So many well-known albums turn 30 this year and Steve Taylor-Bryant and Susan Omand travel back to 1991 to revisit some of the sounds of their youth that made parents shout "Turn that noise down!" This week, Steve is a Slave to the Grind...
Many bands make changes in the course of their careers, some will probably come up as our retrospective look at 1991 continues through the year. Rarely are the changes as dramatic as on this album, and rarely do they come so early on in a career and on a tricky second album after such worldwide acclaim for your first. However when you are Skid Row you are never going to do it the easy way. The self titled album from 1989 was a hairspray rock album with a slight edge and is remembered primarily for two huge ballads. It was good, don’t get me wrong ,and the band live were a louder more aggressive outfit than that album showed them to be but I’m not sure anyone outside of the band were expecting or even ready for Slave to the Grind.
Monkey Business kicks off the album in a much heavier style than its predecessor with a harsher turn of phrase in the lyrics and the guitarists of Dave Sabo and Scotti Hill playing heavier than anything on the first record. Stunning start to an exciting second album.
Slave to the Grind kicks off like a power metal tune, if it wasn’t for Sebastian Bach having such a recognisable voice this could have been from a much more traditional heavy band. It’s an extremely tight record, driven on by Rob Affuso’s drums.
The Threat is a hybrid. With the bands harmonies on some lines it harks back to more stadium safe tunes on the debut but there is a raunchier almost aggressive attitude to the whole thing. I like it but not sure it’s the best on the album. When Bach does the high pitch vocals it changes the song again and I’m not sure it knows what it is.
Known for stunning power ballads 18 & Life and I Remember You, the band were almost certainly going to have a go at another and the first is track 4’s Quicksand Jesus which has some beautiful heavier moments over a wonderful acoustic guitar and Bach’s voice is certainly built for those powerful long notes, as the song builds into the chorus it gets heavier and almost un-ballad like but without losing the emotions it had built. Certainly memorable.
Psycho Love is the first real time you get to hear Rachel Bolan’s bass and it’s a great little heavy track without ever challenging your favourite spot which on this album is reserved for the next track, the one that always went down best with the crowds I was in 1991, whether the headline arena shows or the Wembley slot supporting GnR. That is of course the brilliance of...
Get The Fuck Out.
As someone who loves American punk to hear all those elements and inspirations come through a more traditional rock band was awesome. I’m honestly excited listening to this again. It’s a song that doesn’t take its self seriously and yet is full of angst and attitude and uses Bach’s entire impressive range.
How do you follow up something as incredible as GtFO? Could have been a ballad, could have been a light-hearted moment. Nope, an aggressive heavy scream about politics and politicians in the ‘more relevant now than then’ Livin’ on a Chain Gang. It was good to hear a rock band tackle corruption in politics and how the media and wall to wall television have led to some sections of society being brainwashed by those after a quick buck. These kinds of songs are a bit more commonplace nowadays but in those mid teen years of 1991 it was an eye opener.
Creepshow was another heavier track, with (I can’t believe I’m saying this) maybe a little too much cowbell, maybe a little dated now and contains some words that are rightly considered slurs nowadays but not bad overall.
In A Darkened Room sees another power ballad but is somehow more beautiful than those that made the bands name and still contain some really heavy moments both musically and lyrically. Still love it. Won’t apologise.
Riot Act is one of my album favourites, it’s a snarling throwback to the US punk I was raised on and when you hear Bach’s range forced out over Bolan’s bass you are in for a treat. I’m always energised by how live it sounds, I wish more bands would drop the overproduction on some songs and let that rawness wild.
Mudkicker is another heavy metal record that reminds me of those 70’s bands that obviously influenced the band, it’s very much Judas Priest and of that ilk.
The album finishes strangely enough on another ballad, the complete opposite to how the album opened and whilst I love the tune, once the rock elements kick in it does feel maybe a little generic and first albumy. It’s not as fresh and new as most of Slave to the Grind is, it’s almost a remade 18 & Life, it’s still good but maybe deserved to be the earlier release more.
After Slave to the Grind the band never really hit the heights again and I stopped listening to everything once Bach was no longer in the line up. But I’ll always find time for this album which at the time and now was a brave release, a massive change in style, and thoroughly entertaining.
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