Tuesday, June 23, 2009

2005-03-21 - Pitchfork

Of Montreal: Best and Worst Hair Metal Bands

by Kevin Barnes, Of Montreal

March 21, 2005

It's kind of scary that you might find a certain fashion trend or musical style exciting only to wake up a few years later and wonder, "What the hell was I thinking?" We all have our skeletons and my big one is that, for most of my middle school to high school years, I was a hair metal fan.

I was completely possessed by the dark forces of poodle rock. I was seduced by their rebellious fuck-all attitude and enthralled by their dedication to "partying!!" Even though my mom wouldn't let me grow my hair long or wear an earring, I felt that my soul was aligned with Nikki Sixx, C.C. Deville, Taime Downe, and Izzy Stradlin. It's kind of difficult at this point in my life to figure out what it was about certain bands that made me think they either rocked or sucked when, in retrospect, they all seemed to suck. I guess either the subtle distinctions were lost over time or I was more discriminating as a teenager.

My Top Five "Oh Man, These Guys Rip!" Hair Bands

1. Mötley Crüe
They were my favorite. I loved that Tommy Lee did a drum solo while spinning around in a mechanical contraption. I loved that Mick Mars had a guitar with a woman's breasts airbrushed on it. I loved that Nikki Sixx would set his pants on fire and roll around on stage. I loved that Vince Neil had a stretch limousine with a hot tub in back. Most of all, I loved that they scared my mom. She used to drag me to church every Sunday and I really hated it. I used to draw pentagrams all over my school notebooks, and I think that really freaked her out. My favorite song of theirs was "Live Wire". I can actually still listen to their first record and secretly enjoy myself.

2. Faster Pussycat
I loved Taime Down's voice and their sorta gypsy vagabond style. Somehow they seemed a little more underground. I felt like I was one of only a few viewers of "Headbangers Ball" who liked them. They had a minor hit with their cover of Carly Simon's "You're So Vain". My favorite song of theirs was "Bathroom Wall".

3. Guns and Roses
Well, where do I begin? (First, I must clarify that I am speaking about Appetite For Destruction-era G'n'R and not Use Your Illusion 1 and 2, because at that point I had come to my senses.) I loved that they all had these fun names: Izzy, Slash, Axl, Duff and, um, Steven. They seemed very dangerous. They were like the older kids in my neighborhood who hung out by the gas station where I bought my Garbage Pail Kids. Kids who smoked cigarettes and harassed housewives. My favorite song of theirs was either "It's So Easy" or "Rocket Queen".

4. Van Halen
Again, a clarification: I'm talking about pre-Hagar Van Halen. I have nothing against Sammy, but Diamond Dave was the man. They were the ultimate masturbatory virtuoso band. Alex Van Halen had, like, eight kick drums and about one hundred toms. I loved his "Helicopter" drum solo. Of course, who could forget Eddie's "Eruption" guitar solo. That was the great thing about Van Halen-- everyone got to do a solo, even the bass player. Michael Anthony had this amazing bass that was designed like a bottle of Jack Daniels and it had this Dixie cup dispenser on the headstock. Before his bass solo he would pull out one of the Dixie cups and poor himself a shot of whiskey. My 15-year-old self found that super cool. My favorite song of theirs was "Everybody Wants Some".

5. Ratt
Ratt were cool because they wrote really catchy songs, and also their manager was Milton Berle's nephew and he was somehow able to convince Uncle Miltie (literally) to dress in drag in one of their videos. When I look at photos of them from back in the day I have to laugh because they kind of look like the gayest biker gang ever. My favorite song of theirs was "Round and Round".

My Bottom Five "Dude, These Guys Are Weak!" Hair Bands

1. Winger
Kip Winger was totally creepy. There was something indecent in the way he played his bass. He probably thought he looked really sexy but he always looked like a creepy uncle to me. All of the band members played those super-modern ugly thin guitars for "serious" musicians. I imagine the band members met at Berkley and bonded over a mutual love for Peter Cetera. I know it's wrong but I am always dubious of a band fronted by a bass player. My least favorite song of theirs was "Seventeen".

2. Warrant
They were like "Poison-lite," if that's even possible. I can't fathom why now, but for some reason I liked Poison and hated Warrant. Somehow they seemed second-rate to me. My least favorite song of theirs was "I Saw Red".

3. Whitesnake
I think I hated this band for the same reasons that I hated Winger. David Coverdale was probably even creepier than Mr. Winger. He looked like someone's father going through a mid life crisis. My least favorite song of theirs was "Is This Love?"

4. Extreme
They seemed like all the guys I've ever had to deal with who work at music stores. The kind of guy who, when you ask to try out a guitar, will take it down and shred on it for 10 minutes but won't let you play it. My least favorite song of theirs was, of course, "More Than Words". It's one of those songs that makes me feel like I am in a mall no matter where I am when I hear it.

5. Stryper
Christian metal: What's the fuckin' point? I mean the whole reason we listened to metal was because it wasn't acceptable and it wasn't approved of by our parents and teachers and what ever other authority figure there was to rebel against. I listened to Mötley Crüe because I wanted to create a schism between my parents and I. It's not like I really wished my parents could have appreciated "Shout at the Devil" so that we could have shared it together. I always felt really sorry for the kids who had to resort to Stryper because their parents were too strict. I'd hate to see where those kids are now. They're probably all dentists.

It's sad to hear all my favorite old hair bands curse Nirvana. They all seem to think that Kurt Cobain was the antichrist because all of their careers dissolved once Nevermind came out. They should have realized that all great parties must come to an end. It's a good thing too, because all that hair spray was bad for the environment.

I highly recommend these documentaries to anyone who hasn't seen them: The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years, Mötley Crüe Uncensored, and Heavy Metal Parking Lot.

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