Hair Metal Happy Hour

HAIR METAL NOTHING: W.A.S.P. STILL RULES ALMOST THIRTY YEARS LATER

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Anso can have Steel Panther, Vince can have Ratt, and you, Reader, can have Quiet Riot (even though Frankie Banali played in W.A.S.P. for quite a while, Quiet Right still sucks in this guy’s book). Pretty much everyone in Mötley Crüe has proven to be a scuzzbag in one form or another aside from Mick Mars — the poor guy — but if we’re doling out Sunset Strip bands to worship (that don’t feature Axl Rose — no fair), let me get first dibs on W.A.S.P. Sure, my family looks at me a little weird and even my best friend doesn’t “get it” when I crank the iPod or put Inside The Electric Circus on the turntable, but what do they all know anyway?

It’s always been about the lyrics for Blackie Lawless And Company, first and foremost… mostly. After that sweet guitar tone. And the awesome song construction. And the choruses. Nevermind. Point being: whether it’s the classic The Crimson Idol or the newer Neon God albums, or even the recent Babylon, there has always been a story there for W.A.S.P. crammed inside of their tongue-in-cheek lyrics, subtle “rub you the wrong way because we can” imagery, or pure arena rocker songs that put many of their contemporaries to shame. If you got offended, that’s probably what Lawless was going for. If you, to this day, bang your fist in silence while listening to a song on your headphones while strolling down the street (who am I kidding… we have limos and drivers here, but I’m trying to relate this to you simple peasants), rest assured: that’s what Blackie wanted you to do. Ultimately, the man knows what he wants and does it well even to this day.

Sure, “A.N.I.M.A.L.” and “King Of Sodom And Gomorrah” were about over-the-top content in their own separate but still uniting ways, but even the latter dabbled in Lawless’s focus on what we could dub “pretty heavy content” for the PMRC poster boys, even back in 1986. The introspective lyrics on Idol and the two Neon God albums matches with the same thoughtfulness that graced Babylon, the band’s latest effort that saw a 2009 / 2010 release, depending on which side of the Atlantic you dwell.

Bottom line: When we’re talking about hair metal misunderstandings here at the mansion, there better be some love for W.A.S.P. It’s not mindless schlock like Poison, pointless drivel like Warrant, or “let’s make a song that douchebags in 2010 will pump out of their souped out cars that Daddy bought them in a totally ironic way” like Great White or the twelve billion other terrible bands from the ’80s. Despite whatever the haircuts may have taught you or your friends, W.A.S.P. is a rock and roll band, flat out. The sound hasn’t changed much over almost 30 years and the quality hasn’t dwindled, so maybe the Sunset Strip scenesters just latched on to a bonafide rock star when the time was right for both sides back then.

For the uninitiated, here are but a few of my favorites from across their albums:

L.O.V.E. Machine:

The chorus is what got me into W.A.S.P. initially. This one is live from the European tour from just last year, but even Gene Simmons could learn a thing or two from Blackie. And the bass drum on the chorus – Y.E.S.

Cocaine Cowboys:

This and the title track are the two highlights of the ’99 album Helldorado. It’s like Journey on steroids… just as catchy and a little less gay.

The Invisible Boy:

It makes a lot more sense in the context of the concept-driven The Crimson Idol, but this shows how awesome W.A.S.P. can be. Throw in “Arena Of Pleasure” right after this, the leads on “The Idol”, “Chainsaw Charlie” and “Doctor Rockter” and there’s a reason why Idol is still considered the band’s crowning jewel. Hey! And MTV did show videos at one point to boot!

9.5 – N.A.S.T.Y.

Inside The Electric Circus is probably my second favorite record and the oh-so-subtle sexual themes have nothing to do with it. It’s about T.H(E-uhhh) – C.H.O.R.U.(U.U.U.U.U.S.S.S.S.S.S.)S.!

Babylon’s Burning:

This is the surprisingly solid lead single from the new album Babylon. Classic hooks and chops gallop alongside the theory-driven lyrics Lawless has been focusing on for a number of years now, since trying to reaffirm that the band isn’t all about shock value. Sold me.

I didn’t even touch half the albums, but that’s enough to get you started if you’ve not experienced the glory of W.A.S.P. For the seasoned veterans, flame away on whatever I didn’t mention; I’m curious to hear your take on it!

-BC

P.S. Winger sucks ass, too.

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