Review Summary: A dignified comeback album whose small but plentiful flaws keep it below the group's early efforts.
Comebacks are a tricky business. Even if the musical climate is favorable to your band, there is no guarantee that the fans will still rally behind you or that the songwriting skills of old are still there. This is why most comeback albums end up ranking a little below expectations, a tendency which is only intensified when the album is also a purported “return to roots”.
Guess what? Poison’s Hollyweird
is a comeback album and
a return to roots.
Still, despite the odds being stacked firmly against it, this album works. Somewhat. Although it is a far cry from Open Up And Say…Aah!
or Look What The Cat Dragged In
, it at least manages to bring back some of the fun associated with those albums, mostly due to the return of original guitarist C.C.DeVille’s big, swaggering riffs. In fact, if you close your eyes during songs such as Hollyweird, Devil Woman
, it will seem like the past decade never happened, and Poison are releasing their follow-up to 1990’s Flesh And Blood
. The bold, boisterous riffs, the occasional blues influences and even lead singer Bret Michael’s register – which returns to his original mid-range crooning, abandoning the lower regions he had been exploring since Native Tongue
– all hark back to the golden days of hair metal, sounding like they were composed circa 1988. There’s even a rockified cover, with Pete Townshend’s Squeeze Box
joining the ranks next to Your Mama Don’t Dance
and Cover Of The Rolling Stone
, and working just as well, even achieving standout status.
The only new feature, then, is the growth of C.C.DeVille as a singer, with his one song from Power To The People
being expanded to three here; unfortunately, of those, one is probably the worst thing on the album (the deplorable Emperor’s New Clothes
), and another is just a superior re-write of his track from Power
(Livin’ In The Now
), leaving only his take on Home
as the only worthwhile DeVille-fronted piece on the record. Not to mention his lyrics are pitifully weak, sounding like they were written by your average angsty middle-schooler. Overall, his input sadly drags down an album which already had its fair share of problems.
In fact, while the ballsy return to roots might put rosy goggles over our eyes, repeat listens bring out some of the flaws of this album, which go far beyond the dubious cover. In fact, while tracks like the superb Wishful Thinkin’
rank above the best Poison have done, most of the other songs on the album are somewhat devoid of choruses, and end up sounding rather flat. And while boredom seldom settles in, the fact is that this lack of hooks detracts from the listenability of the album as a whole. Coupled with seriously uninspired lyrics by usually masterful storyteller Michaels, this further contributes to keep Hollyweird
on a league separate from the group’s stellar early releases, especially after the band start ripping off themselves on Devil Woman
(listen to the verse and see if it sounds familiar…)
At the end of the day, however, this album’s sense of fun and honest songwriting end up surmounting (some of) its flaws, making it a worthwhile acquisition for disgruntled fans who would rather pretend Native Tongue
and everything after it never happened. And while it will hardly be recommendable for anyone but
at least constitutes a dignified and worthy comeback album – which is more than you can say in most of these situations.