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All clean and sober (allegedly) the Crue returned to the studio along with infamous producer Bob Rock and came out with this. It’s still a mass of overproduced fluff but a bit more aggressive this time and is still plain “glam” rockin’ fun. Bob gave them a big sound alright, but his production helped mask the more hard-arsed direction some songs took that could have been allowed to breathe more. When Mick Mars rips out one of his no-nonsense, straight for the throat solos it kind of gets itself buried more than it should, and nowhere is this more evident than the title track.
The intro (Terror N’ Tinseltown), is a menagerie of dark runs on the guitar and sound effect that flows seamlessly into the megaton of rock n’ metal that follows through. The dynamic lead work gets lost underneath the foolproof riff the production so tries to keep on top, though.
Then there are the wholesome 80s bluesy hard rockers, “Slice of your Pie” and “Rattlesnake Shake” which are the fruit of Crue’s ripened songwriting skills. There’s hardly a trace of metal to be found, but they still know how to pump out these memorable songs that don’t bow to predictability. They’re those that feel like they’re in the right place and doing the right job to push the album forward. Paired with the title track, “Kickstart my Heart” (or the “big hit”) is also tougher than most of the rest, but just hasn’t got strong enough foundations to make it really worthwhile. The chorus also tries a little too strenuously to provide bait for the listener. File this under filler with the hackneyed swagger of “She Goes Down”.
Power ballad enthusiasts rejoice! You get a double serving from this album. Both “Without You” and “Time for Change” are typical sounding 80s MTV wet dreams but still have that effect as only the crown princes of the power ballad can provide. Each is drawn along by their heartfelt acoustics and clean guitars with their slow beat and melodic solos, and each is built up adhering straight to a textbook method they themselves set down. Anytime past 1989 and these might have sounded like a last gasp for fame, but for the there and then you have some vital songs. Also notable is “Don’t Go Away Mad (Just Go Away)” which marries vibrant hard rocking fun to the intense power balladry coming out with a classy emotional song.
“Same Ol’ Situation (S.O.S.)” and “Sticky Sweet” aren’t either the best or the worst, they just sit there, wholly inoffensive rockers that sound fine but don’t really add much to the album. They still don’t quite merit the filler tag. The lyrics for the most part trump their overt sexuality around but end up really quite cliché and sugary as opposed to shocking. Fortunately they don’t really interfere with the kick ass-ness of a lot of the music. The 2003 remastered version comes with buckets of bonus tracks, highlighted by the demo version of “Dr. Feelgood” which rocks out in a way the album version was restricted from doing. Also included are demo versions of “Kickstart my Heart”, “Without You” and “Time for Change”, which are opposites to their studio counterparts as they stand here bereft of intense studio touching up. There’s also an unreleased track “I Get It For Free” and the video for “Kickstart my Heart”.
At its roots, this is typically standard 80s fare, but the boys knew what they had to do with it, and paced it well but dashing in the odd sections of obligatory filler. I don’t have a total hard on for this album, but it’s got some gorgeous moments.