Review Summary: Female-fronted glam rock which never ceases to be both listenable and incredibly generic.
As some of you may know, if you read my reviews, there are very few things I cherish as much as finding obscure, one-album glam rock bands. This feeling only becomes intensified if said bands are actually good and worthy of a second listen. Unfortunately, while I have found some true gems like Julliet and EZ Livin’, I’ve also had to deal with my fair share of derivative or outright untalented hacks like Whitefoxx or the hopelessly banal Dirty Looks. My most recent discovery, female-fronted Scandal, sits squarely in the middle.
My first contact with this particular 80’s product came through a video review posted on a website I regularly visit. The song in question was The Warrior
, which I quickly discovered to be this group’s greatest hit, as well as the title of their only full-length, on analysis here. Despite being a trifle generic, the song’s appealing riffage and female vocals led me to hunt down, download and appraise the significant record. What I was faced with was typically 80’s glam-rock which, while listenable, never managed to rise above its generic, cookie-cutter nature.
As noted above, Scandal’s biggest asset is the presence of lead singer Patty Smyth (no, not that
Patti Smith), which would leave soon after the album was completed, causing it to be billed as “Scandal featuring Patty Smyth”. Her husky, warm tone is often the only thing that separates this band from the thousands of equivalents which swarmed the Sunset Strip back then, and her lyrics, being delivered from a woman’s perspective, put a fresh spin on what are otherwise stereotypical glam-rock topics. Tonight
, for example, is the old tale of a girl gone bad one night, but somehow having a woman sing it gives the whole thing a much more personal, sentimental angle, while simultaneously cutting back on the sleaze factor. Most of the other lyrics deal with personal/emotional issues, mostly related to love, of course. But not the kind of “love” Poison or Mötley Crüe would be peddling – real
love, with cuddling and warmth and sharing. This, as noted, brings a somewhat original perspective to the lyrical content, which is welcome in light of how generic everything else is.
In fact, the instrumental side of things can be described as derivative and somewhat bland, if never outright horrible. The songwriting culls from any number of contemporaries, boasting clear influences from bands such as Danger Danger, Europe, The Bangles, early Bon Jovi and even a touch of mid-period KISS for good measure, and presenting all the genre clichés – big riffing, catchy choruses, more melodic, guitar-picked sections and a square, straightforward beat. There is even the mandatory power ballad, Say What You Will
, which unfortunately is a pretty dull representative of the genre. The linking characteristic throughout it all is the idea that you’ve heard it all before, with some of the riffs and vocal lines directly referencing other, unidentifiable, songs of the genre.
Still, in its best moments, this album does manage to give off that irresistible vibe only cheesy glam rock can muster. That is the case on the undeniably catchy The Warrior
, the more elaborate and intricate The Beat Of A Heart
or the straight-out party rockers Tonight
and Maybe We’ve Gone Too Far
. Unfortunately, however, these moments are few and far between, and what we’re left with most of the time are either listenable, but incredibly bland, songs (Talk To Me, All I Want
) or tracks so unremarkable they literally do not register (Less Than Half
). And while there are no outright bad songs (apart from Only The Young
and maybe the power ballad), the ensemble is just a tad too forgettable for its own good.
Now, granted, Scandal do more things right than wrong on The Warrior
. As mentioned, Smyth’s vocals are quite engaging, and while the percussion is pedestrian, the remaining instrumentation is clearly above-par. The riffs may be recycled and derivative, but solo work is very good, having a bit of a 50’s early-rock feel which makes it that much more appealing. The bass is similarly strong, having some good runs on songs like Beat Of A Heart, Less Than Half
or Only The Young
. And the songwriting, while clichéd and typical, was well suited for radio airplay, by the standards of the time. Ultimately, then, Scandal’s biggest downfall is the sense of “been there, heard that” which Patty Smyth’s vocals and Zack Smith’s Chuck Berryisms are never enough to dispel. I won’t be treasuring this album next to my Julliet CD-R anytime soon, but I might be open for some more scandal in the near future. 80’s glam collectors and treasure-hunters such as myself might find some value to this album; just don’t expect a lost gem, because this mine won’t yield anything more precious than regular glass.
The Beat Of A Heart