Skid Row (US)
Skid Row



by Dave de Sylvia EMERITUS
January 16th, 2006 | 219 replies

Release Date: 1989 | Tracklist

When Jon Bon Jovi helped his high school friend Dave ‘Snake’ Sabo get a leg up in the music industry by securing his band, Skid Row, a record deal with Mercury Records, there may have been more to it than simple friendliness. Sure, he made millions of dollars at the band’s expense, but perhaps there’s more to it. Perhaps he saw in Skid Row the band Bon Jovi could never be, the band Desmond Child beat out of them. He saw a band who didn’t need radio hits, didn’t need a clean-cut image, didn’t need pristine production- he saw a band which was rough around more than just the edges, who musical similarities aside presented a far removed picture from the hit machine that was Bon Jovi. Like Bon Jovi, Skid Row feasted on a diet of big dumb riffs, big dumb vocals and big dumb choruses, but unlike Bon Jovi they were physically big and dumb to match.

Skid Row had n enigmatic young frontman named Sebastian Bach, for whom a successful set necessitated losing his clothes; hitting the right notes was a bonus. They had a big dumb guitarist named ‘Snake,’ who mimicked big players like Van Halen and Sambora but had the creative brain to back it up, and a bassist named Rachel Bolan who, four albums and almost twenty years later, has still yet to play an audible note on record but were he to do so, you can bet he’d play big dumb plodding bass notes. Together they wrote big dumb rock songs with dumb lyrics and big dumb choruses, exquisitely delivered by their big dumb frontman.

Dead horses successfully beaten, we return to Bon Jovi. 1986’s ‘Slippery When Wet’ defined, in the terms outlined above, what pop-metal should sound like in the mid-80s; Guns N’ Roses’ ‘Appetite For Destruction,’ a year later, showed us what the world wanted its heavy metal bands to look, sound, act and feel like. Now, with the short-tempered ginger frontman’s troop on an extended hiatus, there was a hole in the market: Sebastian Bach didn’t just fill it; he had sex with it and wrote a song about how he’d slap it if it got out of line.

Now, it would be easy to over-estimate the importance of Skid Row. As a musical outfit, they were definitely one of the more talented of the era; Sebastian Bach was comfortably the most talented vocalist of the glam era (his flair for over-performing made him the perfect suit for the role of Jesus in ‘Jesus Christ Superstar.) His bad-boy good looks and his distinctive ‘wail’ invited obvious comparisons with Axl Rose; Bach helped the comparisons immeasurably- in a short two-year period both men created controversy with their anti-gay sentiments, Bach wearing a t-shirt bearing the words ‘AIDS kills fags dead’ and Rose, who’d originally considering naming his band ‘AIDS,’ slamming homosexuals for ‘spread[ing] some ***ing disease.’ Yet, coming in at the tail-end of the glam era, Skid Row ultimately had zero impact on the musical scene yet, ironically, they were one of the genre’s biggest (only) innovators.

Regardless of whether one liked Bach’s over-dramatic stylings, they set him apart from the so-called ‘cash crop,’ the pleasant-but-common vocalists like Warrant’s Jani Lane and Poison’s Bret Michaels or just downright terrible singers like Cinderella’s Tom Keifer, and as such made Skid Row a slightly more interesting proposition than most. Still, interesting doesn’t equal innovative, and I did make a bold statement moments ago. Skid Row’s place in glam history wouldn’t be cemented until 1991’s Slave To The Grind when they essentially became the first (and only?) ‘thrash glam’ band, laying down heavy, violent rhythms without losing the poppy-punk sensibilities their hair metal roots (pun intended) afforded them but they did give less-than-subtle hints on Skid Row. In fact, almost the entire album is heavier than logic would dictate a radio band should be- even the ballads are heavy! Album closer ‘Midnight/Tornado’ is the perfect starting point for this purpose, as it’s the strongest hint as to the band’s ‘future’ sound as exists on the album; thematically and vocally, ‘Midnight’ resembles Shout At The Devil-era Mötley Crüe, closing with an Iron Maiden-like contrapuntal guitar solo, before the plodding extended heavy metal coda ‘Tornado,’ which resembles one of Metallica’s slower instrumental pieces.

Still, Skid Row is primarily a party album, and many a party tune does it contain. Skid Row may be best remembered for their ballads, but just as well-known is their rallying call, their ‘Welcome To The Jungle,’ the wild anthem ‘Youth Gone Wild.’ While the guitar riff bears more than a slight resemblance to Mötley Crüe’s ‘Too Young To Fall In Love’ and the shouty chorus echoes ‘Wild Side,’ it is nonetheless Skid Row in a nutshell- fast-paced, autobiographical, beat-you-over-the-head heavy metal. Similarly, Bach’s sole lyrical contribution, the oh-so-aptly titled ‘Makin’ A Mess’ is the story of a wife-beating fiddle player, who makes it big at a honky-tonk club up north, or something equally plausible. A live favourite due to its fast tempo and a favourite for the band to jam to, the tune is a straightforward hard rock song elevated by Bach’s virtuosic vocals.

Now, I mentioned Bon Jovi earlier and not without cause. It’s arguable whether Skid Row’s strength or weakness lay in their ‘pop’ songs, but regardless Skid Row contained some of the ‘80s most enduring radio hits. Family-friendly rockers ‘Can’t Stand The Heartache’ and ‘Sweet Little Sister’ sat well alongside more raucous anthems like ‘Big Guns’ and ‘Rattlesnake Shake’- the former earning much radio play at the time of release. The only aspect which lets the rock songs down in the tepid rhythm section; rhythm guitarist Scotti Hill’s playing was rarely heard in the studio, and Rachel Bolan’s was, as previously mentioned, never heard. The real villain of the piece is drummer Rob Affuso, whose uninspired two-tone clunk would eventually improve by the next album. For now, Skid Row had to amplify their best qualities- Snake never missed a chance to shine, but Sebastian Bach sold records.

Album sales were mostly propelled by its two ballads, which showcased the singer’s remarkable Bruce Dickinson-informed vocals, his keen sense of melody and his boyband (in the pre-boyband days) good looks; they were the band’s most enduring effort, ’18 & Life’ and ‘I Remember You,’ aka the Sebastian Bach Show.’18 & Life’ followed closely the ‘Livin’ On A Prayer’ formula, drawing on the same country/folk influences as Jon Bon Jovi to tell the story of Ricky, the prison-bound tearaway with ‘a heart of stone.’ This is where Bon Jovi and Skid Row differed- Bon Jovi’s hero was ’down on his luck’; Skid Row’s hero made his own luck. Its record speaks for itself- the song receives as much airplay today as any other hit from the ‘80s. ‘I Remember You’ is a different beast entirely, beginning as a light country-ish ballad, with Bach pronouncing ‘I woke up to the sound of pouring rain…’ before loud guitars and drums (it’s Affuso’s best performance) come in like thunder; from here the piece progresses into a harder-hitting type of rock ballad, punctuated by honest, regretful lyrics and Bach’s thickly-layered expressive vocals. If ever proof was needed that power ballads could be anything less than terrible, this is it.

Before I wrap up the piece, I must return to the statement I made regarding Skid Row’s status as an ‘innovative’ band, and they surely are. Yet I’ve spent the entire review recalling similarities to bands like Bon Jovi, Metallica, Guns N’ Roses and Mötley Crüe; and the truth is, they are heavily informed by these bands. Yet Skid Row have their own sound, soon to be perfected on the follow-up, and their own voice. Their innovativeness comes with their fusion of contemporary influences and strong roots in the past, as their rock songs show a reverence for punk, AC/DC and Black Sabbath alike and their ballads show a folk and country background. They may have had little time to take the genre forward, and they may not have been groundbreaking, but with Skid Row they produced an album with a strong footing in pop, rock and metal which could stand out from the crowd on its own merits. And that in itself is worthy of commendation. That the album makes a great soundtrack for a party is a healthy bonus.

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Comments:Add a Comment 
January 16th 2006


ok review this is one of my favorite cds they were very underrated as a band

January 16th 2006


Album Rating: 4.0

This review is excellent! Though, u cover Skid Rows whole background more than the album itself, so u hardly touch on this album at all. This is a perfect touch on Skid Rows controversial impact on music, but next time try to stick to the album.

By the way this album kicks ass. Yough Gone Wild got me into Skid Row, awesome song

January 16th 2006


Excuse my language, but this band is absolutely fookin horrible
Good work though Plath, and I hope you can look past my comment...

January 16th 2006


Nice review, Plath.
I've heard a little Skid Row, but as far as early 90s last-gasp hair bands go, Extreme is better.

January 16th 2006


Phenominal review Plath. I loved the song "I Remember You", but thats all i really heard from them. I like Sebastians voice, so i might like some other things from them. I might even give the whole album a try. You definately didn't lack in detail for your review. I now know pretty much everything i ever needed to know about them.

Electric City
February 26th 2006


Youth Gone Wild is an amzing song, and when I get enough money to look into these guys, I might buy this.

south_of_heaven 11
April 15th 2006


Album Rating: 4.0

I dont personally own this album, but I very much enjoy Skid Row. I listen to this album with my friend all the time, and its all good stuff.

However, I must make a personal request "Spat Out Plath", could you do a review of "Slave to the Grind" by these guys? This review is top notch and I don't think I know enough about them to do it myself.

April 26th 2006


I own this album and not one song disapoints me, the guitar tracks are way better than bon jovi because all of their tracks sound the same one way or another, but Snake is amazing, iwouldnt go as far as saying he's one of the greatest but he still better than BJ. Also Bachs voice is amazing, its clear yet heavy, and he sounds amazing on 18 and life and I Remembr You.

June 26th 2006


ha well i got this album from the trash 4 years ago. it was some garage sale and no one would buy it for a dollar hahaha. but i really do like 'i remember you' and '18 and life' theyre good tracks but theres other crap out there better. sebastian bach is a great frontman, but he does have some issues on vh1's "supergroup" hahaThis Message Edited On 06.26.06

July 15th 2006


Nice review. You could've talked about the actual album itself more, but still a very informative review.

"Youth Gone Wild" is such an awesome song.

August 7th 2006


Album Rating: 3.5

ok, skid row is freaking great, it is close with extreme though, great review but those ?s really piss me off a bit

October 14th 2006


Album Rating: 3.5

was this band just another hair band from the 80's? all i know about them is i like youth gone wild.

June 25th 2007


Good review. Sebastian Bach's cameo on Trailer Park Boys is classic.

June 25th 2007


Cool review. Wicked album but the album tracks are better than the singles. I don't get Skid Row's Ricky making his own luck? He shot his best mate and went to prison for life

September 12th 2008


Good review. Sebastian Bach's cameo on Trailer Park Boys is classic.

Hell yea

October 21st 2008


Album is amazing, one of my favorites. 18 To Life is pretty much one of the greatest ballads ever written.

November 15th 2009


Album Rating: 5.0

Sorry but your review could of done without the first two paragraphs. It's really bad when you use the word "dumb" 10 times in the first 2 paragraphs.

November 15th 2009


Album Rating: 5.0

album is a damn masterpiece thanks whoever bumped this im going to listen to em

September 27th 2010


Album Rating: 2.5

Typical 80's hair band music. Thankfully they got half a brain after this and wrote something alot grittier.

January 2nd 2011


Album Rating: 4.5

album is still sounds as good today as it ever did, long live rock!

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