Review Summary: The Northeast rises again
Raging Slab’s sophomore full-length may have landed smack-dab in the middle of hair metal’s reigning years, but in hindsight, it’s one of those edgy genre-vaulting releases of the late 80s rock renaissance period that bubbled just below the mainstream. How many bands move out of NYC to Pennsylvania farm country to become rock stars？This was not a band focused on the tried and true.
While the debut ("Assmaster") took them most of the way from punk rock pariahs to southern rock hopefuls, the self-titled album is the aural equivalent of shoving Jim Dandy in front of a speeding Winnebago. Despite the fringy leather, flying hair and (count ‘em) 3-guitar assault of Middleton, Steinman, and Strzempka, Slab’s not exactly honorary southern rock royalty at this point. Skynyrd comparisons were cheaply thrown about by critics, but the punchy hard rock guitar sound actually comes closer to prime Blackfoot than the above-mentioned Florida dignitaries. The absence of rolling pianos and melancholy blues is largely replaced with gut-punching riffs and bombastic choruses from the AC/DC and Van Halen school of romance (hey, it was 1989). But it’s exactly this time-stamped combination that makes the album such a winner.
Sonic inclinations aside, it’s one hell of a rock ‘n roll record. Opener “Don’t Dog Me” sets the tone with it’s sexy boogie-baron syncopation built on Elyse’s slide riff, chorus repeated about a thousand times, but still not enough. The guitar solo is an all-out metallic assault laced with lo-slung wah accents. When Greg wails, “Better take that bone out back and bury it
”, it’s obvious we’ve stumbled on a keeper to add to our ‘Drunk & Hellraising’ playlist.
“Sorry’s All I Got” takes off with a badass funk-laced groove that demonstrates the power and possibilities of three guitars, the snaking melody setting up a dramatic slide solo from Elyse – a definite album highlight, while “Dig a Hole” steamrolls along with Blackfoot-informed intensity, riff snarling like a hemi 'Cuda, bass poppin’ and Greg croonin like a raggedy hobo. But it’s not all flattening power, “Bent for Silver” sports a jangle-tastic melody, Greg babbling “Rewrote ‘Return to Sender’, stole the lyrics off a thousand-dollar bill.
” There's a discernable shift as Elyse’s contribution as bottleneck guitar arriviste changes the mood like a breath of fresh air. Say what you want about its goofy cleavage-obsessed video (go ahead, look it up), maybe we weren’t finding a cure for cancer, but it was entertaining.
Slab’s self-titled is an unapologetic exercise in high-octane southern-style hard rock designed for bad decisions and highway speeding. Listen to it a few times and maybe you won’t judge that guy with the mullet at Walmart quite