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The Decline of the Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years [Album Review]

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The Decline of the Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
2011, Capitol Records
Originally Released: 1988, Capitol Records
Buy the album at Amazon

1. “Under My Wheels” – Alice Cooper w/ Guns N’ Roses
2. “Bathroom Wall” – Faster Pussycat
3. “Cradle to the Grave” – Motörhead
4. “You Can Run But You Can’t Hide” – Armored Saint
5. “Born to Be Wild” – Lizzy Borden
6. “In My Darkest Hour” – Megadeth
7. “Prophecy” – Queensrÿche
8. “The Brave” – Metal Church
9. “Foaming at the Mouth” – Rigor Mortis
10. “Colleen” – Seduce

Any metal-head worth their weight in steel is well aware of this documentary that was released in 1988. It’s a truly fascinating look at life as rocker in the 1980s. For better or worse, warts and all, it absolutely captures a time and a vibe & scene that can never truly be replicated no matter how “retro” a band may act.

As it stands, the soundtrack to The Decline of the Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years is a solid compilation. Sure, bands like Seduce and Rigor Mortis didn’t stand the test of time but when it comes to the ’80s metal scene, you can’t really argue against the inclusion of bands like Motorhead, Lizzy Borden, Megadeth, Alice Cooper, Guns N’ Roses, Metal Church or even Faster Pussycat. It was all metal one way or another.

The documentary itself was actually what turned me on to Megadeth as they performed “In My Darkest Hour” in the film and it certainly made an impression on me.

The lack of Ozzy Osbourne, Aerosmith, Poison, KISS or W.A.S.P. is a bit odd given how their stature and appearances in the documentary but the soundtrack isn’t meant to be all encompassing. If it was, we’d be putting up with having to listen to the likes of London, Tuff and Odin, too. A few tracks either start or end with audio clips from the film.

We could argue for hours over who truly deserves to be included on a compilation of ’80s metal but this soundtrack is just a taste of what that era had to offer and is meant to tie in most closely with bands featured in the documentary. Keep that in mind and what you’ve got is a good collection of ’80s rock & metal that will fit right in with your retro denim vest.

Highlights: “Under My Wheels”, “Bathroom Wall”, “Born to Be Wild”, “In My Darkest Hour”, “Prophecy”

FASTER PUSSYCAT – Whipped!

Faster Pussycat – Whipped! (2005, Wounded Bird Records)
Original Release: 1992, Elektra Records

1. “Nonstop to Nowhere” … 6:57
2. “The Body Thief” … 4:56
3. “Jack the Bastard” … 4:07
4. “Big Dictionary” … 2:56
5. “Madam Ruby’s Love Boutique” … 3:42
6. “Only Way Out” … 3:53
7. “Maid in Wonderland” … 5:05
8. “Friends” … 4:47
9. “Cat Bash” … 1:42
10. “Loose Booty” … 3:29
11. “Mr. Lovedog” … 6:30
12. “Out With a Bang” … 4:39

Band:
Taime Downe – Lead Vocals, Backing Vocals
Brent Muscat – Guitar, Sitar, Backing Vocals
Greg Steele – Guitar, Keyboards, Mandolin, Backing Vocals, Co-Lead Vocals (“Loose Booty”)
Eric Stacey – Bass, Backing Vocals
Brett Bradshaw – Drums, Percussion, Backing Vocals

Producer: John Jansen

This is a pretty good release and I was pleasantly surprised when I first listened to it a few years ago. By 1992, grunge and alternative was taking over and it had been three years since the last Faster Pussycat album (the excellent Wake Me When It’s Over). I guess Taime figured it was time for the band to evolve past being strictly a glam act as Whipped! features a bit of a harder darker edge spliced with a more alternative/trippy/funky flare.

The band even has time to ape Red Hot Chili Peppers and The Beastie Boys simultaneously with “Loose Booty” and in a sign of things to come from Taime years later — there’s “Cat Bash”, a short industrial rock piece. Faster Pussycat didn’t totally abandon glam though, all you have to do is listen to “Big Dictionary” and pay attention to the lyrics to understand that there’s still some sleazy to this band (“she just loves me for my big dic-tionary”). That’s actually one of my favorite FP songs even though it’s not a typical-sounding song from them. The ballad “Friends” is pretty good too, seems like a natural successor to “House of Pain”.

I still prefer Wake Me When It’s Over, but just like the band’s debut, this is still an enjoyable album. Faster Pussycat did a good job of combining glam with alternative. Of course, the public didn’t want to listen to Faster Pussycat in 1992, so this album went unnoticed and Faster Pussycat took a break for a number of years. It’s too bad when Taime reformed the band it was as an industrial metal act because I would’ve even been satisfied with a continuation of this kind of alternative-glam.

Highlights: “Nonstop to Nowhere”, “Jack the Bastard”, “Big Dictionary”, “Loose Booty”, “Friends”, “Mr. Lovedog”

www.fasterpussycat.com
www.myspace.com/fasterpussycat

FASTER PUSSYCAT – Wake Me When It’s Over

Faster Pussycat – Wake Me When It’s Over (1989, Elektra Records)

1. “Where There’s a Whip, There’s a Way”
2. “Little Dove”
3. “Poison Ivy”
4. “House of Pain”
5. “Gonna Walk”
6. “Pulling Weeds”
7. “Slip of the Tongue”
8. “Cryin’ Shame”
9. “Tattoo”
10. “Ain’t No Way Around It”
11. “Arizona Indian Doll”
12. “Please Dear”

Band:
Taime Downe – Vocals
Greg Steele – Guitar, Piano, Backing Vocals
Brent Muscat – Guitar, Backing Vocals
Eric Stacy – Bass
Mark Michals-  Drums

Produced by: John Jansen

Faster Pussycat is a band that I don’t think gets enough credit. I feel pretty bad for them after reading Slash’s autobiography and how low of an opinion GNR had of them. In the lineup of Aerosmith/Rolling Stones influenced bands from the Strip, there’s Guns ‘N Roses, then L.A. Guns, then Faster Pussycat. FP was more glam and less dangerous than both Guns groups, but still had a really great strong Aerosmith bluesy rock ‘n’ roll sound.

This release is way better than their self-titled debut. The band starts to branch out a bit with songs like “Arizona Indian Doll” and “Poison Ivy” (which has a bit of a swing music vibe to it). They songs are definitely much more catchy. “Poison Ivy” and “House of Pain” (one of the best power ballads around) were the first two songs that exposed me to Faster Pussycat and they remain my favorite from them.

One of my favorite albums from the hair metal days.

Highlights: “Where There’s a Whip, There’s a Way”, “Little Dove”, “Poison Ivy”, “House of Pain”, “Gonna Walk”, “Pulling Weeds”, “Slip of the Tongue”, “Please Dear”

www.fasterpussycat.com
www.myspace.com/fasterpussycat

MONSTER BALLADS XMAS

Various Artists – Monster Ballads Xmas (2007, Razor & Tie Direct)

Track Listing:
1. “Jingle Bells” – Skid Row … 3:02
2. “Happy Christmas (War Is Over)” – Winger … 4:06
3. “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” – Jani Lane … 3:35
4. “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” – Twisted Sister (w/ Lita Ford) … 4:09
5. “White Christmas” – Queensryche … 2:28
6. “Run Rudolph Run” – L.A. Guns … 3:10
7. “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” – FireHouse … 3:07
8. “Naughty Naughty Christmas” – Danger Danger … 4:56
9. “Blue Christmas” – Tom Keifer … 4:15
10. “Jingle Bell Rock” – Nelson … 2:52
11. “Silent Night” – Faster Pussycat … 4:13
12. “Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town” – Dokken … 4:01
13. “Happy Holidays” – Enuff Z’Nuff … 4:23
14. “Winter Wonderland” – Stryper … 3:34
15. “Christmas Love” – Billy Idol … 3:57

Produced by: Michael Anderson & Beka Callaway

Another album in the long-running Monster series from Razor & Tie, this time with a Christmas theme, although calling it “Monster Ballads Xmas” doesn’t make much since because most of these songs are not ballads. Why not just “Monster Xmas“? Or get really old school with “Monsters of Rock Xmas“?

Anyway, I picked the year of it’s release at Target, of all places. It’s a decent release, though it pales in comparison to 2008’s excellent We Wish You a Metal Xmas and a Headbanging New Year from Armoury Records.

I don’t have to tell you that Faster Pussycat, as always with compilations and cover albums, sticks out like a sore thumb here with their more recent and improved industrial sound. Just an awful rendition of “Silent Night”. What is it with “Silent Night” getting so screwed up on these metal Xmas compilations? Queensryche does a pretty bad version of “White Christmas” as well. Geoff Tate’s voice sounds horrible here. Like someone trying to sound like Edguy’s Tobias Sammett but totally failing.

Dokken’s version of “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town” is actually pretty funny to me because of the fact that it sounds EXACTLY like a Dokken song. They totally made it their own and you’d swear Don wrote the song himself.

Twisted Sister’s Jay Jay French, certainly inspired by the Christmas spirit after the success of A Twisted Christmas, executive produced.

Highlights: “Happy Christmas (War is Over)”, “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas”, “I’ll Be Home for Christmas”, “Naught Naughty Christmas”, “Blue Christmas”, “Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town”, “Happy Holiday”

VH1: The Big 80’s Power Ballads

VH1: The Big 80’s Power Ballads (1999, Rhino Records)

Track Listing:
1. “Fly to the Angels” – Slaughter … (5:08)
2. “Something to Believe In”  – Poison … (5:30)
3. “Amanda”  – Boston … (4:17)
4. “I Want to Know What Love Is” – Foreigner 5:01
5. “Alone Again”  – Dokken … (4:22)
6. “House of Pain”  – Faster Pussycat … (5:47)
7. “The Search Is Over” – Survivor … (4:13)
8. “Is This Love” – Whitesnake … (4:43)
9. “We Belong” – Pat Benatar … (3:39)
10. “Don’t Close Your Eyes”  – Kix … (4:19)
11. “What Does It Take”  – Honeymoon Suite … (4:16)
12. “Missing You” – John Waite … (4:29)
13. “Miles Away” – Winger … (4:12)
14. “When the Children Cry” – White Lion … (4:07)
15. “Goodbye” – Night Ranger … (4:21)
16. “Fly High Michelle” – Enuff Z’nuff … (4:17)

The late 1990s and early 2000s were a time of 80s nostalgia. Clothes, movies, music. One of the biggest flagwavers of 80s retro was VH1, who scored with the popular Behind The Music show, Pop Up Videos, and tons of 1980s-centric specials.

Not surprisingly, they also released their own compilations of 80’s tunes in a series called The Big 80’s. The Monster series of hair metal compilations from Razor & Tie Records proved popular and one of their most popular entries was Monster Ballads, so it only made sense for VH1 to release their own CD of hair ballads and tie it all in with the Big 80’s series.

There are TONS of other power ballad comps out there on the market, but this one and Monster Ballads are the absolute best and the bonus is that the people at Rhino & VH1 must’ve been paying attention because there’s only three songs that appear on both compilations (“Something to Believe In”, “Is This Love” and “Don’t Close Your Eyes”).

Essentially, this *is* a hair ballad CD, though a few artists like Boston, Honeymoon Suite, Foreigner, Pat Benatar, Survivor and John Waite slip in, but the songs fit right in with the mood. Even if those artist aren’t hair metal acts, they certainly did produce hair metal ballads.
Power ballads are what got me into the hair scene in the first place (every hair metal act should have 2 or 3 great ones in their catalog), so this is right up there as one of my favorite albums. And yes, being the sap that I am, I would crank this during troubled relationship times when I was younger.

FASTER PUSSYCAT – Faster Pussycat

Faster Pussycat – Faster Pussycat (1987, Elektra Records)

Tracklisting:
1. “Don’t Change That Song” … 3:40
2. “Bathroom Wall” … 3:40
3. “No Room for Emotion” … 3:56
4. “Cathouse” … 3:42
5. “Babylon” … 3:14
6. “Smash Alley” … 3:28
7. “Shooting You Down” … 3:46
8. “City Has No Heart” … 4:19
9. “Ship Rolls In” … 3:26
10. “Bottle in Front of Me” … 3:02

Band:
Taime Downe – Lead Vocals
Greg Steele – Guitar
Brent Muscat – Guitar
Eric Stacy – Bass
Mark Michals – Drums

Additional Musicians:
Greg Darling – Piano

Produced by: Ric Browde

Although I think Faster Pussycat’s 2nd album is their best, this is still a good debut. I think Faster Pussycat were an underrated band for their time. They were a very good sleaze ‘n’ blues band that I think were unfairly blown off as just another hair band (though Taime Downe’s co-owning of the Cathouse club didn’t help dispel that line of thinking… nor did singing about it).

In Slash’s autobiography, he trashes this band mentioning that they were totally the opposite of what GNR was all about, but I don’t know about that. Sure, they were a little more slick and whole lot less dangerous than the Gunners, but I can hear similar sounds in both bands.

My first exposure to this album was around 1993 or so. I was spending the night at a friend’s house and he had a beat up cassette version of this. I think we were just obsessed with hearing the “pussy-p-p-p-p-pussycat” part on “Babylon”. Years later, I would finally own the CD through a score from Columbia House Music Club.

I really enjoy Taime’s voice as well. It’s a perfect fit for this kind of music.

Highlights: “Don’t Change that Song”, “Bathroom Wall”, “No Room for Emotion”, “Babylon”

www.fasterpussycat.com (TOTALLY different look and sound now, only Taime is still in the band)
www.myspace.com/fasterpussycat

YOUTH GONE WILD: Heavy Metal Hits of the 80’s, Volume 2

YOUTH GONE WILD: HEAVY METAL HITS OF THE 80′S, VOLUME 2 (1996, Rhino Records)

Track Listing:
1. “Rock Me” – Great White (7:18)
2. “Heaven Tonight” – Yngwie Malmsteen’s Rising Force (4:07)
3. “The Final Countdown” – Europe (5:10)
4. “Over My Head” – King’s X (4:49)
5. “Goin’ Crazy!” – David Lee Roth (3:09)
6. “It’s Not Love” – Dokken (5:01)
7. “Seventeen” – Winger (4:06)
8. “Poison Ivy” – Faster Pussycat (4:27)
9. “Gotta Let Go” – Lita Ford (4:40)
10. “I Want Out” – Helloween (4:41)
11. “I’m On to You” – Hurricane (3:59)
12. “Edge of a Broken Heart” – Vixen (4:24)
13. “Dreams in the Dark” – Badlands (3:30)
14. “Wild Thing” – Sam Kinison (4:29)

Rhino’s Youth Gone Wild compilation series essentially peaked with Volume 1, which was loaded with big names and big hits. It’s curious as to how they decided the track placement for the first three volumes because they were all released on the same day, yet Vol. 2 & 3 suffer with a lack of names & hits. Perhaps they figured since people would probably start with Volume 1 they should load the deck for that particular album?

That’s not to say this is a bad album, in fact, it’s very good and it’s the Youth Gone Wild album that I’m most familiar with. A friend of mine owned this and I borrowed it for many months playing it nonstop back in ’97 or so.

The album gets off to a great start with the hair metal classic “Rock Me” by Great White. The song is a slow burn rocker which then explodes about halfway through. Diamond Dave makes an appearance with the infectious “Goin’ Crazy!”, and Vixen, Winger and Europe bring their biggest hits to the table. “Poison Ivy” by Faster Pussycat is just pure sleaze rock ‘n’ roll fun and turned me into a huge FP fan.

Here, the artist selection starts to get a bit weird and that theme continues for the following albums. King’s X & Helloween seem somewhat out of place here (although both turn in decent rockers). Sam Kinison’s “Wild Thing” also feels strangely out of place. It may have the metal cred (many 80s rock/metal superstars appeared on the track and/or in the video), but I can’t help but think that’s one more track that could’ve been devoted to an actual band.

Volume 2 doesn’t compare to Volume 1, but it’s certainly worth a listen.

Highlights: “Rock Me”, “The Final Countdown”, “Goin’ Crazy!”, “It’s Not Love”, “Seventeen”, “Poison Ivy”, “I Want Out”, “I’m On to You”, “Edge of a Broken Heart”, “Dreams in the Dark”

Lowlights: “Wild Thing”

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