SKID ROW: WHERE IS THE LOVE? TL;DR
Am I high or is it weird that in 2011 nobody touts the first two Skid Row records as mega-masterpieces? What has undermined lasting renown? Is it that those jams are too heavy for radio listeners and not aggro enough for metal fans? Did major line-up changes doom them to be written off (except for the three enduring singles)? Is it Sebastian Bach’s fault? Is the rest of the band too stubborn and unambitious? Really, has there been a more compelling, awesome, and fearless heavy rock record since? Help me figure this out?
To me, it’s not a problem per se that one-time Skid Row vocalist Sebastian Bach is a huge jackass. One, his all-time top ten singing chops justify extreme arrogance and render decency unnecessary; two, reality TV and morning radio has immunized us all to dunderheads of Bach’s type. So fans are over it, right? Yet it’s still possible that Bach’s exhausting bimbo-ism has quieted the global and unanimous mega-acclaim that Skid Row deserves. How?
Think about it: Is it not Bach-related acrimony among the members of Skid Row that hamstrings their legacy-building? No reunion tours, no massive retrospectives, no anniversary celebrations. No documentaries, no tribute albums, no peer buzz. It’s probably Bach’s spaztardation that makes these things impossible.Now sure, Bach dominates the Skid Row narrative; he’s a drunk-ass facepalm machine with a big media megaphone. But here’s the thing: No matter how odious his vibe — see his recent appearance on That Metal Show, last month’s guest turn with Steel Panther in West Hollywood, all that Asking Alexandria pandering — even a petty, intolerant jerk like me is still spurred to crank Skids’ jamz at the mention of his name. (Jeez I know a rigidly hetero guy who, with no prompting, confessed a willingness to blow him.)
That indicates that not even Bach has the power to corrupt the Skid Row experience. Nay, the impact of classic, archetypical Skid Row records — Skid Row (1989) and Slave To The Grind (1991) — can’t be dulled by any measure of intra-band strife (long ago), crummy personalities (doesn’t affect Motley Crue and their records mostly suck ballz), and turning of tides in heavy rock (both band and ex-singer can still draw). Sure, many records are big for a time; it’s rare and special for any to persist in the collective metal consciousness for fucking 20 years. So I propose that Skid Row’s classics be properly canonized, benchmarked, and celebrated. Like, everywhere and always and by every rocker on Earth.
Permit me some frothy observations? Thanks! Here goes:
Production Incredible. The key is guitarists Dave “Snake” Sabo and Scotti Hill’s love for the simplicity of guitar one panned left and guitar two panned right. It simulates the concert experience, leaves airspace for drums and bass, and allows the ear to discern nuance amid each player’s parts.
Performance Studly. Bach is a god (duh) and is undaunted by heavy lifting; then-drummer Rob Affuso’s playing feels mighty like Carmine Appice and deft like Winger/Dixie Dregs skinsman Rod Morgenstein. Meanwhile, the guitarists consistently achieved the rarest of feats in the glam metal genre: fucking kick-ass tone, beit mildly sludgy overdrive (“Slave To The Grind”), grimy, bubbly low distortion (“Livin’ On A Chain Gang” “Creepshow”), and shimmery, penetrating lead sounds (“Midnight/Tornado” “Monkey Business”). And of course, Skids’ default crunch (“Sweet Little Sister” “Beggar’s Day”) sounds so fucking good. Srs I dial my tone to copy theirs to this day; I am not the only one.
Composition A+. The big reason that Skid Row albums shit all over the beloved but comparatively cruddy classic outings from Bon Jovi, Poison, Motley Crue, et al. is their dud-free battery of songs. Bassist Rachel “Fancy Earring-To-Nose Ring Thingy” Bolan authored way snappy lyrics, the occasional earnest cliche notwithstanding (“18 And Life”). Every Sabo/Hill riff is a winner and leagues beyond the late ’80s standard for sophistication (see “The Threat” and “Here I Am”). Each song is basically a clinic on taut construction too: Pace is always perfect, the dynamics surgical, and hooks monster and memorable. Even the track order is full bonerz.
Okay if you’re still reading — cheers btw — you’ve noticed I’m obnoxiously lathered up over these albums (I’ll spare you any fellatio of 1995’s Subhuman Race for now). And that’s not really the point, the particulars and my assessments. I’m just legitimately confused that such huge-selling, pervasive records have such low visibility today. It’s not fair for Skid Row to reside alongside that era’s bands like Warrant, Winger, and Cinderella, whose big songs are bigger than their creators; these studs should be shoulder-to-shoulder with Metallica, Faith No More, Def Leppard, and Guns ‘N Roses as an act renowned for more than a huge hit propped up by a few minor ones, an act whose members and albums are household names. They should be basking in the tribute albums, media courting, and far-reaching fanfare that comes with such creative and commercial accomplishments.
There are at least two ways that this could happen. The first is improbable: A massive synchronized uprising of roaring public accolades for the band, maybe spearheaded by high-profile fans (Grohl? Lemmy? Klosterman? Vedder?) and delivered via VH1 Rock Honors-style tribute, media exposure, and sexy commerce (i.e. remasters, bobbleheads). The second option might be fucking impossible: A reunion with Sebastian Bach and and and Rob Affuso. A big one. A sincere and warm-hearted one. Not a grudging, because-fans-asked-for-it reunion, but a miraculous, against-all-odds reconciliation and renewed love affair with each other and the glory of Skid Row. Hugs and smiles are mandatory.
To properly honor the band’s awesomeness, the reunion gigs must be huge. But Anso, you say, Skid Row has no traction with non-dinosaurs; their reunion shows might struggle at 1,000-seat venues. No argument here, cuz in the entertainment industry, an act is only as big as its last work. Solution: The situation requires a new, expertly-produced, big-as-A7X/Buckcherry album, high-powered management (not Doc McGhee), and major tour support from bands like … well, like A7X, Buckcherry, and fine Baz’s bumchums in Asking Alexandria.
By now you’re just laughing, right? This scenario is only slightly less likely than a Don Dokken-George Lynch wedding or Ted Nugent converting to Islam. I acknowledge that. Hey I don’t have all the answers. But fuck, man, The Police kinda pulled it off; Aerosmith forgives Steven Tyler every week; fucking Anthrax got Joey Belladonna back! So why not Skid Row?