Poison

Greatest Hits (1986-1996) (Capitol ’96) Rating: B
It’s been many years now since Nirvana came along and instantly made these pretty boy’s irrelevant, so I can look back at these shameless poseurs with a less critical eye now that I don’t have to hear them (or more importantly, see them) anymore. Poison, arguably the definitive hair metal band (well, at least according to VH1, who voted them the Greatest Hair Metal Band), burst onto the scene in 1986 with Look What The Cat Dragged In. This debut featured catchy, streamlined guitar hooks and harmlessly smooth vocals that sang mindless party-hearty lyrics on songs such as “I Want Action,” “Look What The Cat Dragged In,” and the legitimately really good “Talk Dirty To Me,” while also delivering a “classic” cheese metal ballad with the surprisingly heartfelt “I Won’t Forget You.” More notable than their largely forgettable songs was the band’s look: puffing up their collective hair and getting dolled up like girls brought the band endless exposure (courtesy of MTV) as the new glam sensation. Open Up & Say . . . Ah! was Poison at their commercial peak; smash hits included the party anthem “Ain’t Nothin’ But A Good Time,” the emotional if cliché-ridden power ballad “Every Rose Has It’s Thorn” (a #1 hit, the video of which had singer Brett Michaels posing as a rugged cowboy type instead of a sissy female!), the catchy rocker “Fallen Angel,” and a cover of Loggins and Messina’s lame-to-begin-with “Your Momma Don’t Dance.” Flesh And Blood was the last Poison album to garner any kind of mainstream audience; though the band didn’t forsake their feel good stance (“Unskinny Bop,” “Ride The Wind”), the band attempted social commentary on “Something To Believe In,” a huge hit on which Poison realized that war and poverty are bad things. After the ascendance of grunge and the deserved death of Poison’s immense popularity (other hair bands who fell by the wayside included Winger, Warrant, White Lion, Great White (now infamous for a far worse offense than their mediocre music), Europe, and Slaughter), I can now admit that at their best Poison was a guilty pleasure. Derivative of KISS but without that band’s metallic thunder or sense of humor, the overly generous Greatest Hits (1986-1996) should be more than enough for fans nostalgic for a small chapter in American hard rock when style ruled over substance. Note: Nice song-by-song notation by lead singer and reality T.V. star Brett Michaels.

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