3. 5 Stars
The start of the 1990s looked promising for Motley Crue. The band had ruled the 1980s with massive tours, videos in constant rotation, hit singles, and had five multi-platinum albums under their belt. 1991 saw the release of yet another platinum hit, the greatest hits retrospective "Decade of Decadence."
In 1991 Motley Crue signed a multi-million dollar contract with Elektra Records. Indeed,
The 90s looked as though it was going to be a great decade...but it was not to be.
In 1992 Vince Neil suffered two sharp blows. First, he was fired from Motley Crue (although the rest of the band maintains that he quit). Second, the rise of grunge and alternative rock rendered Motley Crue's music and style obsolete.
Vince Neil ruled the 1980s as one of the decade's most popular and charismatic frontmen. His sunny California sunset-strip, bad-boy image fit the 80s metal scene like a glove. In the 90s, however, Neil was suddenly and unexpectedly out-of-place. Despite a shift in the musical climate, and without a band, Neil didn't miss a beat.
Soon after leaving the Crue he assembled a new band. Billy Idol's right-hand-man Steve Stevens on lead guitar, Dave Marshall (guitar), Robbie Crain (bass), and Vikki Fox (drums).
Technically, Neil's new band was as good as the old one (except for maybe the drum department). Guitarist Steve Stevens was really the centerpiece of the new outfit. Stevens is one of the most gifted guitar players of the 80s metal genre and is a far, far better player than the Crue's Mick Mars.
The spring of 1993 saw the release of "Exposed." It debuted respectably at number thirteen on the Billboard charts and sold a few hundred thousand copies. The showing of "Exposed" was a far cry away from the huge success of "Dr. Feelgood," (1989) released only a few years prior. Still, in an era where Pearl Jam and Nirvana ruled the rock world, "Exposed" was a moderate success, relatively speaking.
"Exposed" lives in a vacuum, completely unaware of the changes that have taken place in the state of rock. In an age of flannel and honesty, "Exposed" is a complete throwback to the superficial flashy 80s.
It's been established that "Exposed" is retro, but how do the songs measure up? To be honest, the album is a bit of a letdown. Considering the talent involved, with Steve Stevens on guitar, this album should have been exceptional. As it is, it's pretty good, but not great.
The problem is not the band. The band sounds great. They are tight, muscular, and energized. Stevens playing throughout the album is phenomenal. Killer, killer solos pervade each and every song.
The problem with this album is the songwriting. The band had the talent, but they didn't have Nikki Sixx. With Stevens on guitar, the Vince Neil Band of '93 may have been technically better than the Crue, but they didn't have a great songwriter. While the album sounds great, it lacks substance. Most of the album is quite good, but there is nothing quite as memorable as "Wild Side," "Looks that Kill," or "Kickstart my Heart."
The album gets off to a great start with the fantastic "Look in Her Eyes." It's fast, has a great hook, and a long, long, intricate solo. "Sister of Pain," although a little cheesy, is effective and also has a good hook and sing-along-chorus. The band sounds great on "Can't Have your Cake," but the hook just isn't there. "Fine, Fine, Wine," is good, but not great. It's fun to listen to, but ultimately forgettable. The album gets back on its feet with the groove laden, infectious "The Edge."
Of course the album needs its obligatory power ballads. "Can't Change Me," while no "Home Sweet Home," is still quiet good. A cover of Heathen's rapid-fire "Set Me Free" far outshines the original. The mid-tempo, cocky "Living is a Luxury" keeps up the momentum and is a nice change of pace. "Your Invited (But Your Friend Can't Come) is just filler (a far better version can be found on the "Encino Man" (1992) soundtrack). The mid-tempo "Gettin' Hard," while not the album's strongest track, has a good hook. The album closes with the power-balled, would-be arena anthem, "Forever." While "Forever" is rather generic, it's effective.
Overall, it's an enjoyable album, even if the songs aren't very memorable.
In an age of flannel shirts and depressing songs, "Exposed" was totally irrelevant and out of place. However, Neil should be applauded for sticking to his guns, following his heart, and not jumping on the flavor-of-the-month bandwagon. If "Exposed" is anything, it's sincere. That's probably its biggest asset.
If "Exposed" had been released just three years earlier, it probably would have gone triple platinum. As it is, the album just didn't come out at the right time and has been reduced to bargain-bin fodder. That's a shame to, because while "Exposed" may not be as strong as "Too Fast for Love," (1982) or "Shout at the Devil," (1983) or "Dr. Feelgood," it's still a decent album. It's at least as good as "Theatre of Pain" (1985). If you're a fan of Motley Crue, or flashy guitar work, this CD is worth checking out.