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Made a crummy summer of '84 much cooler - 94%

Gutterscream, July 1st, 2017
Written based on this version: 1984, 12" vinyl, Atlantic Records

“…welcome to the abandoned land, come on in child, take my hand…”

How better to reward kids after months of being classroom fixtures than with a few summer months of freedom? Still, it’s a too-short stretch of time that soars by much faster than the one school manages to slow to a crawl, and it usually feels as though there’s barely time to burn that stolen yearbook page by page before ‘back to school’ sales deflate spirits and litter the psyche of every kid in town, but taken day by day I find these months can be as liberating as they’re meant to be. This prediction remains unchanged even as I survive my dreaded freshman year of high school, notoriously one of the institution’s bumpier chapters, and while initially arriving to the fanfare of trumpets, this summer’s vacation instead has rambled on a little worse for wear with each passing week.

Usually scraping the browning edges off most things shit-stained is the six or seven hours school sucks from my weekdays that I can joyfully redirect to my trusty Fisher dual-cassette boom box that I wear like a prosthetic limb. Y’see, having my music readily available makes any soggy occasion I’m facing a little crunchier, whether I’m washing my 'ol man’s pick-up in the driveway with Metal on Metal fanning it dry with top volume soundwaves or stuck in some shoe store not as passionately bored as I should be ‘cos Headhunter’s freeing my head and everything in it from the joint (I have a lifesaving Sony Walkman for these latter occasions).

Lick It Up, Welcome to Hell, Mob Rules, Bark at the Moon, Apocalyptic Raids, Defenders of the Faith, Shout at the Devil, Show No Mercy, You Can’t Stop Rock ‘n’ Roll, Balls to the Wall, Screaming for Vengeance, Piece of Mind, Pyromania, Flick of the Switch, The Last in Line and even 1984 succeed only so well in polishing this turd of a summer. Then some time in July comes a super summer savior with a familiar feral mass of blonde poodle curls and brandishing a fresh rag monogrammed “TS”.

“…and like a siren’s call he’s gonna have his way…”

Turns out to be a ten tune tiger ordered to Stay Hungry by the same unruly gents who I’m glad couldn’t stop rock ‘n’ roll last summer. Unless recording tape-to-tape, I can’t remember it not being nestled in one of the two cassettes players for the rest of the summer. Next thing I know it’s vacation’s last stagnant days. I sit at the edge of my driveway for some reason stalked by “The Beast” and with the impending dismay of a fresh school year menacing my mind, and I actually find myself hoping Stay Hungry can somehow get me out of going back to school. Search me and my fourteen year old logic, but that’s the disillusioned level of influence and even respect that the Sista's career break-out album had on me.

Two album copies, a cd, IPod, at least a pair of worn out cassettes and 30+ years later, some form of Stay Hungry usually isn’t far from reach, and while Under the Blade is technically heavier by better shunning most outright commercialism and You Can’t Stop Rock ‘n’ Roll plays less intricate, yet more down to earth games with its songcraft, Stay Hungry out-eats both projects’ catchiness, creativity, confidence, song-by-song diversity, disposal of filler and even probably song placement.

Now, the passing TS glancer isn’t immune to assuming most or all of this lp’s fanfare comes from the now often despised and usually clicked past single “We’re Not Gonna Take It”. For the countless kids who had to be physically unglued from spaced-out hours of MTV monitoring, this particular stand-out (and of course its video) becomes a deal breaker or deal maker that’d fracture and send pieces of opinion flying in at least two directions.

“…are your dreams and desires riding down an open road?

Here’s one. Imagine some card-carrying S.M.F. – Harvey’s his name – flips his car’s radio dial to his reliable station of choice and is confronted with the happily poppy, faux bad boyz slam-yer-fists-hard-on-the-table-in-disgust-messaged “We’re Not Gonna Take It”. What’s this, new Slade? Nope, but for a fan recognizing The Twisted Ones’ sonic benchmarks doesn’t require much effort, and at this point Harvey can do little but soak his head in this known cool band’s new anthem apparently straight from their freshly-pressed follow-up to YCSRnR he’s been fixin’ to pick up. Already he’s glanced at his radio with disgust about six times. Holy christ, is that an Ojeda solo? What’d he do, hit his head? Furthermore, Harvey’s critical thinking kicks in and becomes pretty positive this new teeny-bopped single will be gunking up airwaves that are usually attuned to his musical tastes. Then the revelation hits – what if this…direction...stinks up the whole album? Betcha Harvey’s overjoyed with that prospect. Then he gets home in time to find a skid of over-amused twelve year olds glued to a television set where the song’s very own Kidco-rated video is playing.

Moi? Damn right I found the video funny…the father drooling on himself during his own tirade, the kid’s absolutely alien air guitar timing to what’s playing on his stereo, the five of ‘em squashed and singing outta the second story window, the door gag. Then again, for me Gilligan’s Island was and remains a half-hour hilarity-fest. But even my at-the-time dumb kid brain knew the video to be ingenious promotion, marketing and exposure. Yep, you heard right folks, the secret’s finally out. Feel free to die in the peace I’ve revealed. Seriously though, the mirroring of National Lampoon’s Animal House (which was still six years fresh at the time) and welcome reappearance of damn good sport Mark Metcalf and his Neidermeyer-like antagonism could actually win Harvey the annoyed motorist over (more so than the song itself could, I’ll bet), at least until he’s molested by good ‘ol “I Wanna Rock”, the grower of similar roots which plants itself as resident back-up anthem (along with a video with even sillier Metcalf abuse). Maybe we’ll come back to this. Maybe not.

“…if you don’t have what it takes, don’t try to play, you’ll lose your stakes…”

With any luck, Harv’s enough of a stalwart fan to ignore Gay Song 1 and A Tad Less Gay Song 2, thinks Dee about to gnaw on his bone is par for their course and decides to pick the record up anyway, or better yet, a heroic friend of his snags it first and together they take Stay Hungry for its first car ride in the 'ol Sanyo tapedeck. Now, who thinks it’s coincidence the cassette’s infectious first and title track is placed in a position where it can successfully assure Harvey and his buddy Cecil that the Sistas' pantyhose aren’t cutting off oxygen to their brains, or at least no amount out of the ordinary. ‘Cos “Stay Hungry” is nearly faultless in its placement at the album's start, for all it needs is its natural and seamless urgency to galvanize new listeners into foraging deeper into the album’s buffet.

Also not a coincidence is “We’re Not Gonna Take It” hammered between two of the disc’s strongest protagonists. “Burn in Hell” is, for untold Twisters high and low, Stay Hungry’s final boss and holder of the title, consciously slow to stir across its own coolly-doomed, yet deceptive landscape while simultaneously preparing its true bestial nature for the ultra-unpredicted pounce into Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure and every single sit-up-in-yer-seat-suspiciously-yet-abruptly-with-a-half-incredulous-smile/half-surprised look caused by it (including Snider’s comically confused one in the shot). I know I’ll always cherish that scarce instance when life didn’t blow for like eight seconds.

“…make yourselves comfortable, my place is so divine…”

The previous track’s forsaken atmosphere continues in part of “Horror-teria”, known more charmingly as “Captain Howdy”, and allows him the decadently comfortable living he’s accustomed to. Similar to, yet more ominously threatening than “Burn in Hell”, “Captain Howdy” successfully creeps along the edge of taste; its filmy ambiance and dark insinuation are mysteries to no one, yet each is necessary to justify championing the questionable gallantry of the more pipe-hardened, often impertinent and still naïve “Street Justice”, the slightly younger and less crafty sibling of the Captain. However, unbeknownst to Howdy, “Street Justice” is also “Horror-teria”’s preventative measure built specifically to end the destructive cycle Howdy has wrought with his heinous activities, even while “Horror-teria” is responsible for bringing both into existence and paternally keeps its firstborn safe from the righteous punishment of the second. In other words, these two songs falling under the single main umbrella of "Horror-teria" actually makes them individually stronger by showcasing the two as connecting parts of the same story, like cause and effect or crime and punishment. Any of that make sense?

The flip side’s northern reaches boast a much bluer sky, cordial habitat, and an atmosphere that's the opposite of side one’s grim-eyed southern turmoil of family rivalries, corrupt conflicts of interest, and third degree hellfire that for some of the more innocent bystanders has thickened up a little too much like tar in one area. The upkeep is the responsibility of sacred song runner-up “I Wanna Rock”, the disc’s second biggest chart hopper that actually cleaned up better on the smaller record charts of Norway, New Zealand, and South Africa than the larger UK and US ones, yet it wouldn’t see its name in lights until a single is released for it in October.

Slightly lower (and slower) in the sky is where the song with the targeted mainstream bare two-step gives way to one that probably took three times as long to write and would become TS’s second full-lengther power ballad and a-side of the lp’s third single. By a pretty wide margin “The Price” is Stay Hungry’s sole plateau of reason, not (only) for its obvious puff characteristics, but for fleeing from the predictable love-jumps-off-cliff theme, and whereas on YCSRnR, “You’re Not Alone (Suzette’s Song)” finds kinda close tactical company in unruffled “I Am (I’m Me)”, “The Price” has no recognizable ally. I personally think each is as good as the other.

Usually untalked about “Don’t Let Me Down” and “The Beast”, like the parts of “Horror-teria”, are day and night without the family quarrel. Easily more excitable is the former, placed here to awaken waters calmed by “The Price” and serves a similar purpose to Ozzy’s “Slow Down” on the previous year's Bark at the Moon. Hmph, well now that I lured BATM outta the woods, in a landscape less seedy than “Captain Howdy” and less biblically black than the slower preface of “Burn in Hell”, “The Beast” senses this other predator (distinguishable by ‘Ozzy’ written across its left paw), marks its territory and prowls with an intent that’s as purposefully ominous as it is natural of animal instinct, yet its strike-point chorus can lean either way.

“…don’t be side tracked or shunted, let pretenders feel your bite…”

Finally, “S.M.F.” is the album-ending (and often show-ending) philosophical credo for which their droves of fans adhere (or vice-versa, I dunno), shortened and edited from endearing ‘sick motherfuckers’, and as a billboard for band/fan homage is likely the most fitting to finale this gatecrash to success. I, however, opine the title track could’ve easily staked a claim here at the back gate as it charges to the attack, its fervent chorus becoming a peripherally heroic farewell and whose clarion call against placation, dispirit and defeat is the album’s final declaration to fans. Funny enough, finding an alternate spot for “S.M.F” is a challenge.

Saying things weren’t too rosy behind the scenes is quite an understatement. Bob Ezrin (Alice Cooper, Pink Floyd, Kiss) and Roy Thomas Baker (Queen), the Sistas’ first choices to produce, are superseded by bill-paying Atlantic’s call to Tom Werman, who’s been accused of phoned-in ethics whose workload flows over to engineer Geoff ‘well, I’ve the right name for it’ Workman, but supposedly neither were too interested in the band’s wishes or suggestions. Other stories surfaced when French, Mendoza and Snider re-recorded the album in ‘04 as Still Hungry, detailing anything from the record’s overall thin and glossy sound they hate, to who forced who to work with whom, to failed persuasions to trash some of the originals and replace ‘em with covers like Saxon’s “Princess of the Night” and “Strong Arm of the Law”. Then there’s the mysterious quashing of “We’re Not Gonna Take It” advanced radio/DJ promos being mailed out in the UK and the record eventually performing much lousier than in other places, and the feel-good finale of Atlantic’s US label boss Doug Morris calling the act “the worst fucking piece of shit in the world”, but naturally that was before the album sold and made millions.

Heat from pre-ignited internal fires also rose steadily, fanned by Snider receiving the lion’s share of exposure as evidenced on the front cover, which was actually supposed to be (a derivative of) the back cover, then Mendoza actually admitting on VH1 to wanting Snider dead…it’s amazing Come Out And Play got to the friggin' sandbox.

“…but I’m so sad the party’s over and we can no longer play…”

It’s no surprise some of the band’s former intrinsic elements had to be sacrificed for the possibility of Stay Hungry to achieve this level of success. Their former acceptable commercial spectrum widened to fit new approval needs. A lot of the hard-fought seriousness accrued from their previous slabs is sabotaged by cartoony main singles and sleeve, and with this maiming of seriousness comes an unraveling of some of the act’s intrigue. However, while it seems clear the hit writers’ drawing board suffered nicely under this album’s arm sweat, Snider claims to have written the chorus hook for “We’re Not Gonna Take It” way back in ’80, so it’s possible as much wasn’t given up as it appears.

Obligatory closing assertion: Stay Hungry is of course the initial mega-spark of Twisted Sister’s future short term, stadium-lit existence oh so many performers would kill for. It’s short term ‘cos by ’87 they’d rather be in the same room with a hungry yeti than each other. But for awhile and at the very least, the Sistas, after plugging away in the industry since the early/mid ‘70s, wouldn’t and couldn’t be treated as second or third stringers begrudgingly content with free beer and maybe an order of chicken fingers at the end of the night.

A special shout out goes to my poor next door neighbors, wherever they are, married German and Panamanian immigrants who no doubt wished for my tape player’s batteries to eternally run dry or leak like a macaroni strainer all of the place, but the thing took something like thirty-nine D-cells, and grow on trees they didn’t, so screw ‘em.

Hit factor and chart tackler: The Billboard 200 (15), the UK Albums Chart (34), the RPM100 Canadian Chart (6), Swedish Sverigetopplistan Album Chart (3), New Zealand Album Chart (11), Norwegian VG-lista Album Chart (10), and the German GfK Entertainment Chart (48).

Fun Fact k95fg: the title track is dedicated to and inspired by Arnold Schwarzenegger’s ’76 film Stay Hungry, who also used “We’re Not Gonna Take It” during his campaign en route to governor of California.

Fun Fact \d2a8: MTV hated the video for “We’re Not Gonna Take It” ‘cos of its unusually long non-musical intro. They cried tears of joy after it became more popular than breathing.

“…how long I have wanted this dream to come true…”

Well, I took it. - 100%

raspberrysoda, May 2nd, 2016

This is one of the best American heavy metal albums of the 80's, and of all time as well. Twister Sister have shifted their sound from straightforward heavy metal to a more commercial one, with keeping the heavy metal attributes and overall quality of their previous albums.

The cover may be misinterpreted by many, as it shows the lead singer, Dee Snyder, covered in makeup which immediately bring glam metal to mind, and glam metal has given the impression of low-quality musicianship and a ton of cheese. Although the latter is more than right, the talent here is heard in any aspect. All of the riffs here are memorable, and aren't overused or underused (a thing that is heard throughout many albums of that time) which makes them a key driving force in the album. They feature very simple chord structures that were made to be catchy and heavy in the same time that will leave you headbanging for months. The vocals are all over the album as well, with Dee Snyder doing a superior job with delivering them. They have the classic glam metal poppiness to them, but are also badass and emotional as hell- which makes them sound very natural (can you read that, Discharge?) and fitting.

The songs are very chorus driven, which doesn't damage the songs themselves, because the verses and the choruses here are some of the catchiest in the whole genre (and if you haven't sang along to We're Not Gonna Take It or I Wanna Rock you immediately lose all of your credibility, because what normal person hasn't done that before?). They are perfectly structured and give space for all of the instruments and Dee to show how badass this album is in terms of musicianship and catchiness. There's even a semi-epic in the album, Horror-Teria...., which is a really great experimental song compared to the rest of the album and features really great riff and solo sections. (And did I mention that the title track is really similar to Riot's Fire Down Under?) All of the songs here are superior in every term, with most of them being really anthemic and well-known and liked by non-metal fans (thanks a lot- Donald Trump and Spongebob Squarepants). Even the power ballad of Stay Hungry (which is a really surprising fact for the fact of having only one ballad in the album), The Price, is really great and doesn't deliver a synthetic and a forced feeling to it.

A very notable point of the album is the production. It doesn't feature the typical hair metal production which focuses on the vocals, but instead, emphasizes the guitars more which gives a more heavy metal feeling to the album. The drums and the bass aren't left behind are are equalized perfectly. The lyrics are notable too, for having some typical glammy "sex, drugs, and rock'n'roll" parts along with having really epic sections as well:

"The mob assembled, smoke filled the air
And marched in anger to do what's fair
To bring to justice this souless thing
And show the others what evil brings
Now before you shake your head, think if it was your child instead"
(Street Justice)

Overall, this is a classic album in all terms and is a must-listen for every rock and metal fan ever. Mandatory.

Hungry for some cheese? - 91%

Brainded Binky, December 23rd, 2014

Ah, Twisted Sister; you outrageously goofy and pompous, yet hilariously and charmingly entertaining explosion of a band. You're more than what they call "glam metal", you're one of those bands that has the trappings of a glam band, but is actually fun to listen to due to your redeeming qualities. Gruff and abrasive vocals, lyrics that relate to things other than love or sex, and a general knowledge that your appearance is not to be taken too seriously (as many glam fans have, unfortunately). Although "Stay Hungry" was the album that put Twisted Sister on the map (and rustled the feathers of some prudish politicians), it's an excellent example of the band's potential, and you don't have to take them so seriously to enjoy them.

Even though the band members' looks are utterly ridiculous to the nth degree, some of the lyrical themes can be more serious. The band's ballad, "The Price", rather than go for the go-to standard of love or breakups, has a lyrical theme of life and the hardships that come with it. It's a more serious ballad, rather than some insipid puppy love song that Bon Jovi would come up with, and that makes it one of the only (if not the only) power ballad that's actually worth listening to. The only reason why it's not as goofy as the other ones is 'cos it's a ballad, therefore it's somewhat easier to relate to some people, as it is more down-to-earth. We also get the theme of horror, like in "Horror-Teria: The Beginning (A) Captain Howdy, B) Street Justice)". There, the "Captain Howdy" part plays out like a cautionary tale about stranger danger and serial killers. There's also "The Beast", which is about, well, a beast. Or, not just any beast, but a terrifying beast ready to eat you right up. The lyrics are actually just as goofy as the band's looks, making it fun to listen to, as opposed to "The Price", ironically the most serious thing ever to be written by a band known for their singer putting at least 2 inches of makeup on his face.

What makes Twisted Sister more fun is the sheer cheesiness of some of the songs. Sure, the all-time classic hit "We're Not Gonna Take It" has the same melody in both the verse and the chorus (and even the solo), but the goofy lyrics related to rebellion are so over-the-top and hilarious, that the song is actually fun to listen to. It's like watching a movie with lousy special effects that's so bad, you can't help but laugh at it. That's kind of what we're hearing here. Don't forget the music videos in which the teacher/dad gets humiliation conga either from the band, or from his futile attempts to get rid of them, but I feel that the songs speak for themselves already. Of course they're hilarious, but the music itself is enough to put a smile on my face. It's not just the classics that fall into the camp category, either, there's also "Burn in Hell". The lyrics sound a little religious, but come on, this is Twisted Sister we're talkin' here. The lyrics are just so overdone and laughable, that it's really hard to take them seriously. How can you hear such lyrics as "There's just five words to say as you go down, down, down; you're gonna burn in hell" and keep a straight face? It's almost impossible to do!

There's actually other factors that make Twisted Sister stand out from the typical "hair metal" band, and that's mainly due to the voice of the band member that looks the most ridiculous, Dee Snider himself. If you see someone with makeup, hair and outfit that would make Nikki Sixx look like Cliff Burton, you'd imagine him to have a ridiculously annoying voice, like that of Vince Niel or Mark Slaughter (don't Google him, seriously). That's not the case here. Dee has a more gruff and growling voice that carries the swagger (and the hilariousness) of the music's subject matter. His vocal delivery in "The Beast" in particular, consists of this low and tough-sounding power, suggesting the ferocity and the toughness of the titular beast and the futility of facing it. The title track is also a bit of a surprise, since it's really fast-paced and aggressive. I'm not kidding, either. The song actually has a more rapid tempo that is not normally found on typical glam metal songs. It's got kind of a sing-along chorus, there's that, but man, do you think White Lion would use a song of that tempo, one that would normally make them dive under their beds crying with their mascara running in fear? I don't think so!

They've got some insanely dumb looks, they've got some insanely dumb lyrics, and they've got some songs which can also be categorized as insanely dumb, but that's what makes Twisted Sister awesome. Let me put it this way, listening to them is like watching Nicolas Cage's acting in a movie. It's just so over-the-top, it's just so corny and comical, you can't help but smile. In fact, I think that's the reason why they got popular in the first place. It's not 'cos of the fact that they wrote catchy music, it's 'cos of the fact that they wrote catchy music that's so overdone, it's actually good. Of course, it would be this album that would land Dee Snider against the infamous PMRC, who pick these guys whose lyrics are actually tame, while giving the more usual suspects like Slayer a free pass. It would also land the band into superstardom, and thus the Atlantic Records wanting them to release more "wholesome" material, like the much-abhorred "Love is for Suckers" album.

An eighties milestone - 99%

morbert, March 6th, 2008

Twisted Sister are legends. And this is not without reason. Had it only been because of their outfits, bands like Stryper or Tigertailz would have gotten just as big but they didn’t. So besides the image there must have been something about their music as well. And indeed there is.

We’re talking here about the ultimate Twister Sister album. The album which combined all styles the band ever stood for. Up tempo metal songs, a ballad, sleazy sing-a-longs, pounders, fistbangers. Everything is here and not even Manowar have come this close to releasing an album so complete with everything eighties rock.

For the metal minded people we have the up tempo opener and title track “Stay Hungry” which has a great vocal performance by Dee Snider and a memorable catchy yet non-cheesy chorus. Another true metal highlight is the song “Burn In Hell” which combines up tempo metal with a great eerie doomy intro. The fast song “Don’t Let Me Down” is a simple song but the melodies and vocal lines make it more than memorable and the song has a certain beauty to it.

The two classic hard rocking sing-a-longs “We're Not Gonna Take It” and “I Wanna Rock” did not only have the most ultimate rock videos from the eighties but in fact are also two of the best rocking songs from the eighties. Once you’ve heard them, you will never forget them.

“The Beast” is a slow pounding song and once again extremely catchy (especially the massive chorus riff). “SMF” is a great tribute to their die-hard fan base and the epic “Captain Howdy/Street Justice” features some nice creepy lyrics. Furthermore I must of course mention the ballad “The Price” which I’ve always liked. Dee Snider’s performance is really outstanding here, preventing the song from getting too cheesy.

There is absolutely nothing for me to complain concerning “Stay Hungry”. It represents the best of Twister Sister and is a milestone in eighties history combining metal and rock so perfectly. Since there can never be ‘the’ perfect album and I consider this ‘a’ perfect album I will of course honour it by giving 99 points.