Tuesday, October 18, 2011

#19 Poison - Open Up And Say...Ahh!: The Hulk Hogan of Glam Metal

ROCKTOBERFEST: A Most Excellent Countdown of the 31 Most Bitchin Glam Metal Albums

#19 Poison – Open Up and Say…Ahh! (Released 1988) 5x Platinum #2 Billboard Albums

 That album cover is hands-down the best album cover in glam metal history. My future wife that tongue oh my god it is to die for *swoons*.

Bret Michaels (He's A Whore!) – Vocals, Rhythm Guitar 
CC Deville (I beat Slash, yep) – Lead Guitar

Bobby Dall (I’m a bad, bad man) - Bass

Rikki Rockett (Hey Ma, Look at me I can stand while drumming) - Drums

 The Hulk Hogan of Glam Metal 

After all those underground albums, we finally hit the one of the heavyweight albums of the golden era. Martin, don’t you know that glam metal is all about selling out, looking bitchin and nailing chicks.  Stop trying to earn indy cred by ranking Vain so damn high. Go fuck yourself, No Respect kicks ass and you know what so does this album from Poison. Yes, I am praising Poison, as they are often my go-to glam punching bag. Both justifiably and irritatingly, Poison is the band most connected with the 1980’s glam metal movement. Poison has transcended with 1980’s with their successful 1-2 mega-hit combo of Nothin But  A Good Time  and Every Rose, o you have heard those song ya don’t say. Poison dressed in the most flamboyant attire, had the biggest party hooks, the flashy solos and the most successful power ballad EVAH~! In short, the members of Poison were really good at being rockstars (Nickelback and clones take note) and Bret Michaels is really good at being famous. They were hyper-sexual, they are only slightly smarter than Rick Perry, but fuck it man their songs are fun as all hell and catchy. You know what? At the end of the day, glam metal is one big party and I LOVE POISON! What irks me is that Motley Crue and Ratt deserve so much more notoriety because they were the better bands and they would make better standard-bearers for the genre that I love. 

Poison is totally the Hulk Hogan of glam metal. Hogan is the biggest name associated with pro wrestling because he exaggerated and amplified all of the common spots in wrestling. (Ok, even I, Mr. Jaded Smart Mark, still mark out over the finger wag, that shit is just plain badass) Randy Savage and Ric Flair executed the nuances better and were just plain fuckin better wrestlers than that piece of luggage, but are in that second-tier of popularity. Once again, I don’t hate Hogan (FUCK YOU HOGAN FOR NEVER PUTTING SAVAGE OVER! YOU EGOMANIACAL PIECE OF FUCKIN SHIT!) sorry inner Savage mark coming out there, but point remains Hulk Hogan is entertaining and I derive pleasure from watching him perform in and out of the ring. Much like Poison, I just think there much better acts in their respective genres and wish those acts got their well-deserved respect.  

Poison did not make it to the top without releasing some killer albums (and doing some killer drugs). Open Up…And Say Ahh! Is among one of the heavy-hitters of the glam metal genre. The production on this album is slick as all hell in contrast to the raw performance of their debut album and is a shift to more arena-ready performance. There is a lot more concentrated KISS and Van Halen influences and less traditional metal influences. The shouted gang-chourses are replaced by smooth, conventional choruses with Bret’s voice double-tracked. Rikki’s drumming is wicked bouncy and drives a great rhythm section with lots of sexy reverb on the snare. CC’s guitar has the standard 80’s sound with plenty of whammy bar attack and finger-tapping. Michaels employs his “Rawk-N-Rawl” voice signing raunchy, sleezy lyrics with a bit of country-western flare (Poison makes use of storytelling that reminds me of southern rock bands). 

The big party single is of course, Nothin But A Good Time and I am not going to bother reviewing because everybody has probably heard it 7000 times anyways. I was about 13/14 years old when I first heard this song on the radio. I was warming up the car before leaving for school and I put on the radio and all of sudden I hear this really killer chorus with real flashy, wild guitar playing. Before this song, I was fed a steady diet of what my dad liked as music, which was mostly 70’s hard rock . However my favorites were Van Halen, Def Leppard and Scorpions, the 80’s metal staples that my dad listened to while he was partying in the 80’s. Incidentally, turns out my dad actually hated Poison and continues to hate them. He dislikes most of the glam metal scene though he puts up with them on car rides as along we alternate with Led Zep and southern rock. Point is, I went home and looked up on the song and the rest is history. That moment started me on the path of finding my own music that I liked and this was cemented when I founded the Glam Gods, Motley Crue. 

My favorite story that relates to Every Rose (once again there is no point reviewing this, every has heard it 7000 times) concerns my suitemate, Ed. Longtime readers will remember Ed as the guy who introduced me to Steel Panther. Well Ed had a weird association with Every Rose as it causes him to black-out while drinking on more than one occasion so as a running gag I would often play Every Rose when he was in the room. Now one time, Ed was explaining in a weird metaphor how he would fall sleep or phase out during class through the allegory of this janitor erasing a chalk-board. Of course, I always being a sucker for continuity between jokes, I quickly made Bret Michaels the janitor of Ed’s mind. So one late night on the weekend we were watching Metal Mania and the music video for Every Rose came on. I quickly made a couple of quips, but then something amazing happened. In the video, Bret throws a drink at a chalkboard, erasing the letters. We were both like “HOLY FUCKIN SHIT! No Way! No Freakin Way!” Anyways, if you have NOT heard either of one these tracks, you are a troglodyte. It is important to note that Guns N Roses, very realistic and aggressive brand of rock forced Poison's hand to re-invent themselves in a more serious direction. Thus in this video, the band dropped the make-up and elaborate costumes focusing more on the story. This coupled with Crue re-branding themselves as tough bikers marked the end of mainstream glam at least in terms of imagery. The music would continue into 1992 before C*bain and The Buzzkills killed it.

Onto the hidden gems of the album, first up is the token heavy song, Bad To Be Good, which is a balls-y track that features a cool, slick bass intro while Michaels employs great vocal dymanics while sneering about the seedy underbelly of Hollywood. Michaels alternates between a scream and a sneer with tons of emotion about socially deviant behavior.  CC’s guitar tone is darker, rawer on this song with a kick-ass circular riff.  The solo features a big power chord attack with lots of whammy bar action. 

The leading song of the album, Love On The Rocks, has grown to be one of my favorite Poison songs. This song features one of the all-time great pick-up lines, “If you wanna taste my love, why don’t you swallow this?” Rikki kicks off with that bouncy drumming that is very reminiscent of KISS-Destroyer-Era and when the main riff kicks in at about 45 second mark, I just start grooving. The chorus is a fun one to sing-a-long with and the solo is very good example of CC’s flashy and fun style of solo. 

The final song before I wrap this bad-boy is the third single, Fallen Angel, which did tremendous business for the band, but is as famous as its siblings from the same album. Lets start with important details, the chick in this music video is fuckin hot. God, I love 80’s metal music videos. This song features Bret doing a pretty basic vocal routine, no Rawk ‘n’ Rawl, very clean vocals and little dynamics. I should mention Bret’s phrasing is the best in the glam metal and there is something about Poison lyrics that after only a couple listens I can easily recite them. I knew every lyric to this song after something like 5 listens. Bret is in charge of rhythm guitar and employs a standard, straight underneath CC’s flashy lead and fills. Interestingly, CC often does not employ two guitars on the album. Usually, for example on a Crue album, Mars plays both lead and rhythm guitar on a song. Most Poison songs, only make use of a lead guitar, which sometimes lends itself to a cool sound, but other times leaves a song without texture or feeling empty. Anyways, this is definitely one of Poison’s best songs and one I recommend checking out.

We will be seeing more of Poison later on, so I will be keeping this short. Even though this album checks in #19, it is definitely an album any self-respecting glam fan should have in their collection. It was one of the mega –albums of the late 80’s and an essential party metal album. Next up will an even bigger album both in sales and pop sheen. For now, don’t think too hard, just relax and enjoy some big, dumb music for its best progenitor: POISON!!! 

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