Skid Row: Slave To The Grind

I remember the day this came out, in June of 1991, driving back from the record store with my buddy. I’d gotten the version with “Get The Fuck Out” as the sixth track. My friend got the one with “Beggar’s Day” in that position, which was a nod, I think, to the restrictions of retailers like Wal-Mart). This was an agreement we’d made prior so we could hear all the songs, but I knew I wanted the song with the swear word in the title. “Beggar’s Day” turned out to be the much better song.

Anyway, we’re driving back home to our CD players (none in the car, thank you very much), examining the long box, and I mocked it. More specifically, I mocked the formula that even bands I liked tended to follow. I reviewed the songs listed on the back and picked out what I was sure would be the power ballads: “In A Darkened Room” and “Wasted Time.” I still liked the band and loved the album, but I was clearly ready for something where I didn’t have to roll my eyes at the marketing department’s role in my favorite bands’ albums.

Consider, then, the release dates for the following albums later that year:

  • Ten by Pearl Jam – August
  • Nevermind by Nirvana – September
  • Badmotorfinger by Soundgarden – October

It didn’t matter how good this album was, there was no way it could avoid being swallowed up by the end of the year after “Smells Like Teen Spirit” hit.

I always liked this album, and wasn’t even particularly ashamed of it. I wore my (ridiculous) “Monkey Business” concert t-shirt from this tour (I’m pretty sure Soundgarden opened for them at Roy Wilkins Auditorium) just as I wore the one from the Pearl Jam shows I saw that fall and the following spring. But most high school kids were a little more attuned to how a shirt like that would affect their social status and Skid Row was swept aside with the rest of the hair bands.

Listening to this now, I hear that this wasn’t just a case of throwing out the best of the hair metal bands with all of them. It sounds to me like Skid Row was making the transition away from hair metal to a new sound just a bit too slowly before that sound hit from another direction. Beyond just moving too slowly, it would have been awfully difficult to outrun the legacy of the hits from their first album.

This release still has some of Skid Row’s original sound: squealy guitar solos and gang vocal choruses. But it’s way faster and thrashier than what was going on with other hair bands like Motley Crue and Warrant at the time. The power ballad-y songs aren’t completely formulaic, with “Wasted Time” and “Quicksand Jesus” being outright excellent cust. They cover a decent range of styles, including some wah wah guitar on “Creepshow” and a bit of a funk feel on “Psycho Love.” If there’s any style that’s overplayed on the album, it is that thrash element, one they emphasize by dialing down the bass and throwing tons of high-end at you just like most thrash bands of the era. I think they were going towards Anthrax here.

I’ve always felt this was an excellent album, and I’d say it’s the most criminally overlooked of its ilk. It doesn’t deserve its fate, but it was released with enough time ahead of the grunge and alternative waves that it still sold plenty, so I’ll take solace that, while it’s also probably filling up many used bins in record stores around the world, there are also plenty of fans like me enjoying it thoroughly decades later.

Rating:
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– “Monkey Business,” “Slave To The Grind,” “The Threat,” “Quicksand Jesus,” “Psycho Love,” “Beggar’s Day,” “Livin’ On A Chain Gang,” “Creepshow,” “Riot Act,” “Wasted Time”
– “Get The Fuck Out,” “In A Darkened Room,” “Mudkicker”
Filed Between: Skid Row’s Skid Row and Subhuman Race
Song Notes: After the jump

  1. Monkey Business – I was told this video was filmed off the freeway in Milwaukee. No idea if that’s true or not. Seems unlikely.
  2. Slave To The Grind –
  3. The Threat –
  4. Quicksand Jesus –
  5. Psycho Love –
  6. Get The Fuck Out – misogynistic. or at least objectifying. No it’s just flat out awful misogynistic. Even at the age of 16 I caught the double entendres here. “Wrap your lips all around my attitude.” “Why you walking funny, you must have spent some time with the boys in the crew.”
  7. Livin’ On A Chain Gang –
  8. Creepshow – Has this always had a funk wah wah guitar in it?
  9. In A Darkened Room –
  10. Riot Act –
  11. Mudkicker – Dumb choruses. Bad pre-chorus. But that opening riff is awesome. What’s with that one stray ride cymbal hit in the first verse? So pronounced to never(?) come back.
  12. Wasted Time –
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One thought on “Skid Row: Slave To The Grind

  1. Pingback: Skid Row: Subhuman Race | fatclown

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