bands that stylistically turned 180°?
June 9, 2005 3:22 AM   Subscribe

i'm doing a themed music set at the college station i dj at and i'm thinking about doing a set of bands that have changed their sound drastically in their lifetime. can anyone give me some ideas?

for example so far i've got: Billy Joel (piano pop to classical), Ministry (cheeze synth disco to industrial metal), His Name Is Alive (spooky abstract nightmare ditties to loungy piano bar blues), No Doubt (ska/punk to top40 dance) and Genesis (wimpy prog rock to wimpy lite rock but maybe that change isn't as extreme as what I'm looking for). i know there are better examples out there but my brain isn't working.

oh and the band's current songwriters must have been there from the beginning and they can't have changed names. i.e. no bands like jefferson airplane/starship or new order.
posted by sammich to Media & Arts (76 answers total)
Talking heads? (sparse new wave to full on world music via pop).
Tom Waits? (bluesy stuff to absolutely fucking hatstand).
Blur? (baggy manchester inspired through britpop to fairly experimental)
Chumbawamba? (punky folky stuff through dancy stuff back to folky stuff)

Genesis don't really count. When they did prog rock, it was mostly Gabriel writing.
posted by handee at 3:34 AM on June 9, 2005

Off the top of my head:
  • Japan (from guitar dullness to ace synth experiments)
  • Radiohead (from generic indie rock to freeform stoof)
  • The Beatles (beat/skiffle/close harmony genericism to The White Album is a pretty big step)
  • Blur (again, from generic shoegazing indie to the later stuff is a fairly big evolution)
  • David Bowie (hit a number of genres, probably the most different of which is his "drum and bass" album Earthling)
Hmm. There's a load more than that, but I too appear to have a non-working brain today. More later maybe.
posted by Hartster at 3:45 AM on June 9, 2005

The biggest one, in my eyes: Talk Talk (new wave toot to minimalist free-jazzing chamber folk)
posted by Marquis at 3:57 AM on June 9, 2005

Wilco: country rock to Sonic Youth influenced experimental pop.
posted by octothorpe at 4:09 AM on June 9, 2005

Ecstacy of Saint Theresa: My Bloody Valentine/Jesus and Mary Chain guitar fuzz shoegaze > pure ambient chill-out > sub-Morcheeba trip-hop lite

The Telescopes: My Bloody Valentine/Jesus and Mary Chain guitar fuzz punk wig-outs > drugged out dreamy psychedelic folk pop > dark ambient drone minimalism

Scorn: industrial grindcore > ambient dub > sinister instrumental hip-hop

Fushitsusha: extended guitar noise monoliths > drums and bass and no guitar

Jesus and Mary Chain: sneering, sheet metal feedback and drum machine clatter > soft country rock pop

Chigaco: jazz funk big band > soft FM-lite love songs

The Scorpions: psychedelic krautrock > melodramatic soft metal balladry
posted by nylon at 4:10 AM on June 9, 2005

The Chili Peppers have pretty much abandoned their original rap influenced sound.

Alanis Morrisette started out on bubble gum pop.
posted by caddis at 4:28 AM on June 9, 2005

Depeche Mode.

Everything But The Girl.
posted by veedubya at 4:37 AM on June 9, 2005

The Beastie Boys started as a punk band, moved to hip-hop, and returned to live instrumentation later.
posted by jeffmshaw at 4:38 AM on June 9, 2005

The Lilys - moved from heavy guitar wash My Bloody Valentine rip-off (though a good one at that) to Kinks-esques retro British invasion pop.
posted by Heminator at 4:41 AM on June 9, 2005 [1 favorite]

The Clash started as a first-wave, noisy punk band and became some sort of world-music troupe when they released "Sandinista."
posted by Mayor Curley at 4:43 AM on June 9, 2005

Jewel, from awesome coffee-shop folk to....whatever 4 letter word you want to describe her new stuff as.
posted by dflemingdotorg at 4:45 AM on June 9, 2005


Duh. I meant Chicago.
posted by nylon at 4:46 AM on June 9, 2005

Bjork - upbeat dancey pop > experimental etc
Manic Street Preachers - glam punk > indie/acoustic
Status Quo - 60's psychedelic pop > samey pub rock
posted by fire&wings at 4:53 AM on June 9, 2005

R.E.M. has definitely changed their sound over the years. Compare Radio Free Europe to Shiny Happy People.

Liz Phair has gotten a lot of flack for changing her sound from stripped-down indie rock to power pop.
posted by Otis at 4:57 AM on June 9, 2005

Fleetwood Mac started life as a blues/rock band. Once Buckingham and Nicks joined on, I'd say the sound changed radically.
Definitely, though, the Beatles would be a great study. Start with something like I Saw Her Standing There, move on to anything off the Revolver album, stop off at Sgt. Pepper's, then an obligatory nod to the psychedelic excess of I am the Walrus, then finish with a smattering from the White Album, Let it Be, and Abbey Road.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:58 AM on June 9, 2005

Primal Scream: Screamadelica -> Xtrmntr
posted by DelusionsofGrandeur at 5:03 AM on June 9, 2005

Cave-In, who went from Converge style metal-core to wimpy space rock after the release of Jupiter.
posted by saladin at 5:05 AM on June 9, 2005

posted by the cuban at 5:09 AM on June 9, 2005

Ministry: Whiny Synthpop -> Aggro-Industrial Metal Madness
posted by Jairus at 5:14 AM on June 9, 2005

posted by contessa at 5:21 AM on June 9, 2005

Um, Pink Floyd? Take a listen to "A Saucerful of Secrets" or "Atom Heart Mother" and then listen to the horror that is "The Wall" or "The Final Cut", it'll make your ears bleed.
posted by rocketman at 5:21 AM on June 9, 2005

Talk Talk: absolutely, as someone mentioned. A staggering evolution, that was. Seconds for Radiohead, Blur, Tom Waits, The Beatles and Wilco (check out "A Ghost is Born" and "Loose Fur" compared to the early stuff. Woah.)

I think the changes between "Piper At the Gates of Dawn" and "Dark Side Plus"-era Pink Floyd are pretty radical. OK, Barrett had a lot to do with it and he left, but the rest of the band stayed the same. In fact, you can look to a lot of those sixties groups to see this sort of change - Fleetwood Mac etc. I blame the drugs.

Oh yeah - Nick Cave. Play early Birthday Party next to "Boatman's Call", "No More Shall we Part", "Abattoir Blues" etc, and marvel.
posted by Decani at 5:23 AM on June 9, 2005

Sugar Ray went from crappy punk wannabes to crappy top 40. After writing that, I discovered a sharp taste of battery acid in my mouth.
posted by patgas at 5:24 AM on June 9, 2005

Oh yeah.. Mr. Costello has shifted around quite a bit. Spunky punkpop to country to pseudo-classical to vaguely jazzy to ooh, all sorts of stuff.
posted by Decani at 5:26 AM on June 9, 2005

That whole "He's gone electric!" thing shook the folk music world, so pre- and post-Bringing It All Back Home Bob Dylan.
posted by mediareport at 5:31 AM on June 9, 2005

Lotta bands changed their style before they got famous. Off the top of my head, the Bee Gees didn't used to be a disco act and Tori Amos started her career with an 80s girl pop album, but I'm sure there's plenty more examples.

Frank Zappa also went classical, with a bit more success than Billy Joel IMO.

Bob Dylan's good — he also went "contemporary Christian" for a while in the 80s, so that's at least two changes of style in one career.

Lauryn Hill had that awful conversion to pseudo-folk a few years back, but really that was so painful I'd rather pretend it never happened.
posted by nebulawindphone at 5:38 AM on June 9, 2005

How about Roxy Music? Quite a change there. They started out very noisy and glam, and ended up a new wavey/agey lounge music.

I also thought of Yo La Tengo. They have gone from noisy to mellow.

I think a more interesting question would be "What group has been producing music for 20+ years that has not changed, but remained faithful to their original style?" For me he band that come to mind is The Fall.
posted by alball at 5:54 AM on June 9, 2005

Primal Scream: Screamadelica -> Xtrmntr

Don't forget that Screamdelica was their third album, and itself was a big leap on from their early stuff, which was jingle-jangle guitar pop.

(The Stone Roses based their entire first album on early Primal Scream classic Velocity Girl)

(Tongue only slightly in cheek)
posted by Hartster at 6:05 AM on June 9, 2005

Sonic Youth, as well, if you compare Confusion is Sex to Goo to Murray Street.
Sun Ra is a pretty good example of going from tame to far-out.
Miles Davis, pre- and post-Bitches Brew.
posted by ITheCosmos at 6:10 AM on June 9, 2005

Brian Eno (art rock to ambient to U2 producer)
posted by googly at 6:17 AM on June 9, 2005

Wow, thanks for the suggestions. A+ for everybody! They've definitely jump started my brain (well that and this giant mosquito i just saw floating in front of me). Like I just now thought of Everlast, Pop Will Eat Itself and Debbie Gibson. Some of the suggestions i can't believe i blanked out on (beastie boys, radiohead, talk talk) and some bands ike wilco and bee gees I had no idea! i'll check their older stuff out when i'm at the station...
posted by sammich at 6:18 AM on June 9, 2005

You've got five basic categories if change you ought to distinguish among:

Artistic evolution -- the example above of Talking Heads / David Byrne can't be beat

Eclecticism -- Beck is a great example.

Creative exhaustion -- Rolling Stones here.

Principled maturation and popularization -- it's pretty damn hard for a 30/40-something millionaire celebrity parent to maintain the alternative, esoteric spirit and audience relevance of their angry, obscure and impoverished youth. It makes perfect sense for your Roger Waters (or, more recently, your Liz Phair) to continue to seek relevance and acceptance by making their music more mainstream.

Unprincipled Sell-out -- I won't offend by listing examples...

Bands certainly can shift gears. REM was clearly in the artistic evolution category -- but I think they hit the creative exhuation point recently.
posted by MattD at 6:21 AM on June 9, 2005

Flaming Lips: scary, dirty, guitar psychedelia to beatific orchestral psychedelia.
posted by jessenoonan at 6:23 AM on June 9, 2005

I can't believe nodoy's mentioned Madonna yet....
girly powder puff pop to dancehall maven to techno politician
posted by cosmicbandito at 6:30 AM on June 9, 2005

The Cult.

Southern Death Cult - Dreamtime - Love - Electric/Sonic Temple is a pretty big evolution.
posted by Atom12 at 6:34 AM on June 9, 2005

Rush. Early stuff was screechy heavy metal, late 70's/early 80's was screechy art rock, late 80's stuff was screechy synth pop. Changed alot, but never lost the screech.

Don't know if it counts, but Cat Stevens / Yusef Islam is huge.
posted by grateful at 6:46 AM on June 9, 2005

The Cure--Some of their old albums (Pornography, Boys Don't Cry, etc.) are extremely different from their newer ones (I'm thinking of Wild Mood Swings specifically.
posted by fabesfaves at 6:50 AM on June 9, 2005

The two Elvises, Costello and Presley. Costello's been talked about earlier in the thread, but Elvis Presley went from rock to gospel to pop, with some country and blues type things thrown in.
posted by SisterHavana at 6:51 AM on June 9, 2005

Most of the ones that immediately came to mind are covered already, but a few others

The Beach Boys - From their early, simple pop tunes about cars, surfing and girls to Pet Sounds' beautiful chamber pop, to SMILE's experimentation to their Brother Records attempt at vanilla soul (see the albums Wild Honey up to Holland), to their post-Wilson brother's creative exhaustion (see "Kokomo").

The Promise Ring started off as a post-hardcore emo band ( 30° Everywhereand Nothing Feels Good), to an indie-pop band (Boys and Girls EP and Very Emergency) to a competent Flaming Lips rip-off (Wood/Water).
posted by Quartermass at 6:51 AM on June 9, 2005

Miles Davis. From traditional jazz to fusion. If you listen to Sorcerer (1967) or Miles in the Sky (1968) you hear a very similar style. and then listen to Bitches Brew (1969) and all of a sudden its a completely different direction, electric guitars, electric bass, electric trumpet, two electric keyboards, after that he switched to rock beats instead of jazz beats. His motivation for this was having seen/heard Jimi Hendrix and Sly & the Family Stone, and the end result was a new genre of music: fusion.

That's pretty much the extreme example, but Miles also had quite a few other directional changes throughout his career, but for at least Bitches Brew the core players of his band stayed the same (he kept the drummer, sax and keyboards, replaced the bassist and added a few members).

If you search for articles on Bitches Brew or the birth of fusion you'll find tons of interesting stuff.
posted by furtive at 6:54 AM on June 9, 2005

Joni Mitchell: folk to jazz
Paul Simon: folk to world music
posted by waxpancake at 6:55 AM on June 9, 2005

Talvin Singh: bhangra-influenced power pop to Asian-influenced techno
Guns 'n' Roses: '70s Aerosmith to '90s Aerosmith
posted by box at 7:09 AM on June 9, 2005

Michael Bolton started out as a hair metal guy.
Neil Young
Andre 3000 (of Outkast)
Queen Latifah
posted by mkultra at 7:32 AM on June 9, 2005

Paul Heaton: from guitar pop with The Housemartins to more complex jazzy pop with The Beautiful South.

Paul Weller: from mod-revival with The Jam to more complex soul and R&B-influenced pop with The Style Council.

Tori Amos, from pop-metal to piano-based singer/songwriter.
posted by kirkaracha at 7:43 AM on June 9, 2005

Simple Minds - electro-experimentation -> stadium anthemic rock
posted by benzo8 at 7:55 AM on June 9, 2005

Coltrane's final aggressive period is very different from his other stuff.
posted by mediareport at 7:58 AM on June 9, 2005

Am I allowed to say "Metallica"? Or do they fall within MattD's "Unprincipled Sell-out" category?

Green day have changed somewhat from their original out-and-out punk-kid-rock stuff, as have Incubus to an even greater extent (although they weren't punk, but their early stuff was very much different to their later - and greater? - stuff).

IMO the Prodigy changed quite a lot - basically everything after their first album was a new style, although they seem to be getting back to their roots with the latest album (which is no bad thing...)

Queensryche changed from being an 80's hair metal band to a pretty decent rock outfit (although I'm not too keen on the stuff after Promised Land, it's still of a similar genre); I suppose that this progression is going to be common to many of the bands of that era - I can't imagine that any of them would keep that style of clothes/hair/makeup! :-)

Terrorvision have changed quite a lot too - from being pretty metal and cool, to a more pop style.
posted by Chunder at 8:01 AM on June 9, 2005

Herbie Hancock
Tony Allen
Spring Heel Jack
A Tribe Called Quest
Dr. Dre
posted by box at 8:12 AM on June 9, 2005

nylon, I'd like to see what you would have to say if you joined in some of the music discussions over on Looks like you've got interesting taste/knowledge.
posted by matildaben at 8:14 AM on June 9, 2005

AFI (a little less so)
At the Drive-In to Mars Volta (not the same band, but some of the same members)
posted by whatitis at 8:16 AM on June 9, 2005

Examples of singers losing their souls:
Lionel Ritchey: "Brick House" to "Three Times a Lady"
Phil Collins: art-rock to "Sudio"
Steve Windwood: Traffic to "Arc of a Diver"

Some artists seemingly never quite settle on a style--I'd put Elvis Costello and Neil Young in that group.
posted by adamrice at 8:20 AM on June 9, 2005

Joe Jackson: elvis costello lite jangly new age "I'm the Man" ----> horny jumpin' jive, etc.
posted by Rumple at 8:28 AM on June 9, 2005

adamrice, I'd have to add Rod Stewart to that list - WTF happened there?
posted by Quartermass at 8:31 AM on June 9, 2005

The Byrds--from jangly, folk-inspired rock to country

(The) Sweet-- from bubblegum/glam to rock

Mark Bolan/T. Rex-- from folk/pyschedelic to glam

The Who--from "Maximum R&B" to the synths and concept albums and the arena rock

The English Beat-- from ska to an amazing melange of world influence music on their third album

Norman Cook-- from a bassist in the Housemartins to the world/dance music of Beats International to the 'big beat' electronica of Fatboy Slim

Somehow I had the impression that the Grateful Dead started off as purely a psychedelic band before the bluegrass/folk aspects manifested. Is that right?
posted by kimota at 8:41 AM on June 9, 2005

R.E.M. has definitely changed their sound over the years. Compare Radio Free Europe to Shiny Happy People.

Compare Chronic Town (their first EP - a very fast garage rock sound) to, say, their album Up (very mellow and lush).
posted by McIntaggart at 8:59 AM on June 9, 2005

Ministry's another bad example...that first "cheeze synth disco" album was a label-compelled abortion, at least as far as the group's principle contributors are concerned. Their subsequent evolution has mostly just seen the introduction of more guitars, and less obviously dated technology (sonically, their mid to late 80's material is just as menacing as any of the "aggro-metal" crap they've put out recently). They've followed a similar progression that KMFDM has, and that's not really a very nteresting example at all...

It seems like you're looking at more natural, extended evolutions of sound. If you want a good example of a rapid shift that was probably quite deliberate, check out the assorted Naked City releases...John Zorn started off with a surreal pastiche of Ennio Morricone covers, noirish lounge jazz, and gibbering, psychotic hard-core (self-titled release) and transitioned to icy, incidental ambient compositions (Absinthe) within four years.
posted by hototogisu at 9:07 AM on June 9, 2005

Just thought of another one (though it's the progression of a single artist, and not a band): Arto Lindsay. From the crazy no-wave skronk of DNA to his latest laid-back Brazillian pop, he's been way all over the map.
posted by hototogisu at 9:32 AM on June 9, 2005

I can feel the cred gushing from a dozen wounds as I write this, but it wasn't doing me any good anyway: Smashing Pumpkins and Stone Temple Pilots qualify for this a lot more than many of the bands listed here.

But you can have fun choosing bands people don't think changed much over their lifetime - for example, Joy Division.
posted by furiousthought at 9:49 AM on June 9, 2005

eclectic: Neil Young - folk, folk-rock, country, thrashy inustrial proto grunge, quasi-electronica (Trans), rockabilly (everybody's rocking) and even a stint with Rick James and the Mynah Birds. You could do a whole set just on Mr Young.
posted by Rumple at 9:51 AM on June 9, 2005

Led Zeppelin, their first couple of albums were based strongly on the blues. The third less so and In Through the Out Door was entirely different. Even on a single album they'd experiment with different sounds.
posted by substrate at 9:57 AM on June 9, 2005

Fun Thread!

Artists who have done this without sucking:
Elvis Costello (the very best example I think)
David Bowie
The Beatles--from Leiber & Stroller covers to British invasion pop to Abbey Road
Rolling Stones--whose "Miss You" is the only acceptable disco song

Artists who have done this but sucked at it:
Lou Reed--new wave-ish crap in the 80s
Neil Young--embarrasing attempts at reinvention also in the 80s
Alice Cooper--ditto, but his new wave "Clones" is a guilty pleasure
posted by LarryC at 10:00 AM on June 9, 2005

Come to think of it, Blondie. Punk -> Disco and I think Debby Harry is now doing Jazz.
posted by substrate at 10:02 AM on June 9, 2005

You can't forget Vanilla Ice! (No matter how hard you try...)
posted by spilon at 11:08 AM on June 9, 2005

I vote for Genesis.
posted by Radio7 at 11:20 AM on June 9, 2005

Genesis to be sure, Rush, Yes, although I have no idea who's in the latter now.
posted by kindall at 11:50 AM on June 9, 2005

How did I forget David Johansen? From the New York Dolls to the Harry Smiths is quite the artistic journey.
posted by box at 11:57 AM on June 9, 2005

I'd have to say that Nine Inch Nails' first album "Pretty Hate Machine" was about as different as you can get from their followup EP "Broken" and "Broken" was equally different from both the follow up remix EP "Fixed" and "PHM". Actually contrasting anything off of either "Broken" or "Fixed" against anything else by NIN would do.
posted by pwb503 at 12:02 PM on June 9, 2005

Emmylou Harris. Country to whatever "Wrecking Ball" is.

"What group has been producing music for 20+ years that has not changed, but remained faithful to their original style?" I'd have to go with AC/DC here. And Dwight Yoakam hasn't straid very far from traditional country.
posted by 6550 at 12:04 PM on June 9, 2005

Pre Kraftwerk band put out trippy freakout, drum circle, flute means freedom jams which by '75 had lead to the pleasant synths of Autobahn and later a transition into Robots and Music Non-Stop.

I'm listening right now to the import only "Ralf and Florian", specifically a dreamy instrumental piece called "Tongebirge".
posted by asparagus_berlin at 12:23 PM on June 9, 2005

The Boredoms.
posted by .kobayashi. at 12:36 PM on June 9, 2005

Kirkaracha already mentioned Paul Weller, but I would narrow it down to The Jam: 70's punk to classic style R&B.

KD Lang from rockabilly-spiked country to loungey adult contemporary blandness.

George Michael or Cyndi Lauper from 80's disco pop to schmaltz.

Bad Religion from hardcore thrash punk to radio-friendly alternative rock.

Afghan Whigs from grunge to 60's style R&B.

Curtis Mayfield, Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder from 50's teen idol R&B pop to funky soul (and for Stevie, past that to utter schmaltzy crap).

Bob Dylan, Ray Charles, Kristin Hersh and Lou Barlow can be added to the list of chameleons, you never know what their next album will sound like.
posted by cali at 12:56 PM on June 9, 2005

Sky Cries Mary started out as an industrial band inspired by Einstürzende Neubaten, but switched to a sort of psychedelic, middle-eastern influenced sound when Anisa Romero joined.
posted by blm at 2:42 PM on June 9, 2005

Daniel Amos. Possibly my favorite band, with a 30-year career spanning country-gospel to Abbey Road-era Beatles to new wave to indescribable alternapop to alternative rock to rock to small-combo lounge to anthem rock to....
posted by bigbigdog at 6:24 PM on June 9, 2005

Pretty much every soul act of the late 60s/early 70s had a market-driven bad disco moment.
posted by mediareport at 7:19 PM on June 9, 2005

Beastie Boys
posted by furtive at 1:25 PM on June 10, 2005

New Kids on the Block became a rap outfit. I remember they made this big announcement at the Superbowl. Although they did change their name to NKOTB, but then changed back. Does that count? Also Liz Phair.
posted by audrey the bug at 2:13 PM on June 10, 2005

« Older I vant to suck your bloooooooooooood.   |   Easy DVD creation on newish Dell? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.