Nah, I didn’t think so.
Longtime reader “troutking” was kind enough to share a Rolling Stone article breaking down the “Best Hair Metal Albums” of a long-gone era, which is to say the hair and glam metal days of the mid- to late 1980s.
What happened? Has any section of music suffered more from hair loss than hair metal? Some “Incredible Shrinking Woman” toxic combination of Axl and Kurt, Grunge and reality, blew the hair metal train to hell and back.
Sure, the most notable songs of the era are still a part of our lives. In fact, hair metal and some of its poppier offshoots continue to populate a hefty portion of karaoke lists and New Orleans cover band setlists, mostly because these are the kinds of bars populated by idiots my age who forgot to grow up and sophisticate themselves (I include myself in this).
In short, we love reminiscing with the occasional hair metal hit, but nobody outside of biker bars or some Wooderson-type character from "Dazed and Confused" are scratching and clawing for it to make a comeback.
My recent understanding is that late ‘80s hair metal was run much the same way current country music is run, the way most of our collective pop music culture is run throughout history. The story of Alice Cooper's album "Trash," 17 years after he peaked with "School's Out" but remained beloved and busy, is the story of man who invented a hefty portion of what we connect with "heavy metal" looks and stage acts, hiring bigtime producer/songwriter Desmond Child to make Cooper relevant again. And it worked pretty darn well. Because that trick worked a lot back then and even today. Highly controlled by music producers and secret songwriters, far more about image and A&R than about the band or their aim.
Enuff Z’Nuff is the band who got swallowed by the machine in the last gasp days of the genre. They’re like that last brilliant smartphone before people started using chip implants in their skulls. (Except hair metal was never described by anyone ever as “brilliant.”)
In 1989, their eponymous debut album arrived with a surprising level of critical applause and a single that wanted desperately to be loved on MTV… but they never quite broke through, which appealed to my love of outsiders. I bought it in a discount bin in 1990, and then I bought their follow-up album, “Strength,” a year later.
What’s painfully obvious in hindsight is that Enuff is cut straight from the Beatles/Big Star/Cheap Trick mold. Mostly Cheap Trick. Except they signed at the worst time, and producers forced their power pop square into the round hole of hair metal.
I enjoyed “Strength” more because, while still polished and produced with thick layers of varnish, at least gets past an obsession with out-of-nowhere guitar solos and into the vibe of Cheap Trick v. 2.0.
Should you go hunting for “Strength” so you, too, can experience the brilliance that was Enuff Z’Nuff at their finest? Meh. Probably not. They were never a band that was gonna change your world. They were just really good with a hook and a riff. In 1989.
But Spotify doesn’t have it. Just a few songs pushed over to a Greatest Hits. Instead I’ve included a link to some of the songs from “Strength” currently available on YouTube, in my own order of quality from better to not so better (but still generally better than most of the crap coming from this genre in the late ‘80s):
- Baby Loves You
- Blue Island
- Mother’s Eyes
- Holly Would Ya
- Time to Let You Go
- The World is a Gutter
- The Way Home/Coming Home
- Missing You
- The In Crowd
The music isn't enough to grow your hair back. Once it's lost, no amount of Rogaine can bring back what was never meant to remain on your head.