Graded on a Curve:
Poison,
Open Up and Say… Ahh!

I finished this review only to discover–much to my chagrin-that I wrote one 3 years ago. Just more proof, as any were needed, that I have the memory of a house fly. In any event, this new review is 150 times better than the old one. Besides, all self-respecting music critics should return to this hair metal masterpiece every couple of years. It’s that great.

Judging by the Punky Meadows look-alike on the cover of their 1986 debut and the twin sister of Gene Simmons on their second, these Mechanicsburg chest waxers couldn’t decide whether they wanted to be Angel or Kiss, so they went ahead and bested both of ‘em. Glam metal idols in the days before Kurt Cobain placed former hairdresser Rikki Rockett’s skyscraper ‘do on the endangered species list, Poison packed enough hair to stuff a mattress into their metal and by so doing lubed the loins of a million girls itching to steal their makeup.

Had Poison been nothing more than a pretty pooch they’d have gone the way of Cats in Boots, and poor C.C. DeVille would have had to scuttle back to Three Mile Island with his poison blue Flying V guitar beneath his legs. But Poison had the skills to pay their thousand dollar spandex bills, and come Open Up and Say… Ahh! only Guns ‘N’ Roses had more powder in their pistol.

Counterintuitive as it sounds, there was an innocence to Poison’s twist on L.A. sleaze; unlike those moody social Darwinists Guns ‘N’ Roses (welcome to the jungle!), Poison believed in the power of positive partying. No appetite for destruction for these hair teasers; like Def Leppard, all they wanted was for you to pour some sugar on ‘em and lick it off.

On this collection of wham bam thank you ma’ams–testaments to the pleasure principle all of ‘em-only two tunes prove that all that glitters is not gold. Seems to me if you’re gonna cover Loggins & Messina’s “Mama Don’t Dance” you might as well toss in “Vahevala” while you’re at it, and LP closer “Bad to Be Good” is art rock by glam metal standards.

DeVille’s guitar packs enough AC/DC to power a thousand hair dryers on “Love on the Rocks”; as for Michaels, he just wants you to lick it. Follow up “Nothin’ but a Good Time” is a manifesto for every card-carrying member of the Teenage Wasteland. Michaels finds out the best things in life ain’t free on “Panama” sound-alike “Look But Don’t Touch.” On “Fallen Angel” DeVille cranks up his chainsaw–where he found one on Hollywood Boulevard is beyond me–and proceeds to carve up your limbic system.

Michaels heaves a sad sigh at the beginning of Bic Lighter sway-along “Every Rose Has Its Thorn,” then goes on to ooze sensitivity as DeVille’s acoustic guitar gently weeps. “Back to the Rocking Horse” comes out of the blocks like Jesse Owens playing cowbell and reeks of nostalgia; like Axl Rose, Michaels hankers for a simpler time, but you can forget about childhood sweethearts–Michaels, the greater regressive, just wants to slip on his footed Batman PJs again.

The Def Leppard-flavored “Tearin’ Down the Walls” may not lead you to a new career in home demolition, but you’ll find yourself screaming down the choruses; “Good Love” is proof positive that Bo Diddley will never die–Rikki R., god bless his Punky pucker, pounds out a beat big enough to set seismograph needles twitching while Michaels salivates over the harmonica just thinking about what’s waiting for him at the other end of that dirty phone call.

In so far as Poison subtracted heavy from the metal equation, your metal roundheads accused ‘em of apostasy, dismissing ‘em as transvestite hair trees catering only to the ladies; it was as if they’d never laid eyes on the New York Dolls. Hairdressers to the last, Poison had the good sense to quit the metal boys club and open a unisex salon instead, and I say more power to them. Their music was epic, the stuff of Hollyweird legend, even if you risked asphyxiating in a smog of Aqua Net just listening to it.

GRADED ON A CURVE:
A

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