Review Summary: A solid hard rock album, which actually manages to improve on its predecessor and deserves its status as a genre classic.
When the common person thinks of the 80’s, a couple of things immediately come to mind. The decade’s outrageous sense of fashion will probably pop into their head first, but a close second will certainly be equally outlandish music. For those not familiar with the rise of underground metal during this decade, said music will basically boil down to god-awful radio synth-pop, AOR, and what passed for “heavy” music those days, glam rock. And associated to glam rock will inevitably be the names of bands such as Bon Jovi, Whitesnake, Def Leppard and Poison.
Debuting in the early 80’s as Paris, Poison would become one of the most ridiculed “major” bands of the glam-rock movement. A lot of this bile was generated by their radio-hit ballad Every Rose Has Its Thorn
, as well as by the posthumous antics of frontman Bret Michaels. However, these claims to infamy sadly shadowed what was, in fact, a pretty rockin’ band. Both their first album, 1986’s Look What The Cat Dragged In
, and its follow-up, 1988’s Open Up And Say…Aah!
are valid, if not particularly intellectual, entries into the hard rock genre. And where the former showed a boisterous, abrasive young band letting their punk influences show, the latter was much more polished and radio-friendly, effectively representing the first step in the band’s maturation process.
With no formation changes from the previous album, Poison were able to concentrate on creating the best choruses they could possibly craft. Thus, nearly every song on Open Up and Say…Aah!
comes graced with an instantly catchy and appealing hook, usually backed up by strong hard rock riffs. Bret Michaels’ lyrics – the low point of the previous album – also suffered a huge improvement, now making space for a bridge or a similar section destined to wrap up the frontman’s little stories. And while most of these still deal with juvenile sex exploits, Michaels even branched out to include a few Cinderellaesque stories about the woes of the working man (Nothin’ But A Good Time, Back To The Rockin’ Horse
) or life on the mean streets (Bad To Be Good
). Even the sexual themes are better realized this time around, going from the amusing failed-attempt narrative of Look But You Can’t Touch
to the separation blues of Every Rose Has Its Thorn
and the nymphomaniac fantasies of Good Love
Unfortunately, while the lyrics definitely represent a step up, the musicianship went the other way, being much more basic than on the previous record. Guitarist C. C. DeVille still gets a few blistering solos in edgewise, but his riffs are generally less interesting, sometimes sounding very similar to each other and even interchangeable with those of other bands (Tear Down The Walls
). As for the rhythm section, while Rikki Rockett is still a powerhouse – and benefits from a huge drum sound in the production – bassist Bobby Dall is now frequently relegated to time-keeping duties, his bass lines much less prominent than on the 1986 songs. And while this simpler approach does work most of the time, one can’t help but wonder why the band chose to dumb down their sound like this, especially since there are some interesting forays into new genres, such as the harmonica-propelled country stomp of Good Love
or the acoustically-driven power-ballad.
Fortunately, the mostly strong hooks help dissipate these doubts. While the filler here is even less
interesting than on Look What The Cat Dragged In
, there is also much less of it, with only a couple of songs really falling under that banner. For the most part, this is a strong, if often dumb, collection of hard rock songs, with various degrees of effectiveness. At its best, like on Fallen Angel
or during the obscure cover for Your Mama Don’t Dance
, this is one of the best hard rock records you’re likely to hear; the rest of the time, it settles for being a fun ride, delivering a product that surpasses both its predecessor and the expectations of most people. At the end of the day, while the more attentive listener won’t be able to shake off some perceptible flaws, the common music lover will find Open Up And Say…Aah!
to be a solid hard rock album, which actually manages to improve on its predecessor and deserves its status as a genre classic. Unfortunately, Poison’s career would only go downhill from here…
Nothin’ But A Good Time
Every Rose Has Its Thorn
Your Mama Don’t Dance