The 1980s were the years of rock and roll. Pop was ever-mainstream, but so, increasingly, were the hordes of leather-chained adolescents, and denim-clad rockers. All things big, brash, glam and hairy moved onto the scene, from New Jersey giants to Los Angeles bad boys.
One such band that tried to tap into the glam metal market were Danger Danger, New York-bred rockers led by the charismatic Ted Poley. In appearance, they were indistinguishable from the rest – but sadly the same couldn’t be said for their chart success. Their 1989 eponymous debut gave them a single that reached #39 on the charts (‘Bang Bang’), but not much else. The record itself failed to make a dent on the Billboard 200, but I always felt that was a mistake. ‘89’s Danger Danger was full of poppy hooks, headbanging riffs, explosive choruses and suggestive verses galore. It also had its crowning moments of heartfelt ballad.
Screw It!, the band’s 1991 follow-up, has none of those things, for the most part. As the boys entered the studio once again, already pitted against the ever-changing musical shift of grunge and the club scene, they tried their best to muster up the ol’ glam courage. But no amounts of whiskey would ever recapture that unsung spirit.
The biggest hamartia of Screw It! is just how sexual it is. And you don’t have to tell me about how such a word is synonymous with hair metal. Scantily clad women, groupies, Steven Tyler, it’s all there, obviously. But Danger Danger’s sophomore release would make the Aerosmith frontman blush. Each track is taken up to 11 on the ‘sex-o-meter’, with Poley channelling his inner Bon Scott, apparently. It casts images of one randy schoolboy’s dreams, really – and not the tastefully playful tongue lashings of Vince Neil, or Bret Michaels. It doubles down on the innuendo until it’s an unmistakable mural slapped in front of your face in 1080p.
The record opens with ‘Ginger Snaps’, one of those one-minute introductions to albums now associated with rock and metal. This one, though, is pretty pointless. It sets up the tone of the album, at least; it’s just a full-minute of breathy moans and suggestive cries from an unidentified woman. It’s the first seven seconds of ‘Social Disease’ off Slippery When Wet, basically – and instantly dates the record.
‘Monkey Business’, Screw It!’s real opener, toes the line between playful and predatory in a song that echoes the band’s debut. It also packs an infectious chorus – if the rest of the album was like this, it’d be a certified classic. Alas…
‘Slipped Her the Big One’ is laughably over-the-top, pushing the boundaries with one of the worst lines ever put to CD; ‘It felt so good when she took me inside/ she fit me like a glove/ All the way around!’. It’s a decent rock track, at least. It’s successor, ‘C’est Loupe/Beat the Bullet’ is a generic piece; filler at best. It’s more than listenable, but in a record of fifteen tracks, far from memorable.
‘I Still Think About You’ does its best to capture the melodic highs of Danger Danger’s first album, and doesn’t do too bad a job. It remains a saving grace of the record, but far from ‘Don’t Walk Away’. Still, it makes a nice change from the norm thus far. The L.A. Guns approach to ‘Get Your Shit Together’ helps give the Queens boys a nice edge, with bombastic drums and heavy guitar. They fail to quell the sheer mediocrity of this track, though. I keep waiting for something bigger than what I’m getting (eyes front, Poley).
‘Crazy Nites’ is one of Screw It!’s better songs and would make for a great B-side from the band’s debut, but once again does little to carry the torch. It’s a shame given how much I love Danger Danger, but the dreaded second release from an artist is often dreaded for a reason. The catchy key change isn’t enough to entice me so. But it does showcase the band’s prowess when restrained.
‘Puppet Show’ is a neat little showcase of guitarist Andy Timmons, fading into the ether before kicking back like an electric mule with ‘Everybody Wants Some’. It’s woefully simple in its nature (‘My obsession runs deep’. No shit, Ted), but a solid rocker, nonetheless.
‘Don’t Blame It On Love’ is one of the most awesome glam tracks ever put to record. It combines the opening of .32 Special’s ‘Back Where You Belong’ with the blazing chorus of ‘Livin’ On A Prayer’. The track deals with that age-old problem of a lover not taking love seriously, and it roars. Why couldn’t the rest of the album be like this? I mean, really? It proves the band still had it. They just chose to write with their d**ks instead. And Aerosmith, Def Leppard and the Crue have proved time and time again that, hey, that works. Just not in this instance, tragically.
‘Comin’ Home’ is early noughties Jovi at their best, but early nineties glam at its most banal. It’s a nice gear shift in mood and displays the band in a more emotional light. But that’s about all there is to it. Sweet, but no real substance. ‘Horny S.O.B.’, on the other hand, speaks for itself. It’s diesel-burnin’ riffs and chants from the rest of the band make it a worthwhile standout, but not enough to leave any lasting effect. If you like Poley documenting his fantasies (‘One girl ain’t enough for me/ I think I’ll play with two/ Stack ’em up like pancakes/ flip ’em over when I’m through’), it may be for you. But not for me. The talkbox solo halfway through just seems a pitiful attempt to redeem itself. It’s an admission of defeat, really.
‘Find Your Way Back Home’ is a genuinely great ballad. It has passion, feeling, and a chorus up there with any of Danger Danger’s bigger counterparts. It’s just a great track. Then the band do a one-eighty and storm into ‘Yeah, You Want It!’. Screw It! is the music equivalent of Anakin Skywalker. There are glimpses of greatness; of real strength and tenacity. But it’s always fated to lose to the dark side in the end. This track is a stellar exampleof that, in that it’s complete detritus, ultimately.
I don’t even want to dissect it for the sake of audience amusement. It’s a Beastie Boys reject with more ‘Social Disease’, to the point of genuine discomfort. It has no place on the album; and disrupts the tone of the record much like a locomotive falling off the tracks and tumbling into a warehouse full of gunpowder. Which, in some ways, is how I wish the album’s master tapes were delivered. ‘Yeah, You Want It!’ namechecks the bigger players of the time; the likes of L.A. Guns, Poison and Enuff Z’Enuff, whilst thrusting a late ‘90s rave beat at you. Just no. You wish you were those bands, Danger Danger.
‘DFNS’ seems to be a group jamming session of ‘Get Your Shit Together’, and provides a funny, and fascinating, behind-the-scenes insight into the band. It’s also pretty catchy, even if just a vocal warm-up. It’s not a mega stadium closer by any stretch of the imagination, but means the record doesn’t close with, shudders, ‘Yeah, You Want It!’. So that’s something.
Sometimes I listen to Steel Panther and cringe at how over the top they are. They’re parodic, but no one ever went that far back in the day. Or so I thought. Then I heard this album, a record laden with prepubescent sleaze. It doubles down on the band’s debut in all the worst ways. It has its moments of real stadium rock; ‘Slipped Her the Big One’, ‘Everybody Wants Some’ and ‘Don’t Blame It On Love’ proving highlights, but little else. The lows are almost Tarturus-level. Def Lep, Aerosmith, Poison, Motley Crue, they all pushed the boundaries. But Ted Poley and co. seem determined to, ahem, splurge their fantasies all over the radio.
Screw It! is such a downgrade from the band’s debut – it’s crumbs of unexpected maturity a hollow comfort – but also in how unmemorable it serves to be. Even the raunchiest of rockers prove forgettable in my mind; barely ten minutes on from finishing it. Whereas Danger Danger is an enduring hair metal record, Screw It! is just the opposite, quite rightly forgotten from mankind. I only pray it’s never found again.