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POISON
VH-1'S #1 GLAM METAL BAND OF ALL TIME

     I know there seems to be a lot of whining on this web site that the bands don't get what they deserve these days. Well, to balance that out, I think time has been pretty kind to Poison. They had their moment in the sun with the quintuple platinum Open Up and Say… Ahh! , and thanks to "Every Rose Has Its Thorn", they won't be forgotten for a long time to come. Not every successful band can or should go on to have a long and successful career, and since Poison were never much more than cheesy and derivative I don't think for a minute anyone could say they deserved to turn into rock legends. Which is good. Because they haven't. They do a summer tour every year with a few other hair bands and it does well. Every time there's a special on VH-1 about the '80s, everyone talks about Poison. Considering all their albums were pretty much equal parts quality and filler, I think Poison are in a pretty good position today. They even put out a new album in 2002. Apparently it's rubbish but the diehards (yes, incredibly there are people who think Poison are the best band in the world) can't complain that their favourite band hasn't given them any new material.
     Poison are basically the archetypal hair band. They are meaningless, they look like chicks, and they write three chord pop rock songs with big choruses.  They wrote the archetypal power ballad (hair metal's most infamous aspect) in "Every Rose Has Its Thorn", and although they didn't quite nail the archetypal rock anthem, they had a lot of serious rock hits, including "Unskinny Bop" which I actually saw on MTV2 in the UK last year (something so incredible that I had to write it here even though it was a one off event more than 12 months ago). They were also one of the few American rock bands from the '80s to get much in the way of international success. They had consecutive British gold records with
Open Up and Flesh & Blood, and eight British top 40 hits. 
     Poison began life in Pennsylvania but they made the trek to LA to pursue their dreams -- very rock 'n roll. Their debut was on Enigma records and fortunately (considering their sickening glam image) they weren't taking themselves too seriously. There's almost a slight punk feeling about Poison. They're obviously not in anyway a punk band, but the way songs like "Talk Dirty to Me" are such basic three-chord shout-along affairs gives them a punky charm. As time went on, Poison wanted to be taken a bit more seriously (bad news), which led to such pretentious ballads as "Something to Believe In" -- best forgotten. Anyway, after 1988's enormous
Open Up, Poison worked with producer Bruce Fairbairn on the follow-up. Fairbairn's CV includes such luminaries as Loverboy, Aerosmith, Bon Jovi, AC/DC, and Van Halen. He died recently, which is a great loss because along with Mutt Lange and Bob Rock he was certainly one of the finest producers in rock, not only getting the albums sounding good but also pulling the best songs out of those he worked with. Poison's album with him, Flesh & Blood, was released in 1990, at a time when everything was going really over the top. Admittedly in the same year Cinderella went to a stripped-down, rootsy sound, but in the early '90s Winger, Warrant, White Lion, Firehouse, Slaughter, and all the other bandwagon-jumpers were going more and more excessive in a bid to be larger than life. Poison, meanwhile, stripped back their sound with a more serious approach and raw, live sounding production. I wouldn't at all be surprised if Bruce Fairbairn had encouraged them to do this with great foresight. A man who knew music as well as Fairbairn probably saw grunge coming and with Flesh & Blood Poison made a more credible album that didn't sound too old and dated even in the 1990s. I mean, it's Poison, for goodness' sake. You could never make them cool or respectable, but Fairbairn came close. The album included such hits as the afore-mentioned "Unskinny Bop" as well as "Ride the Wind", obligatory ballad "Life Goes On", and the awesome album track "(Flesh & Blood) Sacrifice"…
     …That said, I'm a fan of overblown production and since Poison were basically blown away by grunge anyway, I kind of wish they'd gone for a huge sound along the lines of the Fairbairn-produced Bon Jovi albums! Oh well… you've got to credit the man for being a production and musical mastermind.

Best album: Flesh & Blood, of course! Mind you, Open Up and Say… Ahh! has a number of great songs on it ("Fallen Angel", "Nothin' but a Good Time"). There's not that much to choose between them. Both have a lot of filler, but I guess the filler on Flesh & Blood is better than the filler on Open Up, and the lyrics are definitely less embarrassing. Yeah, and there are more great tracks on Flesh & Blood, such as "Life Loves a Tragedy". Now that I think about it, it's their best by a comfortable margin.

Official website: www.poisonweb.com

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