Cinemetal

THE SAD ATTEMPTS OF HAIR METAL BANDS TO BE MODERN AND RELEVANT

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After grunge got so popular that MTV’s 120 Minutes and Headbanger’s Ball somehow became practically the same show, a lot of hair metal bands tried to harden and “modern up” their sound — usually to disastrous results. Herein, a few of my favorite examples, presented in chronological order of their release.

First up we have Warrant’s “Machine Gun,” from the 1992 album Dog Eat Dog. This actually isn’t all that ridiculous, and came so early in the “let’s change our sound” cycle that I suspect it was intended more as a response to the success of bands like Guns N’ Roses and Skid Row than Nirvana. Still, it’s hardly “Cherry Pie” or “Heaven,” y’know?

L.A. Guns had a series of sad-attempts-at-being-relevant in the 90s before they reunited with original singer Phil Lewis for 2001’s pretty good Man in the Moon. The worst of these post-and-pre Lewis recordings was 1995’s American Hardcore, which wasn’t hardcore but was fucking awful. Not shockingly, I can’t even find a video or clip for any of the songs from that record, but just to give you a sense of the level of self-parody the band achieved here, remember that they got famous for a song called “Sex Action,” and then look at this cover art:

THE SAD ATTEMPTS OF HAIR METAL BANDS TO BE MODERN AND RELEVANT

“Slang,” from Def Leppard’s 1996 release of the same name, bears some of the familiar hallmarks of a good Def Leppard song — for example, the anthemic chorus based around a ridiculous euphemism for sex. But then there’s all this electronic shit going on, and, I mean, just look at this video. Def Leppard made a return to their signature sound three years later on Euphoria, the true follow-up to Hysteria and Adrenalize — in fact, they did such a good job on that album that they basically haven’t topped it since. If they’d retired after Euphoria, I’d probably never make fun of them.

1994’s Motley Crue was a really good record that actually did an excellent job of updating the band’s sound…


…but since it didn’t have Vince Neil, only five of us cared. My understanding from reading The Dirt is that Generation Swine was already in the process of being recorded when Neil re-joined the band and his replacement, John Corabi, got the boot; why the band didn’t throw out the Swine material and write Dr. Feelgood ’97 I’ll never understand. So instead the first of what would end up being at least two Motley Crue original line-up reunion albums was an inadvertently hilarious hodge-podge of badly executed clichés stolen from bands like Nine Inch Nails and White Zombie. Any given song on Generation Swine should leave you rolling on the floor laughing, but the video for “Afraid” also gives you the visual of Vince Neil with red hair and the band’s failed attempt to make a Marilyn Manson video.


Poison were super-late to the party, but somehow still made the same mistake as Motley Crue: when they reunited with C.C. DeVille after failed stints with Richie Kotzen and Blues Saraceno, they took at a stab at being “heavy” and “serious,” instead of just releasing Open Up and Say Look What the Flesh and Blood Dragged In, which is what everybody wanted. Not only is Power to the People‘s title track pretty much the worst song ever, but it’s entirely possible that it’s video is one of the most embarrassing you’ll ever see. It looks like it was filmed on one of those huge camcorders my father used to have mount on his shoulder to take home movies of me when I was still in diapers. I feel like this is the moment when Poison realized what the rest of us already knew — that they weren’t cool — but, rather than just roll with not being cool (as they had done up ’til now), they started trying to be cool. And it never, ever worked out for them. Creatively at least; I guess now Bret Michaels farts and VH1 gives him a reality show, so whatever.

And finally, of course, we have Axl Rose’s Rock N’ Roll Circus. I’m actually one of the few people in the world who will admit to really like Chinese Democracy, but there can be little doubt that Rose was aping Trent Reznor during those recording sessions. This is particularly evident when considering “Silkworms,” a song the band played live a handful of times but that didn’t actually make it onto Chinese Democracy. I know Rose likes to discount “Oh My God” and once went so far as to claim it was a demo the label bullied him into releasing, but there are no excuses to be had for “Silkworms” — he played it live of his own free will.

Here’s “Silkworms” being performed at Rock in Rio in 2001. Little did anyone know that Chinese Democracy was still ANOTHER seven years away.

The faux British accent is especially amusing. And how Rose passed up the chance to have the lyric “pussy full of maggots” on CD, I’ll never know.

-AR

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