Welcome to another “Album by Album Challenge.” For those that are new here, the “Album by Album Challenge” is where I take a band’s entire discography and listen to every album in order of release from front to back. With my unforgiving and well-aged ear, I call it how I hear it. In some cases, I find that what I once thought was good is actually pretty crappy and sometimes crap manages to age into something pretty kick ass. And in some cases, face melting is still just good ol’ face melting.
This time around I tackled the discography of Skid Row. Skid Row has been one of my all time favorite bands since I first heard them back in 1989. I have been a supporter of this band from the release of the debut album to the 2014 release of their latest EP United World Rebellion Part II: The Rise of the Damnation Army. Even after the releasing of their vocalist and asshole extraordinaire Sebastian Bach, I continued my support of the band as they forged forward for another 15 years with lead singer Johnny Solinger. With that being said, I figured it would be fun and much deserved that I gave Skid Row an album by album challenge. How did they do? Well… read on and find out broseph!
Release Date: January 24, 1989
The Good: Piece of Me, 18 & Life, Youth Gone Wild, Makin’ A Mess, Midnight/Tornado
The Bad: Here I Am, Can’t Stand The Heartache,
The Indifferent: Big Guns, Sweet Little Sister, Rattlesnake Shake, I Remember You,
When Skid Row’s self-titled debut came out back in 1989 I remember being totally blown away. It was a really different album. It had some of the attitude of Guns N’ Roses’ Appetite for Destruction while it also had some of the corniness of Poison as well. Musically, Skid Row was so much heavier than the majority of their peers, even Guns N’ Roses for that matter. Listening to this album now it’s plain to see that most of these songs just don’t stand the test of time very well.
“Big Guns”, “Rattlesnake Shake” and “Sweet Little Sister” made the indifferent cut. I remember fucking LOVING these songs. Musically they stand strong but the lyrics are just so fucking bad that I just can’t even get past them. “Here I Am” just may be the worst fucking song ever. “Here I Am. Close your eyes and I’ll be Superman.” Really? I somehow doubt that. Those songs aside, songs like “Piece of Me”, “18 & Life” and “Makin’ A Mess” really showed that these guys were more than capable of writing truly great, substantial songs. “Midnight” is a sadly overlooked gem on this album and in all honesty is even a slight glimpse as to what lied ahead for Skid Row as a band that would grow by leaps and bounds. All in all, it’s an album worth owning. It’s a fun listen and in my opinion, just pull the great songs from this one and add ‘em to a playlist.
Slave to the Grind
Release Date: June 11, 1991
The Good: Monkey Business, Slave to the Grind, The Threat, Quicksand Jesus, Psycho Love, Beggar’s Day, Livin’ On A Chain Gang, Riot Act, Mudkicker, Wasted Time
The Bad: Creepshow
Anyone who knows me know just how much I love this fucking album. Its amazing to me just how well this album has stood the test of time. From a time where many of their peers’ releases sound dated and tired, Slave to the Grind sounds every bit as full of live, grit, and passion as it did the day it was released. Just listening to this album back to back with the debut it barely even sounds like the same band. If the debut was a band that was green, Slave to the Grind is a band that cut their teeth on the road and matured their sound into something that was all their own.
“Monkey Business” has to be without a doubt one of the greatest album openers in hard rock/metal history as it totally sets the tone for this album. “Quicksand Jesus” still gives me goosebumps and “Wasted Time” is a perfect closer as it totally leaves the album feeling unresolved. The real secret to this album is in the sequencing as it really is a stellar listening experience. I also chose to go with the version that has “Beggar’s Day” as opposed to “Get the Fuck Out.” I’ll never get how Rachel Bolan (bassist) can openly admit to how much he hates “Wasted Time” and how much he loves “Get the Fuck Out.” Oh well, I guess I’ll learn to forgive him at some point for that one. That aside, the only shit track on this album is “Creepshow” which has a Rob Affuso (drummer) writing credit. Leave it to the drummer to contribute to the shittiest track on the album. Yeah, aside from that song, this album is pretty much a perfect fucking metal record that I still find myself re-visiting.
Release Date: September 22, 1992
The Good: Psycho Therapy, C’mon & Love Me, Delivering the Goods, What You’re Doing
The Bad: Little Wing
When this came out, I remember being totally blown away by it. Back in ‘92, the “covers” thing wasn’t as played out as it is now so back then it was rad as fuck that Skid Row was covering some of my favorite bands. Listening to it now, it’s fun but in all honesty, if I want to hear these songs I’ll go hear the originals. That aside, they nailed the fuck out of these songs. Rachel Bolan really nailed the Ramones on “Psycho Therapy” (which is still a staple of their live shows), “Cmon’ & Love Me” was off the charts and “Delivering the Goods” I have to say is the only song on this collection that just may be a hair better than the original.
Skid Row even took a Rush songs (“What You’re Doing”) and made it sound like a fucking Skid Row song which is what bands should do when they cover them. I really enjoy the fuck out of this cover but it’s their cover of “Little Wing” that is just a total bust. Closing out the album with that dud really kills the moment. It’s kinda like getting a girl back to your pad, getting her bra off only to find that it’s a heavily padded bra. Yeah, just kind of a total bummer. Anyways, I’m pretty sure you can download this one for 4 or 5 bucks or so. I really do think it’s worth having because the covers (sans Little Wing) on this EP are all top notch and done with a lot of passion and heart.
Release Date: March 28, 1995
The Good: My Enemy, Firesign, Bonehead, Beat Yourself Blind, Eileen, Remains to Be Seen, Subhuman Race, Frozen, Into Another, Face Against My Soul, Medicine Jar, Breakin’ Down, Ironwill
Skid Row is a band that seems to age 3x as fast as the average band from album to album. Just when you thought the band wasn’t going to get any heavier than Slave to the Grind, here they come with Subhuman Race. This album came out at a really awkward time as this was a serious changing of the guards. Matter of fact, not just in the US but globally. This album is so fucking heavy and angry that it just sounds like a band that is full of pent up frustration. It also sounds like a band that is pouring out every ounce of whatever they have inside of them to make their last album.
There isn’t a single bad song on this album but in all honesty, this album isn’t an easy listen. What I mean by that is that it’s a very intense album. It’s got some of Bolan and Sabo’s best writing up to this point and it’s just one after the other a blow to the fucking dome. I love that that songs are so fucking heavy and every now and then they’ll slip in a nice more mellow gem like “Eileen”, “Into Another” and the oddly awesome “Breakin’ Down.” This album is far from predictable and it’s a really great piece of work from Skid Row. I’m curious had this album come out 2 years earlier if it would’ve received a much different reaction from the fans and the general public.
Release Date: August 5, 2003
The Good: New Generation, Ghost, Swallow Me, Thick Is The Skin, Mouth Of Voodoo, Lamb, Hittin’ A Wall
The Indifferent: Born A Beggar, See You Around, One Light, I Remember You Two, Down From Underground
Thickskin, to me, sounds like a band who is “trying” just a bit too hard to prove something. Maybe they were trying to prove that they were still a relevant band? Maybe they were proving that they could do it without Sebastian Bach but whatever the reasons are, Thickskin just kind of falls short for me. I didn’t love this album when it came out and I don’t love it now. Too many of the songs like “Down From the Underground” and “One Light” just sound like they were trying to be one of those more modern heavy bands like Sevendust or something. I dont dig that and on top of that, “I Remember You Two”? Really? A punk version of this ballad? No thanks.
All the negative aside, there are some really strong songs on this album that still have a fair amount of classic Skid Row in them. “New Generation”, “Lamb”, and the stellar title track all sound more like what I would expect to come right after Slave to the Grind if not appearing on the album. The songs are that strong and face it, Johnny Solinger is a fucking badass on these songs and he fucking nailed it. I think this album is probably worth having if anything for the really good songs but in all honesty, this is far from my “go to” Skid Row album.
Revolutions Per Minute
Release Date: October 24, 2006
The Good: Disease, Another Dick in the System,
The Bad: You Lie,
The Indifferent: Pulling My Heart From Under Me, When God Can’t Wait, Shut Up Baby I Love You, Strength, White Trash, Nothing, Love Is Dead, Let It Ride
Ok, so its no secret that Revolutions Per Minute is THE album that nearly all Skid Row fans detest and in all honesty, I can see why but here’s the deal; it really doesn’t suck. The problem here is that Revolutions Per Minute just doesn’t sound like Skid Row. I’m totally up for bands changing shit up. Hell, Skid Row did it themselves from the debut to Slave to the Grind to Subhuman Race. While I appreciated this change, Revolutions Per Minute just sounds like a band having a severe identity crisis.
The album starts off with two of Skid Row’s strongest tunes, in my opinion, “Disease” and “Another Dick in the System.” All of the sudden, things just took a turn for the weird. I mean, are they a punk band (“White Trash”), are they a country band (“You Lie”) or are they Flogging Molly (“When God Can’t Wait”)? This album just suffers from a severe lack of cohesion and it actually sounds more like a collection of cutting room floor b-sides. It’s no surprise that Skid Row pretty much chooses to ignore this album with the exception of “Disease” as I’m sure this was just someone what of an artistic nervous breakdown.
United World Rebellion – Part I
Release Date: April 16, 2013
The Good: Kings of Demolition, Let’s Go, This is Killing Me, Get Up, Stitches,
Let me just say this. Skid Row knocked it out of the fucking park with this EP. They figured out the concept of “less is more” and with that they put out an EP that is the strongest thing the band put out since Slave to the Grind and I will stand by that statement tall and proud. I remember asking Rachel Bolan about this album and he told me that basically they just tapped back into their roots and remembered what it was that made them a band in the first place. Just listening to this EP once you’ll get that point right away.
Every single song on this album is a home fucking run. Honestly, when I hear “Kings of Demolition” right away it sounds like something that would have followed “Slave to the Grind.” Matter of fact, this EP as a whole sounds more like more of a consistent follow up to Slave to the Grind than Subhuman Race does. “Get Up” has to be one of Johnny Solinger’s greatest moments and can we just talk about the guitar work on this song? Holy fuck. Dave Sabo and Scotti Hill are easily the most underrated guitar duo in metal and on this song prove that they can tear shit up with the best of them. Even the ballad “This is Killing Me” just seemed to have a perfect home on this EP. All in all, this is a fantastic fucking listen and is also one that I have listened to quite a bit. This one is definitely worth owning.
United World Rebellion Part II: Rise of the Damnation Army
Release Date: August 5, 2014
The Good: We Are the Damned, Give It the Gun, Damnation Army, Zero Day, Sheer Heart Attack, Rats In The Cellar
The Bad: Catch Your Fall
Skid Row did it once again with the 2nd installment of their United World Rebellion EP serious: Rise of the Damnation Army. This time around, much like its predecessor, Skid Row tapped into their roots to put out another collection of songs that beckon back to the style of songwriting and playing that made me love Skid Row in the first place. What I do have to say is that while it may be a continuation of previous EP, this collection of songs have more of a punk flair to them and a bit of a darker tone. Songs like “We Are the Damned” and “GIve it the Gun” have a much lyrically heavy side to them while “Damnation Army” totally wears a heavy Motorhead influence.
Aside from the mega lame ballad “Catch Your Fall” (not even a good ballad, sorry guys), this album is solid as fuck and the band totally goes out with a bang on this one closing out with 2 covers: Queen’s “Sheer Heart Attack” and Aerosmith’s “Rats in the Cellar.” Once again, Solinger’s vocal performance had me saying “Sebastian Who?” Its a crying shame this guy never go the credit he deserved but at least he can proudly have his name etched into these two Skid Row EPs as some of the best shit this band has done since Slave to the Grind and trust me, that is saying a lot.