Skid Row (Atlantic ’89) Rating: B+
With pretty boy frontman Sebastian Bach (he of the infamous “AIDS kills fags dead” T-shirt) leading the way, it was inevitable that Skid Row would be lumped in with the lesser likes of Poison, Warrant, and Winger. Though perhaps his choice in T-shirts says all you need to know about his intelligence, Bach’s magnificent voice and the band’s muscular attack puts quite a distance between Skid Row and those other unthreatening poseurs you saw preening daily on MTV back in the late ‘80s. The best songs here are the hits: the atmospheric “18 and Life” and the fist pumping “Youth Gone Wild” are memorable teenage anthems of reckless rebellion, and “I Remember You” was one of the definitive (and best) power ballads of its era. And though the band’s macho lyrics rarely rise above numbskullian hard rock (Bach himself admits “I ain’t got much to say”), the catchy choruses of “Sweet Little Sister” and “Can’t Stand The Heartache,” as well as the hard hitting music of “Big Guns” and “Piece Of Me,” showed that Skid Row weren’t merely content to surround their album’s obvious high points with filler. A promising debut album, Skid Row would further separate themselves from the rest of the “hair band” pack by delivering a significantly heavier and less commercial second effort.
Slave To The Grind (Atlantic ’91) Rating: A-
The lead single “Monkey Business” immediately announced Skid Row as a serious heavy metal band, not the corporate hair band that most people wrote them off as being in the wake of the massive success of “I Remember You.” No mere repeat of the debut, this is a brawny, kickass album that's filled with raging grooves, wicked guitar heroics, and angrily shouted choruses. Bach’s singing transverses the gutteral growls of the thrashy “Slave To The Grind” and majestic power ballads such as “Quicksand Jesus” and “Wasted Time” with equal aplomb, and even when bogged down by simplistic lyrics or awkward choruses the band’s big guitars and potent rhythmic grind can usually carry the day. They even deliver some thoughtful words of wisdom (on “The Threat,” for instance), and Slave To The Grind, which surprisingly debuted at #1 on the Billboard charts, was an uplifting case where a band’s principles were upheld and album sales still flourished. Alas, by the time of 1994s underrated Subhuman Race the winds of commerce had completely altered, and the album was largely ignored amid a glut of “alternative” albums.