Skid Row were the most successful and coolest of the bands to arrive at the tail end of the '80s. With their pretty boy image they were unquestionably a glam metal band but they had a bucketload more attitude than any of the other bands of their era and more originality to boot. Really they were working-class kids from New Jersey with serious punk attitude, a gift for the riff, and… more attitude. The only '80s band you can really compare them with is Guns n' Roses, with home they toured at one point. The same genuine rock & roll spirit, bad-boys-of-rock image, and dangerous attitude oozes out of both. I suppose Motley Crue were pretty bad-boy and ugly too, and Tesla were a genuinely gritty hard rock band. Either way, Skid Row have little to do with the girl-metal of Danger Danger et al; they're an altogether more dangerous proposition, prowling angrily ready to get into a load of trouble, offend your parents, and scare your little sister. Rock.
Actually, I think Guns n' Roses suck, Slash is a massively over-rated guitarist, and Axl is not so much a tortured genius as a tortured gimp. I think it's a shame that it was Guns, not Skid Row, who emerged from the '80s with their credibility in tact and an eternal legacy as the decade's only real rock band. Motley Crue, Tesla, and Skid Row are all more deserving. The line between Guns and Skid Row continues with their frontmen, both of whom manage to get themselves into a horrifying amount of trouble with rock & roll ease. You know about Axl but you may not be so familiar with Sebastian Bach winding up in court after throwing a broken bottle at a heckler in the crowd, missing, and hitting an innocent bystander. OK, I'm not so stupid as to think that's cool, but that kind of temperament makes for some seriously energetic music. Bach's voice has been described as bullet-proof, and certainly it is a mighty scream. I was talking to some anti-hair band bloke about them and he sang "Youth Gone Wild" in a really high pitched voice. Har har har. Skid Row aren't like the castrated sappy warblings of Kip Winger; they are a furious rock & roll force and although Bach can hit some high notes, he never sounds wimpy. Actually he's one of the strongest and most aggressive hard rock singers you'll hear.
Attitude is definitely the defining feature of Skid Row, with rebellion and anger dripping defiantly from every riff. The thing is that they have the musical muscle to back it up. Warrant can sing about "Big Talk" all they want and while it's a pleasant song, it doesn't exactly scare anyone. By contrast, the twin axe attack of Snake Sabo (original member of Bon Jovi, trivia fans), and Scotti Hill is fat, crunching, and gutsy, so when Bach growls "So you think you'll cut me down to size," the combination of music and that voice makes you totally believe it. The guitar solos can be pretty fast, but they always have the power and punch to match the song, unlike the lightweight widdling of some shredders. If you're in a bad mood and your parents have some friends round who you want to upset, put on Slave to the Grind and wear the same sneer you know the whole band had during the recording process.
Unlike many bands as cocky and metallic, Skid Row are never just a racket or a barrage of noise. Their self-titled debut sold five million in the US with the surprisingly tender ballad "I Remember You" and their big hit "18 and Life". It was Slave to the Grind though that really got it right… that's the album which sums up everything I've described here. Even there, though, such monstrous slabs of metal as "Monkey Business" are combined with enough melody to keep it accessible, and at one point in the early '90s they must have looked like the future of metal. Shame it didn't work out that way, really.
There's also the whole thing about the lawsuits and Bon Jovi and stuff, but I can't be bothered to write that here. It's well-known what happened; I'm sure you could find a web site that documents it all.
To recap: Guns n' Roses bad; Skid Row good; Motley Crue and Tesla also good.
Best album: Well, if you're a wuss, you'd better start with the more commercial Skid Row, but otherwise Slave to the Grind is a stronger album with less filler and more of everything that makes Skid Row good.
Official website: www.skidrowonline.com
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