Top Ten Thursday: Bands Breaking Bad

Breaking Bad Transformation for Bands

While we may not be a TV blog, we still love and adore Breaking Bad, the suspenseful AMC drama that returns this Sunday for the final half of its last season. For those who haven’t seen the show, the concept is essentially to take a squeaky clean good guy and moment by moment, slowly turn him into a criminal maniac: taking Mr. Chips and turning him into Scarface. So we thought which musicians have followed a similar transformation from good to bad, but when we mean bad, we don’t mean evil: we mean just plain crappy. So without further ado, here are our top ten bands that broke bad.

10. Mars Volta

Mars Volta from good to bad

The Transformation: The progressive rock duo of Cedric Bixler-Zavala and Omar Rodriguez-Lopez spun off from Texas punk-rock band At The Drive-In to make two phenomenal one-of-a-kind albums in Deloused in the Comatorium and Frances the Mute. Following those first two albums, Mars Volta got weirder and weirder, beginning to circle the drain.

The Point of No Return: 2008’s Bedlam in Goliath, proof that weirder isn’t always better.


9. Rod Stewart

Rod Stewart good to bad

The Transformation: In the 60’s and 70’s, Rod Stewart was an incredibly cool blues hound who fronted the Faces and made a name for himself with his gravelly and sultry voice. In the late 70’s, Stewart lost his edge and slowly became a bit of a sappy cheeseball, sort of like Barry Manilow’s slightly more dangerous older brother.

The Point of No Return: 1977’s Footloose and Fancy Free. The title says it all.


8. Green Day

Green Day good to bad

The Transformation: The 90’s punk rock trio made some of the snottiest and catchiest punk pop in the early and mid 90’s, absolutely dominating the radio with songs like “Basketcase”, “Longview”, and “Hitchin’ a Ride.” Then in the 21st century, they walked over to the Boulevard of Broken Dreams, had a musical made about them, and became irrelevant really fast.

The Point of No Return: 2004’s highly overrated American Idiot. Never take your political advice from a guy named Billie Joe Armstrong.


7.  Dave Matthews Band

Dave Matthews Band good to bad

The Transformation: Love them or hate them, Dave Matthews Band was yet another 90’s band that dominated the radio waves and through their dynamic and varied live shows, built a culture all to themselves. While Dave Matthews albums have always had stinkbombs on them here and there, the albums slowly slipped and slipped over the last decade.

The Point of No Return: 2001’s Everyday. “I Did It” and “Space Between” can put a foul taste in anyone’s mouths.


6. The Who

The Who Good to bad

The Transformation: One of the most important rock bands of all-time, it’s not often discussed how bad the band, and its member’s solo projects, got over time. It doesn’t help that the riff between lead singer Roger Daltry and lead guitarist Pete Townsend grew more and more sour over the year, having a very negative effect on the music.

The Point of No Return: The loss of Keith Moon in 1978. The Who were never the same after the tragic death of their party-hard drummer.


5. The Kinks

The Kinks good to bad

The Transformation: The British Invasion greats had a flat-out killer run of albums in the late 60’s, secretly rivaling the Stones and the Beatles pretty well. And then the 70’s hit; then the 80’s.

The Point of No Return: The 1970’s. There are really two Kinks. 60’s Kinks and 70’s-80’s Kinks.


4. Kings of Leon

Kings of Leon good to bad

The Transformation: One of the more modern examples, it’s amazing how steadily the Tennessee brothers slid down into the gutter. The band became one of the biggest rock bands around, but they very well forfeited their rock ‘n’ roll edge for fame.

The Point of No Return: The Grammy winning Only By The Night. There were tiny glimpses of the soft, cheeseball anthem rock on their third album Because of the Times. Their new single “Super Soaker” just released. Here’s to hoping the Kings return to their old ways.


3. Iggy Pop and the Stooges

The Stooges good to bad

The Transformation: Arguably the first punk band, the Iggy and the Stooges defined the gritty, raw power of rock ‘n’ roll. The band released three completely dynamite albums to start of their career, then took a 30 year hiatus, to only return with some stink bombs.

The Point of No Return: The 30-year hiatus. Since the Stooges returned, they have released three pretty brainless albums to counter-act their three pioneering albums.


2. Beach Boys

The Beach Boys good to bad

The Transformation: The band with probably the longest and clearest transformation, the Beach Boys ruled the 60’s with not just sunny pop songs but eventually brilliant and thoughtful pop music on Pet Sounds, Wild Honey, and Smiley Smile. Then chief creative force Brian Wilson went crazy and that’s all she wrote.

The Point of No Return: The Departure of Brian Wilson in the early 1970s. That turned the band’s keys over to Mike Love, arguably the least cool person in rock history. The guy reminds you of that creepy uncle you have that still wears his high school ring and hits on high school girls.


1. Weezer

Weezer good to bad

The Transformation: The clearest example of a band that went from really good to really bad in a progressive manner is Weezer. Their self-titled debut, also known as the Blue Album, stands as one of the best albums of the 90’s and probably one of the most enjoyable 30 minutes you can spend with music. However as time progressed, Rivers Cuomo and the gang dove deeper and deeper into making some of the most mind-numbingly dumb pop music ever made.

The Point of No Return: Some would argue their second album, Pinkerton (which I think is brilliant), but the real point of no return was 2002’s Maladroit.  


Todd – The Killers

The Killers good to bad

The Transformation: The Vegas new wave rockers started off with what was clearly their finest album, 2004’s Hot Fuss, and slowly released worse and worse albums.

The Point of No Return: One could argue when Brandon Flowers suddenly thought he was Bruce Springsteen on Sam’s Town, but I would say Flowers proposed the question “Are you human or are you dancer?” in a real-life song.


Austin – Billy Corgan/Smashing Pumpkins

Billy Corgan good to bad

The Transformation: Billy Corgan time and time again proved himself as one of the most detestable rockers as his behavior and music got worse and worse once he left the Smashing Pumpkins and then he reunited them, I mean released an album as the Smashing Pumpkins with a completely different band.

The Point of No Return: When the Pumpkins split and Billy put out an album with another band called ZWAN. Everyone knows Swan is spelled with an “S”.


Wes – Lauryn Hill

Lauryn HIll good to bad

The Transformation: Poor Lauryn Hill. A women who started and remains one of the best female rappers of all-time and a member of the Fugees has struggled musically no doubt, but has also sort of fallen apart in life. The former Fugee is currently spending time in a Connecticut state prison for tax evasion.

The Point of No Return: Her 3 year self-imposed exile from 2000-2003. She was never the same after that.


Author: Wes

Hoosier. Writer. Music Buff. Media Man. Tourist. Polar Bear.

9 thoughts on “Top Ten Thursday: Bands Breaking Bad”

  1. Probably one of the best lists I have seen in a long time as far as having my agreement. Dave Matthews, Green Day, Kings of Leon all had a clear trajectory downhill. And Weezer at number one is pure genius, they are the poster boys for breaking bad. I would definitely have added Todd and Austin’s pick. Lauryn Hill, who knows? She hasn’t done anything but that one single she was forced to release. But it her delivery you could hear the talent.
    Maybe I am alone on this one, but to me an obvious example is Coldplay.

    1. I think the Coldplay de-evolution is a little overplayed especially when considered their best album in my opinion (Viva La Vida) was like their 4th. There is no doubt they have released their fair share of stinkers though.

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