Okay, I have a theory, made up of equal parts music snobbery and jaded listening habits, that states that a band's biggest/most popular album (or their "breakthrough" album) is always always inferior to albums that have come before it. Some examples:
Bruce Springsteen -- Born in the U.S.A. (compare to Born to Run)
U2 -- The Joshua Tree (compare to War)
R.E.M. -- Out of Time, Automatic for the People (compare to Murmur)
Death Cab for Cutie -- Plans (compare to We Have the Facts and We're Voting Yes)
Wilco -- Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (compare to Being There)
Now, before I am inundated with indignant replies, let me note that I think all of these albums fall under the "Okay" or "Pretty Good" categories. None of them are stinkers. But I also think that all of these musicians/bands did far better work on earlier albums (specfically, the ones mentioned above). And I'm sure there are exceptions, but honestly I can't think of them. Why is it that most albums that go Platinum strike me as toned down/dumbed down when compared to the artists' best work? And why is it that the exceptions, such as Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (which hardly strikes me as toned down or dumbed down) merely strike me as indulgent wankery? Anyone have any insight into my twisted musical mind?