The Spi¨al Tap discography -- With a new album being released, we look back on the career of this influential rock band

* Break Like the Wind Tap’s new album presents both the ultimate enigma and the ultimate challenge to the group’s credibility. Daringly interlarding hot new tracks in its reborn molten-metal style (”Bitch School,” ”Cash on Delivery”) with classic period pieces (”The Sun Never Sweats”), the band offers a uniquely valuable panorama of its development. But it also raises a key question: Has Tap sold out? Squeaky-clean production values, all-star guest soloists like Jeff Beck, Dweezil Zappa, and Cher (!), flawless engineering, and socially relevant issues like ecology (”Stinkin’ Up the Great Outdoors”) — are these what we’ve come to expect from the World’s Loudest Band? We’re strongly ambivalent, but we’ll give this record the benefit of the doubt, if only because it joins the soundtrack from This Is Spi¨al Tap as one of the two Tap albums actually available in stores. Besides, if Break succeeds — and it’s Tap’s biggest mover since Intravenus de Milo went platinum when record stores returned more than 1 million copies- maybe someone will bring the rest of these gems (we’ve omitted a live album or two) from Tap’s legendary catalog back into print. A
* Spinal Tap Sings ”(Listen to the) Flower People” and Other Favorites The band’s clear, crisp, scintillating 1967 debut. Was it the first breath of a new dawn sweeping over the sludgy, self-satisfied rooftops of rock & roll? Or was it a new, gritty realism seeking to blot out the prettified homogeneity of early-’60s pop? Who cares? A+
* We Are All Flower People If the first record was premier cru Bordeaux, its sequel was pure red ink. C-
* Brainhammer The band hits its lumbering stride in 1973, moving with the lean, mean aplomb of a brontosaurus in fighting trim. A
* Nerve Damage; Blood to Let; and Intravenus de Milo Early-’70s releases, each suffering from a certain sameness that set in during Tap’s meteoric rise to the middle of the pack. All three: B-
* The Sun Never Sweats Ponderous 1975 concept album. Tap stumbles big. C
* Bent for the Rent Tap in its brief glitter-rock phase, performing the ill-conceived glam-soul pastiche ”When a Man Looks Like a Woman.” C-
* Shark Sandwich Heavy-metal heaven, from 1980. You’d have to go clear back to Brueghel for an equally heady brew of hardworking Everyman earthiness and primal barnyard lust. A+
* Smell the Glove That notorious suppressed cover must have been just too sexy for 1982. But sexist? Tap as misogynists? Gimme a break! B+
* This Is Spinal Tap — Soundtrack More of a greatest-hits package than a bold step forward. Still, many tunes are given new live treatments, and all in all, this 1984 release remains an irreplaceable document of the band’s evolution from raw potential to irreversible deafness. A-