There is a good article about the comeback of concept albums in the Christian Science Monitor. They credit the Kiss concept record, "The Elder," with helping to kill off the genre in the early 1980s. Of course, Lou Reed collaborated with Kiss on "The Elder," so apparently this effort was so advanced that we're trying to figure it out 20 years later. That is typical of Lou Reed's efforts in the 1980s, which is perhaps his most advanced period, or, at least, the hardest to understand. I'm sure he's more advanced now and I don't understand what he's doing now any better than what he dide in the 80s, but we'll have to wait and see. Anyway, here's a description of "The Elder" from allmusic.com:
By the end of 1980, Kiss knew that their next album had to be a strong one -- a glorious return to hard rock a la their classic Destroyer. New drummer Eric Carr had refueled the band's desire to rock, and the quartet began working on a straight-ahead rock album in early 1981. Midway through, the band felt that they were rewriting past songs, and the sessions were aborted. Simmons and Stanley then came up with the idea of recording a concept album, based on a mythical original story by Simmons. Destroyer producer Bob Ezrin was back, and encouraged the band's concept album idea (against both Frehley and Carr's wishes). Simmons and Stanley had high hopes for The Elder (such as a movie, an elaborate tour, a follow-up record, etc.), but it completely bombed upon release. The reason? The music is totally uncharacteristic of Kiss -- it resembles heavy prog-rock for the most part. Some of the songs could have been classics if the pompous and/or hard-to-decipher lyrics were replaced, such as "The Oath," "Only You," "I," and "Just a Boy." Only two tracks resemble the Kiss of old (Frehley's "Dark Light" and the instrumental "Escape From the Island"), while the rest is downright embarrassing ("Odyssey," "A World Without Heroes," "Under the Rose"). The Elder was the final straw for Frehley, who would leave the band in 1982.