Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Album Review: Sweden's Pretty Wild Keeps The Hair Metal Flame Burning In 2014 With New, Self-Titled Album

Do you still listen to your old Firehouse, Trixter, and Slaughter CD's from back in the day?  Do you wish Steel Panther could be serious for just one album because you like the music but you don't want to feel like listening to it would make you the butt of what might be a joke?

If so, you are squarely in the target market of new-ish hair metal band, Pretty Wild.  That Swedish quartet are out to earn your love with their new, self-titled album.

While their promo photos showcase the boys' shameless use (abuse?) of eyeliner, hairspray, and pleather apparel, if there was any doubt that Pretty Wild is a hair metal band, that question is answered positively less than a minute into the album as singer Ivan Ivve Höglund hits a junk-squeezed, super-high scream in in the intro of "Are U Ready."  It's been a while since males sang soprano in rock bands, making it immediately clear that Pretty Wild isn't about becoming the next regurgitation of Nickelback.

If you're a hair metal connoisseur, you might find yourself trying to figure out which glam-throat Höglund sounds like.  His voice is quite...familiar.  Pete Loran (Trixter)? C.J. Snare (Firehouse)? Nathan Utz (Blonz)? Michael Sweet (Stryper)? Mark Slaughter (Slaughter)? Vince Neil (Motley Crue)?

Maybe a little of each of those, but not any one of them in particular for very long.  I thought it had to be a someone from that era, though, as the opening tunes on the album stay firmly in the 1990 sound. 

However, once the album hit the synth-driven ballad "All I Want," I started hearing hints of Lit's A. Jay Popoff and Girl On Fire's Austin Held.  Perhaps it was the tune's use of more modern production than those that preceded it that pointed me in that sonic direction.  That being said, unlike Popoff and Held, Höglund isn't shy about using the tippy-top of the male voice's upper register rather frequently.  And proficiently.  The guy has some serious pipes!

Though the familiarity of the sound can keep a devoted fan of the genre engaged, it can also make someone so comfortable that they don't listen as closely as they would to something more...odd.  However, if ADD was kicking in at any point during the album, Pretty Wild snapped me back to attention with "High Enough."  Though the beginning of the chorus is more than a little close to the Damn Yankees' song of the same name, it is undeniably catchy - catchy enough to have been a radio hit in the hair metal heyday and catchy enough to be considered respectable in 2014.

Though a staple in the late '80's, it's been a while since the word "sleazy" was commonplace in the chorus of a song.  But that's exactly the card Pretty Wild plays in "Hold On," singing "Hold on, love is never easy/She makes me feel so sleazy/And I don't really know just why I like it so much."

Pretty Wild saves their best for last as the song "Pretty Wild" closes the album.  It's a groover with big echo-ey gang vocals and a riff that would surely compel any self-respecting 80's-era stripper to unbutton her mom jeans and shake her booty the way they did before twerking became the buttshake du jour.

If you're looking for a hair metal band that has evolved into a more modern sound, you won't find it here.  But then again, most of the genre's original pioneers have failed miserably at such an evolution.  However, if you wish that beer guts, deeper voices, and Nirvana didn't spell the de facto end of the careers of the artists that made the music that blared from pop and rock radio stations alike in 1990, then Pretty Wild will be as comfortable for you as stonewashed jeans were to the kids in the front row for the Dr. Feelgood tour.

# of Facebook page "Likes" for Pretty Wild at the time of this writing:  2,517.

Helping Hands Rock Reviews prides itself on discovering great bands just before they break.  We record the number of Facebook Likes to watch our favorite artists grow and to track how far we are ahead of the curve.