What are some contemporary "story-telling" concept albums?
June 26, 2006 8:16 AM   Subscribe

What are some contemporary "story-telling" concept albums?

I am looking for recent (e.g., mid-70s or later) rock concept albums that tell a particular story. This is along the lines of Kate Bush's "Hounds of Love", Springsteen's "Nebraska", and Aimee Mann's "Forgotten Arm".
posted by duckus to Media & Arts (60 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Lifter Puller's Fiestas Fiascos would qualify. And it's fantastic.
posted by sohcahtoa at 8:19 AM on June 26, 2006

There is, of course, Pink Floyd's The Wall.
posted by cortex at 8:24 AM on June 26, 2006

The Mars Volta - De-Loused in the Comatorium.

And Mastodon's Leviathan, which is based on Melville's Moby Dick. More of concept album than a story, though...

Both fantastic albums.
posted by slimepuppy at 8:25 AM on June 26, 2006

The Mars Volta - De-Loused in the Comatorium
Nine Inch Nails - The Downward Spiral
Styx - Kilroy Was Here
The Who - Tommy
Prince - Purple Rain

You have to check these links - tons of albums listed: Wiki Wiki Link
posted by iconomy at 8:28 AM on June 26, 2006

The Sophtware Slump by Grandaddy? It's bookended by simple story songs, and what happens in between forms a sort-of narrative.
posted by godawful at 8:29 AM on June 26, 2006

There are a ton of them in the progressive rock genre. Recent examples include Dream Theater's Metropolis Part 2: Scenes from a Memory (which is a follow-up to a track from their Images and Words), Marillion's Brave, and Spock's Beard's Snow.

The Mars Volta album is a good example too.
posted by kindall at 8:30 AM on June 26, 2006

Green Day's American Idiot
XTC's Skylarking
posted by jrossi4r at 8:34 AM on June 26, 2006

Aimee Mann's "The Forgotten Arm"
posted by Gilbert at 8:40 AM on June 26, 2006

Lift to Experience's double-album, The Texas-Jerusalem Crossroads.
posted by dobbs at 8:43 AM on June 26, 2006

The Flaming Lips: Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots.
posted by cerbous at 8:43 AM on June 26, 2006

Tom Waits' Alice, Blood Money, and The Black Rider are all three albums-slash-stories-slash-musicals.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 8:44 AM on June 26, 2006

Cursive's Domestica.
posted by saladin at 8:45 AM on June 26, 2006

The Streets: A Grand Don't Come for Free
posted by togdon at 8:50 AM on June 26, 2006

Mike Watt: Contemplating the Engine Room
posted by davebush at 8:51 AM on June 26, 2006

"Attack of the Grey Lantern" by Mansun.
posted by ed\26h at 8:52 AM on June 26, 2006

Nobody mentioned War of the Worlds?
posted by meehawl at 8:54 AM on June 26, 2006

King Diamond did a number of horror-themed concepts in the mid-late 80s. I'd say the best ones are Abigail, and Them.

More metal than rock really, but I liked them at the time.
posted by crocomancer at 8:55 AM on June 26, 2006

Roger Waters- Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking
Roger Waters- Radio Kaos
posted by doctor_negative at 9:00 AM on June 26, 2006

Here's a page on three of Savatage's storytelling albums.
Wiki article on Avantasia.
Ayreon sort of specialize in this sort of thing.
Better than you might expect - WASP's Crimson Idol.
posted by Wolfdog at 9:01 AM on June 26, 2006

Okkervil River - Black Sheep Boy (and Black Sheep Boy Appendix)
posted by Hlewagast at 9:05 AM on June 26, 2006

David Bowie's widely reviled, but occasionally good "Outside" from 95 or 96.
posted by ibmcginty at 9:06 AM on June 26, 2006

Boys Night Out - Trainwreck
posted by BlzOfGlry at 9:09 AM on June 26, 2006

I highly recommend Deltron 3030. I'm not a fan of rap/hip hop/whatever genre this is in, but in my opinion, Del tha Funky Homosapien is simply amazing. He and Dan the Automator do some really interesting musical things. Along that vein, Kool Keith also has some very interesting and orginal concept albums as well.
posted by frecklefaerie at 9:11 AM on June 26, 2006

Stabbing Westward - Darkest Days
posted by galimatias at 9:14 AM on June 26, 2006

Jethro Tull - Too Old to Rock and Roll, Too Young to Die.
The Kinks - Preservation parts one and two
posted by Gungho at 9:16 AM on June 26, 2006

Meehawl, I love that War of the Worlds. My favorite album that no one has ever heard of.
posted by Gungho at 9:17 AM on June 26, 2006

Wow! It looks like I have some serious shopping to do ..
posted by duckus at 9:20 AM on June 26, 2006

Squeeze, Play (the liner notes are formatted like a script, with the lyrics as dialogue)
posted by kirkaracha at 9:23 AM on June 26, 2006

The Hold Steady, Separation Sunday.

Does Radiohead's OK Computer count?
posted by matildaben at 9:25 AM on June 26, 2006

The Mountain Goats: Talahassee
posted by OmieWise at 9:32 AM on June 26, 2006

The Extraordinaires Ribbons of War.
posted by miss tea at 9:51 AM on June 26, 2006

The Grand Illusion by Styx is kind of concepty
posted by necessitas at 9:58 AM on June 26, 2006

this might be expanding the defintion a bit, but pretty much every parliament/funkadelic album has some role to play in the p funk mythology. if i had to pick one, i would nominate Mothership Connection. if i had to pick 2, i would add One Nation Under a Groove.
posted by the painkiller at 10:00 AM on June 26, 2006

It's not rock, but I feel like it should be mentioned anyway since it's so awesomely hilarious: R. Kelly's "Trapped in the Closet"
posted by blim8183 at 10:09 AM on June 26, 2006

Does Rush's 2112 count?
posted by jozxyqk at 10:11 AM on June 26, 2006

Genesis' Lamb lies down on Broadway.
posted by punilux at 10:16 AM on June 26, 2006

Neil Young's Greendale, if you're looking for something uber political.
posted by potch at 10:26 AM on June 26, 2006

The mid-70s part is iffy (1974, but clearly a part [the last part] of the early Genesis output which I would consider an early 70s phenomenon), which is probably why it hasn't been mentioned, but Genesis's The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway is about as extreme an example as you could ever hope for. If you're not familiar, it's a double-album which is entirely about the story of one guy and his bizarre Peter-Gabriel-lyriced adventures in NYC. I recommend it.

Definitely fitting your date criterion, but only halfassedly sticking to the story is Prince's symbol album (the title of the album is the same [or almost the same] unpronounceable symbol he used as his name for a while, but that was a few years after the album). It definitely has a storyline, but it lacks cohesion and there are a few seemingly off-topic songs. Good album, though. Standing by itself, it's definitely more of a story album than Purple Rain.

on preview, i guess it was mentioned
posted by pinespree at 10:26 AM on June 26, 2006

The Decemberists 'The Tain'
posted by tev at 10:51 AM on June 26, 2006

There is, of course, Pink Floyd's The Wall.

There's a retelling of The Wall as a honky tonk bluegrass story as well.

Luther Wright & The Wrongs' Rebuild The Wall.

I would also suggest Front 242's 05:22:09:12 Off.

The The's Infected, which you can listen to streaming at The The's web site.
posted by smallerdemon at 11:11 AM on June 26, 2006

Daft Punk - Discovery

It told such a good story in music that they made it into a full-length animated film called Interstella 5555: The 5tory of the 5ecret 5tar 5ystem
posted by lockle at 11:19 AM on June 26, 2006

On the indie/mefi side, there's The 23rd Century, a record about time travel.
posted by cortex at 11:21 AM on June 26, 2006

DJ Qbert's Wave Twisters.
posted by sonofsamiam at 11:22 AM on June 26, 2006

All three of Coheed and Cambria's albums tell one ongoing (damn near incomprehensible) story. Two more albums before it's finished.
posted by GeekAnimator at 11:23 AM on June 26, 2006

If you're into 80s hair metal (yuck) there's Iron Maiden's Seventh Son of a Seventh Son, and Queensryche's Operation:Mindcrime.

*puts on some blues to wash the metal out of his mind*
posted by JekPorkins at 11:38 AM on June 26, 2006

GeekAnimator: From what I understand, there are actually three more albums coming. Their most recent album was Volume One of Part IV of the five-part story, but the first part of the story has not been "albumized" yet. Volume Two of Part IV, Part V, and Part I are still to come in album form.

Nevertheless, Coheed and Cambria have a very intriguing story / concept behind all of their music.
posted by Third at 12:30 PM on June 26, 2006

Not rock music, but Nicholas Collins' It Was A Dark And Stormy Night (1992) is an album -- well, basically one track with a couple of instrumentals tacked on -- about telling stories and the nature of replication, fabrication, authenticity and forgery. Hard to find, but really worth the effort.
posted by Hogshead at 1:27 PM on June 26, 2006

Not really rock either, but The Street's A Grand Don't Come for Free is one you may find interesting.
posted by dazed_one at 1:45 PM on June 26, 2006

I second The Mountain Goats - Tallahassee

A story about two people who desperately want to love each other, but don't know how. Dense, literary, but also catchy and fun to listen to on multiple levels. One of my favorite albums, in case you couldn't tell.

Actually, there's an even more interesting story concept going on, since the characters in Tallahassee appear on other albums. The so-called Alpha Series.
posted by Hildago at 2:32 PM on June 26, 2006

Third: I'm no expert on the story, (I love the music, but the story gives me a headache). C&C's WikiPedia entry says it's a 4-part story. All that's left is the second half of part 4, and then an album about the beginning.
posted by GeekAnimator at 3:06 PM on June 26, 2006

One of my all-time favorite albums falls into this category, it's ELO's album Time. It's about someone brought into the future from the twentieth century via a time-travel experiment, what that's like, what the future's like, wanting to be back, etc, etc. Hard to find on CD, but it is out there. Well worth the hunt.
posted by JamesMessick at 3:17 PM on June 26, 2006

I second Roger Waters - Radio Chaos

I loved that tape, I wore it out.
posted by Megafly at 5:15 PM on June 26, 2006

If you consider the narrative integrity of your average porno, Pulp would qualify with This Is Hardcore...but it's more about aging than sex.
posted by kittyprecious at 8:19 PM on June 26, 2006

Tori Amos's Scarlet's Walk follows the journey of a fictitious girl across the United States. The liner notes come with a map of where the stories of all the songs occur. The best links to click on in the site above are Scarlet's Walk bio and Scarlet stories, which explain what each song is about.

It may not be her best album, but I adore the concept behind it.
posted by chronic sublime at 1:19 AM on June 27, 2006

Tom Waits' Franks Wild Years.
posted by wheat at 6:32 AM on June 27, 2006

War of the Worlds. My favorite album that no one has ever heard of.

WofW's influence is perhaps understated only in the US because of its lack of a significant electronic music scene. In Europe, when originally released it won two Novellos, was re-released in Spanish and German versions, and was one of the first vinyl albums pressed onto CD (in complete and abridged formats). The "ULLA" refrain has been an abnormally common sample for the past 15 years or so in all club and ambient scenes. The dance remix version, ULLAdubULLA, was so huge it became almost annoying, and it seems also to have spawned its own dynasty or sequels. Finally, in recent years the re-issue of the album assaulted the charts again, spending most of 2005 firmly lodged in various Euro top 10 charts and apparently making it now one of the best selling albums of all time *and* one of the longest-running best sellers of all time (300 weeks!). And taking a cue from Gorillaz, last year's WotW "live" tour mixed a virtual Richard Burton narrator with other artists to re-create it on stage, along with some well dodgy martian props. The CGI movie is also, apparently, "forthcoming".

So in a way you are somewhat lucky to have been spared the WotW's assault. For me it was a precious childhood album, fondly remembered, that has turned into a massive, omnipresent multimedia blitzkreig. A bit like Thomas the Tank ENgine, only not so cute.
posted by meehawl at 8:12 AM on June 27, 2006

Blue Oyster Cult: Imaginos. The stupid record company mastered the disc with the tracks out of the intended order, and the band covered for it by adding liner notes calling it a random-access myth or something. Still a great album though.
posted by kindall at 8:40 AM on June 27, 2006

Gong has a trilogy of albums, Flying Teapot, Angel's Egg & You, outlining the psychadelic travels of Zero the Hero. They are some of my absolute favorite albums on their own, let alone the fact they are really one big adventure of an album.

The Orb's Adventures beyond the Ultraworld. In the first song we are on Earth enjoying its splendor. The second song finds the Earth destroyed for the enjoyment of some otherworldly ruler. then you travel farther and farther into the Universe until the final song takes you to the Huge Ever Growing Pulsating Brain That Rules From The Centre Of The Ultraworld.
posted by iurodivii at 9:40 AM on June 27, 2006

Well, if we're talking about The Who, Tommy has already been mentioned, but there's also Quadrophenia. Hüsker Dü's Zen Arcade probably qualifies, as does Sufjan Stevens' Come On Feel The Illinoise. I'm sure there are still plenty more, too ...
posted by Len at 9:57 AM on June 27, 2006

GeekAnimator: So it does. I read something about a five part story some time ago. I interpreted it as five actual parts, with the fourth part being split into two sub-parts.

Apparently, the two halves of Part IV count as individual parts to the story, and there is no separate Part V.

Nevertheless, I love the music, and I agree with about the headache-inducing storyline.
posted by Third at 8:10 AM on June 28, 2006

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