Tuesday, October 28, 2014
Hair Metal: The Unforgiven
In Sam Dunn's Metal Evolution TV series, the presenter covers every type of Hard Rock and Heavy Metal you can think of, plus a few you can't. He shows enthusiasm for almost all of them: Power Metal, Progressive Metal, Shock Rock, even Grunge. All apart from one. At the start of the episode of Hair Metal he confesses that it's a form of Metal that we was never able to warm to. And he's not alone.
The first I heard of what would come to be Hair Metal was 1981 or so when Tommy Vance played songs from an album called Too Fast For Love by some American band called Motley Crue on his Friday Rock Show. They had been getting mentions for a while in Kerrang! and this must have been one of the first times they were played on the radio in the UK. God almighty, I thought to myself, this'll never catch on.
The thing is, I should have liked Hair Metal. After all, I was a fan of most of the genre's major influences. I loved the 70s Alice Cooper and Kiss records. (still do). I also liked Van Halen and Aerosmith. So, yes, I should have been a fan really. So why did I end up hating the bloody thing?
I think the main reason was the sound. Hair Metal records sounded really terrible with all that compression. Those thudding snares. Those squawking lead guitars. Perhaps the records were mastered to sound effective on FM radio (or on MTV), but there's something cold and shrill about them. And they don't sound any better thirty years on either. I've become quite forgiving about a lot of 80s music these days (I even own a copy of Rio by Duran Duran). But Hair Metal leaves me as cold today as it did back in the day.
Of course, the irony is I became a fan by proxy. So many of my friends became fans of these bands in the mid 80s that it was pretty much impossible not to become familiar with the latest David Lee Roth, Poison and Cinderella releases. I knew them all. And of course if you listen to any genre enough you'll find something you like. so the track below is from the only Hair Metal album I've heard that I think is really any good, Aerosmith's Permanent Vacation. To me, it's a collection of good songs that are strong enough to withstand Bruce Fairbairn's 80s production. the follow-up Pump was pretty good too, though after that I lost interest.