lacks the classic Led Zeppelin groove or interplay. Though Jimmy Page says the band planned on returning to its hard rock roots, drummer John Bonham would pass away in 1980, marking the end of Led Zeppelin.
6. Creedence Clearwater Revival - Mardi Gras (1972)
Between 1968 and 1970, Creedence Clearwater Revival somehow released six studio albums (three in 1969 alone), and though the band was so prolific, the songs were consistently great, most of which were written solely by bandleader John Fogerty. However, when the other members of CCR wanted more artistic input for the album Mardi Gras, Fogerty wrote only three songs, forcing the other members to write the rest of the album, resulting in an album of poorly written, spineless country rock. Rolling Stone's Jon Landau would go on to describe Mardi Gras as "the worst album I have ever heard from a major rock band."