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The Four Horsemen: Nobody Said It Was Easy - Album Of The Week Club review

The Four Horsemen knew how to to rock. Too often on Nobody Said It Was Easy they sounded like other rockers

The Four Horsemen: Nobody Said It Was Easy
(Image: © Def American)
The Four Horsemen - Nobody Said It Was Easy

(Image credit: Def American)

1. Nobody Said It Was Easy
2. Rockin’ Is Ma Business
3. Tired Wings
4. Can’t Stop Rockin’
5. Wanted Man
6. Let it Rock
7. Hot Head
8. Moonshine
9. Homesick Blues
10. 75 Again
11. Lookin’ For Trouble
12. I Need A Thrill/ Somethin’ Good

The Four Horsemen was formed by bassist Kid Chaos (Stephen Harris) in 1988. Chaos had done time in Zodiac Mindwarp and the Love Reaction and (briefly) The Cult, but moved to LA, changed his name to Haggis, switched to rhythm guitar, wrote a bunch of songs, and formed the Four Horsemen with one Frank C Starr, a refugee from the NYC glam-metal scene. 

The songs were amped-up classic rockers, with all the hard rock crunch of the Cult mixed with Southern riff rock, and pushed right over the top by Starr’s hyperactive screech. Critics loved ‘em because they thought all the macho swagger was ironic, and the kids loved them because they knew it wasn’t. 

They came to the attention of Rick Rubin, who signed them to Def American. In 1990, the band was all set to go to New York and record Nobody Said It Was Easy, and success was just around the corner. Then Frank got busted on a drug charge and went to jail for six months.

Frank had to sing one of the songs over the phone from jail, but they eventually got the job done. Nobody Said It Was Easy hit the streets in 1991, and fit right in with the whiskey drinkin’, poker cheatin’, tattooed and bruised biker metal aesthetic so gloriously prevalent in the early 90s (Circus of Power, The Cult, Junkyard, Little Caesar, Horse London, and Two Bit Thief were all revving similar engines at the time). 

Tired Wings, the album’s sole (pseudo) ballad, was a shameless Lynyrd Skynyrd-inspired southern rock rambler, and its video got a decent amount of airplay on MTV.

Every week, Album of the Week Club listens to and discusses the album in question, votes on how good it is, and publishes our findings, with the aim of giving people reliable reviews and the wider rock community the chance to contribute. 

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Other albums released in September 1991

  • Tin Machine II - Tin Machine
  • Horrorscope - Overkill
  • Roll the Bones - Rush
  • Travelers and Thieves - Blues Traveler
  • Blow Up - The Smithereens
  • Catfish Rising - Jethro Tull
  • On Every Street - Dire Straits
  • Psychotic Supper - Tesla
  • No More Tears - Ozzy Osbourne
  • Pretty on the Inside - Hole
  • Still Feel Gone - Uncle Tupelo
  • Use Your Illusion I - Guns N' Roses
  • Use Your Illusion II - Guns N' Roses
  • Live Train to Heartbreak Station - Cinderella
  • Screamadelica  - Primal Scream
  • Shake Me Up - Little Feat
  • Trompe le Monde - Pixies
  • Waking Up the Neighbours - Bryan Adams
  • Wretch - Kyuss
  • Badmotorfinger - Soundgarden
  • Blood Sugar Sex Magik - Red Hot Chili Peppers
  • Ceremony - The Cult
  • Hymns to the Silence - Van Morrison
  • Nevermind - Nirvana
  • Prove You Wrong - Prong
  • Rock 'til You Drop - Status Quo
  • Raise - Swervedriver
  • Storyville - Robbie Robertson

What they said...

"While Hot Head lifts its main riff directly from AC/DC's Rock'n'Roll Damnation, the slightly more original Tired Wings actually received some MTV rotation thanks to its mellower Southern rock vibe and slide guitars. Rounded out by the easy strut of Moonshine, the all-out fury of Lookin' for Trouble, and the lazy jamming of I Need a Thrill/Somethin' Good, this album scores low on originality, but high on honesty and charisma. A sure winner for lovers of no-image, no-class rock & roll." (AllMusic)

"Guitarists Dave Lizmi and Haggis depend too much on the Angus Young book of chord progressions. And singer Frank C. Starr could lighten up with the Bon Scott impression, too. It wouldn’t hurt if the Four Horsemen gave their steeds a rest and strove for a semblance of originality the next time they hit the dusty studio trail. (The Georgia Strait)

"1991’s Nobody Said it Was Easy was one of the greatest rock albums to ever come from the grunge decade that you’ve never heard of.  The Four Horsemen were a multinational band, with Rick Rubin at the helm at the legendary Sound City studios, and one of the greatest rock star frontmen to ever grace the stage: the late Frank C. Starr." (Mike Ladano)

What you said...

Chris Wigmore: It’s 1992 and I’m up front in the ratty van my band used to get to gigs in. We swung by Cheddar to pick up the drummer. A handsome lad, only ever listened to AC/DC, the Cult and the Black Crowes. He ejects our Pantera tape and slots in a C90... and I get to hear Nobody Said it was Easy for the first time in my life. 

The pure joy I felt hearing this record is felt every time I put it on. It sounds like denim, stratocasters and whiskey. There’s hooks galore, songs about fighting and fucking, songs with ‘rock’ in the title, all served up with masses of swagger. Rick Rubin brings some cool to the game, and ex Zodiac Mindwarp/Cult bassist Haggis brings some credibility. The result is a solid rock'n'roll record, tightly produced with some great songs. Nobody said it was easy, but these guys made it sound easy, man.

Robert Dunn: I actually wrote some notes for this one, noting that Nobody Said It Was Easy sounded like the Cult but was a solid opener, then lots of references to AC/DC, Red Hot Chili Peppers, even ZZ Top. However by midway through side two (following the order they were in on YouTube) I wrote "starting to get fed up" which possibly says more about me than the band. 

I have absolutely no objection to a bit of Southern boogie with a hard edge, but that is all there was. Decent enough songs, but the rock galaxy is littered with bands who were good but didn't quite have that extra something to elevate them above their peers. 

Having said that, I think that fate was unkind to this band in the same way that it was to UFO, in that they took a lot of stuff from the past and took a step forward, only for other bands to pick up that baton and go further with it. Personally I would listen to tracks from this album again, but a whole album is a bit too much for me. I bet they were awesome live though.

Nigel Lancashire: I’d never even heard of the Four Horsemen until this suggestion. Unfortunately, it’s not a previously undiscovered Ric Flair album (sad professional wrestling joke). And again unfortunately, I can’t really hear why this record should be considered a classic. 

At best, it’s what sounds like a patchy studio project for a Rick Rubin-created band to discover ‘their’ sound, and then not agree whether they want to be Bon Scott-era AC/DC, the Cult (no doubt picked because of Haggis’ involvement - it might say ‘Made in the USA’ on the album, but it’s a Welsh bloke on geetar) the Stones or the Black Crowes. 

Just about the last thing it seems to be is the real deal. I honestly cannot hear a unique sound or a cohesive record here, and although nothing offends, not much impresses either. There’s promise in the Allman’s-like I Need a Thrill/Something Good but then, that introduces yet another style experiment to the package. 

In researching the band, I’ve read that they were hampered by arrests and drug problems (principally singer Frank Starr) and general lifestyle misfortunes, but brutally, on the strength of this, these Four Horsemen were riding to nowhere country anyway.

Carl Black: This is what a t-shirt can do for you. James Hetfield from Metallica was consistently wearing a Four Horseman t-shirt when Metallica were at their height. Lots of people got tricked into thinking they were a super new, cutting edge thrash band. How wrong could you be. 

I can see why Hetfield liked them at this time. All the things he wanted: hard-rocking, Southern rock with a shout of AC/DC, but could never do as fans of Metallica would be more confused than when they heard the snare drum on St Anger for the first time. A solid album and I throughly enjoyed it as I was painting my French Windows.

Iain Macaulay: A fun album that unfortunately loses the effect very quickly on repeated listens as style over substance trickles to the surface. A good album for the history of Rick Rubin's production if nothing else. Definitely not a classic though.

John Davidson: The Four Horsemen play straight up hard boogie blues - sometimes more hard rock, sometimes more southern boogie.

Opener Nobody Said it Was Easy has them in Georgia Satellites mode. The guitars are good and the slightly homespun chorus and handclaps set the tone for the album

Rockin Is Ma Business Isn't a bad song but If Glen Danzig had fronted an AC/DC covers band it might have sounded a lot like this.

Tired Wings sounds like the Black Crowes should have sounded or maybe more like Primal Scream at their best.

Can't Stop Rockin' is a simple stomper in the garage style - Suzi Quatro would be proud of the repetition of the title as chorus.

Wanted Man sees them aping the Rolling Stones more directly - but without the virtue of doing it first.

By the time they get to Let It Rock and Hot Head they are back to AC/DC again

Honestly I could go on, but theres only so much you can take. It's reasonably competent but nothing new or different that makes me want to listen to this again. A generous 5.

Glenn McDonald: The Four Horsemen are, as a band, almost but not quite a new one on me. And one song aside, the album is definitely a first time listen. I vaguely remember the down-home black and white video for the title track airing on MTV back in 91, incongruously sandwiched between the likes of Man In A Box by Alice In Chains and Jesus Christ Pose by Soundgarden. 

Always liked it, but despite being a fan of Georgia Satellites and The Black Crowes, I never thought to investigate further. I suppose it was a time when the promise of the new offered by the sons of Seattle seemed much more appealing.

Listening to it now, just as a slab of old school boogie-blues rock, and divorced from the time it was released and what was going on around it, it's pretty badass. Stonking riffage, attitude, musicianship and plenty of charisma in the singer/frontman department. If I'd have bought this back then I'm sure it would be an old favourite by this stage. Still, better late than never.

Okay, there's nothing original on show here, The Faces were making a similar racket in 1970, but it's honest and the band approach the material as if they thought of these well-worn rock tropes first. It does sail the seas of copycat territory in a few places - you'll recognise a riff or two lifted from AC/DC, and Hot Head's vocal melody is as close to Creedence's Proud Mary as to make no difference.

Overall though, a great listen, refreshing in its simplicity and purity of production, and from a time when rock'n'roll could still just be dumb fun without anyone raising an arch and disapproving eyebrow.

Bill Griffin: One thing that successful bands have is some sense of continuity, something for an audience to grab on to. That is usually the singer's voice (even if there have been notable exceptions) so, while Starr's ability to sound like so many different other singers was impressive, it isn't something desirable in a band trying to make it on its own merits.

That isn't all his fault though, the songs also mimic the sound of other bands to the point that I never got the sense that I knew what this band sounded like. Indeed, I felt like I was listening to a sampler record of previously unreleased songs from other more well known bands.

I seriously doubt these guys would have made it even without the bad luck, arrests and tragedies.

Jacob Tannehill: Great album. A “shoulda woulda coulda been” album. Now that I listen to it again, I feel Rick Rubin started to get in a rut and between this and Black Crowes, and the production on the Danzig albums around this time, not that all those albums were bad. Everything started sounding very raw. I feel they were starting to sound the same? Good stuff though. I really like this album, and it should have been huge. Tired Wings was the follow up single, to the title track, and it should have been a hit too.

Wade Babineau: Awesome album when it came out, still fantastic today. I believe my purchase was based on seeing a video for Nobody or Rockin; Is My Business. To be honest, I feel that's not a bum track on this. Many a time if I was feeling down I'd throw on I Need A Thrill/Something Good or Tired Wings and pick myself right back up. Shame they couldn't maintain the momentum. Found the Gettin Pretty Good at Barely Getting By album a year ago. Decent, but doesn't hold a candle to this.

Jonathan Novajosky: I found Nobody Said It Was Easy to be incredibly average. It's one of those albums where every song just flies by without you realising so, and then when it's over, you can't remember a single thing you just heard. A couple tracks were okay, particularly I Need A Thrill / Somethin' Good. But mostly, I found it to be super repetitive - hearing the same hook being sung over and over. A decent rock album, but not much more to me. 5.5/10

Rajesh Parekat: Came across this album in the early 90s, the grunge era, and it had all the ingredients to satisfy a metal head teenager then. But there was a plethora of bands, that too of great class, like, say AIC, STP, Pearl Jam.n the likes and in the flow, this band became far too oblivious, I guess. My Tired Wings was my personal favourite. Thanks for bringing it back.. 

Michael Baryshnikov: Very average pop-rock band of 1991. Radio-friendly. Half-a-disk is nice, even looking like AC/DC sometimes, but there has been a hell lot of bands of this kind then. Cannot treat this album as "hidden treasure", sorry.

Jay Turner: This band was subject to a lot of tragedy and misfortune. The lead guitarist/singer got sick and eventually died. The remaining members tried to go on and actually made a couple of more albums but it wasn't the same. It was a very decent debut album and a real shame that they couldn't improve and refine their sound. 

Even though it wasn't the best debut album ever made, it definitely has some shining moments. They were able to capture a raw, garage sound and could have been honed into killer band given more opportunities to show their stuff. Sadly their future died with their leader.

Mike Knoop: On first listen, I thought the Four Horsemen were pretty derivative of bands that were already pretty derivative (Great White, Cinderella, Black Crowes, Poison, Faster Pussycat, etc.). And, of course, there's that solid foundation built on AC/DC.They seem like one of those bands assembled in the wake of the startlingly successful Guns N' Roses, who changed the Sunset Strip almost overnight from teased blonde hair and day-glo colours to dirty denim and heroin. Suddenly bands were falling over themselves to show they were "real rock 'n' roll."

That doesn't mean it's not enjoyable and it's one of those albums that gets better with each listen. The three songs with "rock" in the title are all good neck-snappin' foot-stompers, as are 75 Again and Lookin' for Trouble

A staple of this genre is "good ol' boys doing bad things" and Wanted Man, Moonshine, and Hot Head all fill the bill. I just have to remind myself it's not Jack Russell or Bret Michaels singing them. Rick Rubin's production is whip smart and what the band lacks in originality, they make up for in ability. Earthshaking revelation? No. Fun way to spend fifty minutes? Sure.

Final Score: 6.71⁄10 (84 votes cast, with a total score of 564)

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