With the arrival of Alice Cooper's new record, Welcome 2 My Nightmare -- a concept-album sequel to his 1975 classic Welcome to My Nightmare -- we got to thinking. It seemed like the whole idea of the concept album, a major facet of the rock era, with entries from damn near everybody -- The Beatles (Sgt. Pepper's), The Beach Boys, The Kinks, Floyd, Yes, Genesis, The Who -- had died a horrible, somewhat goofy, death. In my addled mind, I somehow got the idea that besides pretty much anything by Mastodon or R. Kelly (who both sang a cellphone conversation or hid in a closet), the concept album had gone the way of the dinosaur since Roger Waters' The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking came out in 1984. Boy, was I wrong.
Not only are there tons of concept albums still coming out, they're emerging from genres as far afield as progressive metal and hip-hop. Even better, the results are still often slightly crappy, a time-honored tradition of this '70s, uh, tradition. Let's face it, making a record with a unifying theme is not easy, and there are gonna be holes. Often musicians just get points for trying (in my book anyway). And I have to admit, I often like the crappy concept albums better than the "successful" ones. Below, you'll find a cross-section of some of the concept albums that came out in the past decade. As you can see, the art form is far from dying, and is just as suspect as ever.