I’ve noticed that the majority of well-known musical acts, at least those who are together long enough, tend to follow a predictable pattern: A few years (often 5-7 years) of being very productive - usually an artist’s best work is released during this period.
Next, fewer releases for at least the next several years, even decades. These tend to be weaker releases than when the artist/band was putting out work every year or two.
Finally, a critically acclaimed comeback album. Oddly, these are often isolated (or never even happen) and are followed up by a return to the weak, infrequent albums.
Some artists that did this:
Metallica - Perhaps the #1 example. Their critical heyday was their first few albums, from 1983’s Kill 'Em All to 1988’s …And Justice For All. Their commercial breakthrough followed with Metallica in 1991. Their next release was not until 1996, and led to weaker and weaker albums culminating with the mess that was St. Anger in 2003. Finally they had a good comeback in 2008 with Death Magnetic.
The Who - They had a few good albums at first, but started to get ambitious with The Who Sell Out in 1967. Their next three studio albums (1969-1973) were the all-time classics Tommy, Who’s Next, and Quadrophenia, arguably the best three-album streak of any band in history (save for maybe the Beatles). After that, The Who By Numbers was a step backward, although 1978’s **Who Are You **was pretty great. But after that…
What are the reasons for this recurring pattern? One guess would be that as band members acquire families and kids, their priorities and available time changes. Another would be the booze and drugs that most musicians wind up using - burnout on those substances after a few years must affect songwriting.
Am I on to something here? Which other artists (and I know there are plenty) fit this pattern?