Let me say at the start that I don't hold the opinion that 'Bas IS Skid Row'. I'm more of the opinion that 'Rachal Bolan IS Skid Row' being that he's been the primary songwriter from the start, as well as a dominating guitar presence on the metal scene since the late 80's. I love Bas, but Johnny Solinger is a worthy successor and Bolan continues to write incredibly memorable songs with big riffs and metal sensibilities - as aptly demonstrated on 'Thickskin'- Skid Row's initial post-Bas offering.
Which is what makes it difficult to rate this album. It has the classic Bolan writing, Sollinger's vocals are solid, and the songs are memorable, but it's probably the least 'Skid Row' sounding album of the bands career. It doesn't compare by far to "Slave to the Grind" or "Thickskin." It's only comparable to "Subhuman Race" - Bas's final effort with the band - in that it has both the classic Skid Row sound, but several nasty suprises. The nasty suprises being two country/metal songs ('When God Can't Wait' and 'Lie') that would sound more at home on a Flogging Molly or Dropkick Murphy CD than on a Skid Row record. Further, the 'bonus track' is the 'corn-fed' mix of 'Lies' that for all intents and purposes sounds exactly the same as the original. Being the weakest song on the album - why make us listen to it twice?
I'm all in favor of bands growing and allowing their influences flow into their writing, but these two songs along with 'White Trash,' and 'Shut Up Baby I Love You' are so far off the beaten track, that it's hard to reconcile them with anything else in the Skid Row catalog. Sometimes this can be a good thing, but here it's just...odd. Additionally, the lyrics are a bit silly in places - reminding of Blink 182 or even Green Day - than the typical top notch lyrics Bolan and Snake have produced over the years. No doubt Sollinger will be blamed for this, but check the writing credits for each track - all Bolan and Snake (excepting the excellent Alarm cover 'Strength'). Since "Slave to the Grind," Skid Row lyrics have taken on pretty weighty issues and dealt with relationships in more mature prose than most any other metal band. This album seems to miss that angle in favor of flippancy and out of place profanity. Possibly to attract a younger fan base?
At first listen, this seems to be a transitional album. The guys are trying a few new things - which is not all bad. They retain their killer musicianship and production, as well as growing a bit sonically from the Thickskin album. If you like Skid Row, it's worth the price, but sadly, I'd say this is their weakest offering next to their hair-metalish self-titled debut. To the band I say - we want to hear you grow and change, but not radically, and not all at once. Skid Row's new line up is obviously a work in progress and I don't want to judge too harshly too soon. We'll see what the future brings.
Make sure to catch these guys on the road with King's X this fall and winter.