CD Review

Skid Row – “Revolutions Per Minute”

By Marcus Pan

Revolutions Per MinuteWhat a surprise receiving this was. It seems that a lot of older skool acts are getting back together or simply trying again. Over the past month or two I've received new work by Fear Factory, Megadeth, Twisted Sister, Sepultura...and now one of the bandwagon hair rockers of the 80s, Skid Row. Skid Row's Revolutions Per Minute marks the first time in history that the Legends editor has received a CD his wife might actually want. Strange but before we get into Skid Row's fifth[1] album, let's have a short history lesson class.

Right down the road from where I grew up, and indeed my wife and her troupe of friends in their high school days were big fans of this group, Skid Row were formed in 1986 by bassist Rachel Bolan and guitarists Scotti Hill and Dave Sabo in Tom's River, NJ. By 1987 they had completed what many would refer to as their "classic line-up," which included the well-known vocals of Sebastian Bach and the addition of drummer Rob Affuso. With help from glam rocker Jon Bon Jovi, also from this area of New jersey, the troupe released their self-titled debut in 1989 on Atlantic. This debut contained two of their most known hits - I Remember You and 18 and Life. While playing about, Bach became known as either an asshole, or a typical Axl style rocker - depending on your point of view.

Most people will place Skid Row as a back-end "hair band" of the glam-laced 80s, alongside such acts as Motley Crue, Trixter, Def Leppard and Bon Jovi. Truthfully, Skid's sound was riveted with a much harder edge than most, a mixture of thrash, blues and heavy metal. The fact that their hits started up in 1989, years after the glam-metal thing had already began, puts them behind the eight ball and got them lumped together - by myself included - with the bandwagon rollers of the time. In fact I still regularly mix Warrant and Skid Row together in my mind - same time, same style, same look... As they released their sophomore album, Slave to the Grind, in 1991, Seattle had already shit on most of the metal scene and kicked grunge and alternative out into the world and Skid Row found their sound, style and music overshadowed by such acts as Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, Nirvanna and Pearl Jam.

Slave to the Grind however debuted at number 1 - the first metal album to ever do so. The band had gotten heavier, while other acts like Metallica and Anthrax started to soften up into cranky pudgy versions of their old selves. The band toured on the album, it dropped quickly from the charts, and the troupe spent three years pondering a split while grunge stomped glam-rock and heavy metal into the proverbial dust. In 1995 they released Subhuman Race, which charted in the top 40 but didn't do much beyond that. Then in 1996 Sebastian Bach was fired for being...too much of an asshole or too typical an Axl style rocker - again, depending on your point of view. Sebastian Bach, the band's face for nearly ten years, went on to do other things, some silly[2] some not[3], and Skid Row took a powder.

In the late 90s, Skid Row's three core members picked up Johnny Solinger and drummer Phil Varone of Saigon Kick. Skid Row opened for KISS at their farewell tour. They've toured nearly every summer since, many times as part of the Rock Never Stops Tour - a dynamic line-up of 80s metal bands that 35+ year olds will still dust off for the tape machine[4]. Their fourth album, Thickskin, came out in 2003 without much fanfare. Phil Varone was replaced by Dave Gara and the five are pushing out Revolutions Per Minute on SPV, officially less than two weeks from the time I'm writing this paragraph. History lesson over, Skid Row's future starts on October 24th, 2006 - and Revolutions Per Minute is released.

Disease shreds us open with bluesy thrash riffs, Solinger strutting his stuff and showing he can hold his own against Bach. Very catchy, quite slamming - my denim jacket with the Maiden back patch in the closet is trying to get out. Another Dick in the System is an anthemic tune with your crowd shouts, fast guitar work and rallying catchy rhythms. Skid slows it down a bit, but keeps the strong guitar rock sound, with Pulling My Heart Out From Under Me, a dark ballad.

Not to be taken too seriously, When God Can't Wait is a fast-paced bit of bar punk, reminding me of work by Drop Kick Murphy. Shut Up Baby, I Love You gets thrashy-blues again, somehow reminding me of Great White, with Solinger's blistering yowls. Strength is Skid Row's chick song here on Revolutions Per Minute. White Trash is a shredding condemnation of modern suburbia (with a touch of Jerry Springer) and You Lie is reminiscent of Guns 'n Roses' I Used to Love Her.

Strangely enough, Skid Row sound very similar to how they did fifteen years ago. Solinger does a good job of upholding what Sebastian Bach started then, and the three core members of the band certainly poured more into the mix that was late-80s Skid Row than most of us gave credit for. There's a lot of fun on this album with tracks like You Lie, White Trash and Shut Up Baby, I Love You. And there's some chick ballads too with Pulling My Heart Out From Under Me and Strength. All riveted together with elements of thrash, blues and old skool heavy metal. And it's not one of those squirrely magnetic tape things!

Contact Information:
SPV America
Post: 48 Broad Street, Red Bank, NJ, 07701, USA
[1] Yes, fifth. What? Didn't know about anything after '91s Slave to the Grind? Some fan you are!
[2] Band: Sebastian Bach and Friends - a band name about as imaginative as...well...ripping off a famous composer's name.
[3] Portraying Riff Raff in The Rocky Horror Picture Show on Broadway.
[4] Tapes are what we had before CDs. Sometimes, if you look hard enough (especially in old closet spaces like mine) you'll be able to find one.

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