The Best of Poison: 20 Years of Rock Label: Capitol
Every rose has its thorn, and every musical genre has its poseurs.
If Motley Crue were the industry standard for what hair metal should be…and they were, if you were uncertain…then Poison were the little brothers who said, “Oooh, oooh, I wanna do that, too!” Bret Michaels, unfortunately, was no Vince Neil, and C.C. DeVille was in no way Mick Mars. While Motley Crue was busy shouting at the devil, Poison were at the drive-in in their old man’s Ford; both bands were wearing make-up, but while the Crue applied theirs viciously, as if it were Indian war paint, you secretly suspected that Poison had their very own Mary Kay representative traveling on tour with them.
Okay, maybe that last one might’ve stung a bit too much for fair play…so let’s substitute this one, instead. When it came to choosing covers, the Crue brought Brownsville Station into the ‘80s with “Smokin’ in the Boys Room.” And what did Poison offer up…? Loggins and Messina. God bless Kenny Loggins and Jim Messina, but they ain’t generally cited as an influence of too many hard rockers. On this ultimately unnecessary best of – the 10th anniversary collection summarized the group’s output quite sufficiently, thanks, especially since they haven’t managed any additional hits since then – the band offers two additional covers: an incredibly pallid version of Kiss’s “Rock and Roll All Nite” (recorded for the soundtrack to “Less than Zero”), which is made more laughable by Michaels’ desire to fill silences by either going “woo!” or ad-libbing (“Come on, boys! Kick it!!!”), and a newly-recorded take on Grand Funk Railroad’s “(We’re an) American Band.” The latter, produced by Don Was, may be the band’s attempt to paint themselves as elder statesmen of ‘80s rock, but it comes far closer to further securing their position as dinosaurs of a bygone era.
There’s no question that, in their heyday, Poison produced some truly great bubblegum metal. Their debut single, “Talk Dirty to Me,” may have left them without metal credibility from the moment they left the starting gate due to its utter disposability, but, ironically, it’s also the song of theirs that’s had the most staying power…well, barring one other track. That track, of course, is the song that’s burned out almost – but not quite – as many lighters as “Home Sweet Home” (yep, once again, the Crue got there first): “Every Rose Has Its Thorn.” “Fallen Angel” is still screaming to be covered by a power-pop band, and even the terribly-titled “Unskinny Bop” has a great riff. But when the band briefly brought axeman Ritchie Kotzen into the line-up and tried to get serious, it was a serious misstep, as were attempts to rewrite earlier hits. (“Shooting Star” is such an obvious lyrical flip-flop of “Fallen Angel” that it’s laughable.)
You can see why proper headbangers loathed these guys with a passion; anyone who thought Poison were heavy metal were clearly suffering from an overdose of hairspray. They’re a fun pop-rock band and their live shows are still a blast, but that’s about as far as it goes. There’s nothing wrong with this collection as a summary of their career, but it’s not really any better than its predecessor. Unless you’re a Poison completist…and, boy, is that animal an endangered species…you can probably save your money ‘til Bret Michaels puts out another country album.