Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Another musical observation

Here's something else I found in my misfit CD bin.

That's Steelheart, another short-lived glam metal band. And this, their first and self-titled album, is from 1990. Though they are in the same time period and classification of music as Shark Island, I actually enjoyed Steelheart much more. Still do, as a matter of fact. Sure, their sound is typical late 80s/early 90s hair-band fare, kind of schmatlzy and close to corny, but it has a bit of a hard edge to it, too. And, after listening to this album again, I found myself thinking this belongs in the close-at-hand rack, not the misfit bin.

And I got this free! I know this for sure because of that hole in the lower right corner of the cover. That means this copy was a radio promo, and I probably got it at some club event, though I don't remember when or where.

But, on to my observation. A hallmark of hair bands from the time (besides the hair, of course) is the flashy wardrobes. The duds were sometimes simple and sometimes complicated, but they always carried an air of exaggerated style, marked glitz, and careful selection, and you got the sense that each outfit was as carefully planned as a costume.

Witness Steelheart:

Knowing how carefully such artists put together their performance gear, it struck me as a little odd to see this ring prominently displayed on the finger of the guy on the left.

That's drummer John Fowler, and he was sending some kind of message with that ring, but I don't know what it is. Generally music in the Western world is characterized by its expressive nature, and with rock music many times rebellion or subversion serves as a theme. And the Soviet Union was hardly the bastion of musical expression beyond what was sanctioned by the establishment. It seems odd that any rocker from America would actually support the Soviet ideal of officially-approved music.

So, I think Fowler had to have been one of two things back in 1990: He was either very naïve in thinking Soviet communism was a happy conduit of artistic values (though it would not surprise me a bit if he was a liberal, as many musicians are), or he was being wryly ironic in displaying the symbol of a system that, even then, was obviously well on its way toward collapse.

What do you think? Naïvete or irony? Should I belittle Fowler or give him credit for a subtle commentary on global politics?

While you discuss it, I think I will put this CD in the drive and take myself back twenty years.

ADDED: Well, guess what I found out? After looking at the back cover of the CD, I found out that this album's executive producer was none other than this guy:

That's right. Iron Maiden's Bruce Dickinson helped craft Steelheart's sound. No wonder I like them better than Shark Island.

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