“We were gonna change the world. The world changed us.”
Here’s the thing with Poison. Their videos were great. And their shows are still, to this day, like, 80% women in tiny miniskirts. And sure, they wrote some great songs. I mean, some of them they just nipped from other great songs (hello, Easy Action), but for the most part, Bret and the fellas could lash together some seriously catchy party-metal anthems in their heyday. Just not that many. Certainly not an album’s worth at a time. Ever try to get all the way through Open Up and Say….Ahh without skipping any tracks? It’s impossible. You hit Back to the Rocking Horse and you’re out. There’s a reason why they only made four actual albums and then forty-seven “Best ofs” in twenty years. I remember talking to Alice in Chains’ main-man Jerry Cantrell once, and he told me that there’s just no way that a band would ever go through all the trouble to write and record “filler” for their albums, that bands genuinely pour heart and soul into everything they do in the studio. I would like Jerry to listen to Poison’s 1990 album Flesh and Blood end to end someday and then explain how much heart and soul he found in that godawful cover of Poor Boy Blues they end with. But here’s the good news. Even though Poison blew it in ‘90, another band made the greatest Poison album ever that year, one that was wall-to-wall flash metal hits, no bullshit, no blues vamps, no filler. That band was the Electric Angels. And nobody cared.
Let’s back up a minute. In the beginning, there was Candy. Candy was hopeless. Candy was basically Ryan Roxie and Gilby Clarke. Well, there were other dudes in the band before them, including Geoff Seigel, who later on joined tragic-comic downer-metal trainwreck The Nymphs. Those other dudes recorded the sole Candy album, 1985’s Whatever Happened To Fun. You’ve got to hear that record someday, it’ll curl your toes. Imagine Motley Crue playing Air Supply jams. Holy fuck, Candy were doofuses. At any rate, somehow Roxie and Clarke got involved and toughened their sound up ever so slightly. They were pretty popular on the strip, but never broke through outside of LA, probably because they looked like a glam band but toured with Rick Springfield. Clarke got bored and split for biker-metal goofs Kills for Thrills, while Roxie and the fellas soldiered on with a new name, Electric Angels, and a new singer, Bret Michaels sound-a-like Shane. Shane who? Just Shane, man. Just Shane. They moved to NYC and got snapped up by Atlantic, who sent them to London to record their debut with Tony Visconti, famed and fabled producer of every significant T Rex hit (and bass player for late 70’s bummer-vibe rockers Omaha Sheriff). A few months later, Shazam, Electric Angels the band presents Electric Angels the record.
I would never break this record out at a gathering of tattooed beer drinkers and hellraisers. I’m not fucking crazy. In public, I’m gonna play The Cult, Zodiac Mindwarp, Circus of Power, Warrior Soul. You know, He-Rock. But on a breezy Sunday afternoon all to myself, I’ll listen to this thing all day long. It is one of the most singularly joyful albums of the entire flash metal era. Well, not lyrically. Thematically, most of the songs are nearly suicidal. But the constant barrage of Bolan-esque hooks married to the party-rock exuberance of ‘85-era Poison is completely and utterly irresistible, and the wordplay is brilliant and moronic all at once (“Some of my friends are dead/some have just stopped livin’”). And every goddamn song is a hit. Well, none of them actually were, but potential hits, at least. The Drinking Song, a staple of New Jersey rock radio for a couple years, is probably the most high-profile track, a ramshackle rave-up that sounds like The Replacements covering a Kiss song and not fucking it up for once. And who can possibly resist that chorus? “I never really loved you, I just drank too much.” Jesus Christ, that’s beautiful. Great record. Even the shmaltzy ballads are fun. In a just world, The Drinking Song would be on jukeboxes all over the world. But, you know, in a just world, we’d still have jukeboxes all over the world. This is not a just world.
I dunno, it just didn’t work out. They recorded some demos for a second record but then Roxie got an offer to join Alice Cooper’s band, and that was that. The rest of the dudes formed a power-pop band called The Loveless, and released a pretty good record in ‘95. It sounded like the Raspberries. That’s great, if you like The Raspberries. Nobody that bought the Electric Angels record liked the Raspberries, though. The end. Honestly, I still don’t know why this record didn’t work. I think the Angels just sorta smelled too much like a British gypsy-glam band to people, like the Dogs D’Amour or the Quireboys, but they sounded like a Sunset Strip T Rex. It confused people in 1990, and people were pretty stupid back then. At least a lot of the people I knew were. Anyway, I contend that it’s not Electric Angels that blew this one, it was us. Sorry, guys. If you see Shane around, tell him I did my best.
Next: Shiver me timbers, it’s Slave Raider!