This week has been a relatively active week of buying CDs for me. In addition to the new Gomez record, I've picked up Maximo Park's Missing Songs collection, a remastered version of Fugazi's In On the Killtaker and Poison's new greatest hits collection, The Best of Poison: 20 Years of Rock. For me, there is no irony in liking Poison's music and there is no tongue in my cheek. Most of the tracks aren't very deep in meaning -- they've never pretended to be -- but this isn't some sheer nostalgia trip for me.
I spent a lot of hours in front of the TV watching MTV when I was in elementary school and middle school. Poison's videos were fixtures on regular rotation and they were rather inescapable. I never objected to their videos or their songs; they were rather fun and exciting performance clips with big drums, big guitar solos and big choruses. Purely innocent to like when you're too young to understand a band like the Replacements, right? I think so, but the cynical side of me sometimes makes me forget this.
Listening to songs like "Talk Dirty to Me," "Nothin' But a Good Time" and "Fallen Angel" now, I hear '70s power pop and punk filtered into a pop-friendly version of heavy metal. That's the formula that so many hair metal bands followed in the '80s and by the end of the decade, it was incredibly diluted. Warrant, Winger, Slaughter, White Lion, Vixen, Bon Jovi, Trixter, Motley Crue, Def Leppard, Europe and Whitesnake are just some of the big ones that come off the top of my head. But are they being featured in the news every week these days? Nope. The most I hear about are their summer tour plans and/or a new greatest hits collection. Def Leppard and Journey are doing a summer jaunt of open-air venues, as is Poison. There are no videos in constant rotation or weekly puff pieces in the press; all that's around is what's on their records. Just listening to what's on the records, I gotta say this stuff is not bad at all.
Yes, I'm aware of the kind of impact that bands like Death Cab for Cutie, Red Animal War and Hot Water Music have had on me, but the song has always been my criteria for enjoyment. Whether the song is a flimsy little ditty or a dense barnburner or something else, if I'm feeling something while I hear a song, I pay attention. Yet openly discussing one's enjoyment of certain music still triggers thoughts of repercussions. Maybe the cause is insecurity, fear of being made fun of, etc. At this point in my life, I've learned to stop apologizing and hiding.
With what I see these days, the humor of hair metal is still intact. Announcements for a show at a local bar talk about how it will be a "rock show." A "rock pose" or a "rock move" onstage is not meant to be taken seriously. Or at least that's what I assume . . .
Growing up seeing a drastic change in mainstream rock with the alternative rock boom in the '90s, I often have a hard time trying to remember my fanaticism before the change. It would be really easy for me to make light of my fandom, but given the resources I had at the time and the knowledge I had of music in general, hair metal was not a joke for me.
Nirvana and Pearl Jam certainly had a stronger impact on me because at that point, what was considered "rock" music wasn't really rockin' in the traditional sense. After years of modern rock being a major format out there, checking back in with '80s hair metal is much different. Instead of faux-angst and industrial processing in aggro metal, hearing a fun little pop metal song reminds me of music that doesn't always have to be super-serious to be good.