REVIEW: Extreme II – Pornograffitti (1990)

EXTREME II – Pornograffitti (1990 A&M)

1990:  Everybody was buzzing about the sophomore album by Boston’s Extreme, and their stellar lead guitarist Nuno Bettencourt.  Extreme II: Pornograffitti (“A Funked Up Fairytale”) is one of the last great hair metal albums of the era.  It is chock full of diverse songs, great playing, great writing, and adventurous arrangements. Big kudos must of course go to Nuno whose guitar playing is at once tasteful and (pardon the pun) extreme.  Not to be outshone is lead vocalist Gary Cherone who was at his peak here.

EXTREME II_0007A loose (very loose) concept album, Extreme II commences with atmospheric rainfall, which introduces us to “Francis”: our protagonist and the kid on the front cover. The crashing licks of “Decadence Dance”, the first single, interrupts this moment.  Gary’s lyrics are witty and Nuno’s fingers nimble.  The song kills.

There is a wide swath of styles covered on Extreme II. Obviously funk is a big one (“Get the Funk Out” with a blazing horn section, “When I’m President”, the title track.)  Of course there are the landmark acoustic ballads “More Than Words”, “Song For Love” and “Hole Hearted”. The cool thing about this trio of singles is that all three ballads are different.  None of them share the same style as well.  “Hole Hearted” is more a campfire rock song than a ballad anyway.  While “More Than Words” is now considered the prototypical acoustic ballad, it must be remembered that when it came out, it was unlike most. It contains no drums and only one acoustic guitar. Gary Cherone’s vocals merge harmoniously with Nuno’s creating this lullaby effect.

Other interesting songs include the lounge tune, “When I First Kissed You”. I once read Nuno saying that his inspirations were Queen and Prince, artists who were fearless to include different styles on their albums. Meanwhile, “Flight of the Wounded Bumblebee” contains some of the greatest and fastest guitar soloing of any era. It doesn’t get much more diverse than this withoug losing coherance, but Extreme II holds together as a concept and an album.

The album is filled out with killer hard rockers: Songs like “Suzy Wants Her All-Day Sucker” and “He-Man Woman Hater” are some of the catchiest rock songs this side of Aerosmith, but are tricky enough to keep your interest peaked. By the time the album ends, you’ll be exhausted from rocking out so much, but you’ll still want to start over again from the beginning.  The album appears to be designed that way, since it closes with the same rain and thunder.

This is a must-own classic for any hard rock fan who likes it smart.

5/5 stars

Once you absorb this album, you have to pick up the following companion pieces:

1. The “More Than Words” and “Hole Hearted” singles, which contained different remixes of “More Than Words”, one being A Capella with congas.

2. The “Song For Love” single, the B-side of which was Extreme’s amazing cover of Queen’s “Love of my Life”. Incredible cover, which was designed to segue into “More Than Words”.  They did it this way when played live, as they did at the 1992 Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert.

3. The Guitars The Rule the World (the first one, not Vol 2).  This has a Nuno Bettencourt electric blues instrumental called “Bumble Bee (Crash Landing)”.  This is the second part to “Flight of the Wounded Bumble Bee”, which on the album was trimmed down to exclude the “Crash Landing” portion.   When I recently ripped this album to my computer, I used Audacity to recreate the original complete “Bumble Bee” track.  I dropped the file into the correct place on the album to create an “unedited” Pornograffitti experience.   It was kind of cool how it worked, segueing into “He-Man Woman Hater”.

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60 comments

  1. I was one of the people who discovered them via the video for “More Than Words.” I could tell right away that they weren’t a typical hair metal band, a genre I had no use for barring a few rare exceptions. Those harmonies were fantastic, so I bought the album and really liked it. There’s something about “Get The Funk Out” that bothers me, though. I think it has something to do with that title, which came across as amateurish (not sure what standard I was holding them to). I think I like the follow-up album even more, but it’s been so many years since I played either of them that I can’t remember specific songs just looking at the track listings. I’ll have to give them a spin soon.

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    1. Rich I really want to give the third album a solid in depth review. I love that album so much. It means a lot to me personally, plus it’s brilliant. These guys are so underrated it’s sad.

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  2. I remember seeing Decadance Dance on Headbanger’s Ball and thinking it sounded pretty interesting but when then showed Get The Funk Out a little later, I was completely blown away. I bought the album immediatley. This CD is a masterpiece and Extreme is one of the most underrated bands ever. I bought their debut a week after I laid my hands on this one and I believe that Three Sides To Every Story and Waiting For The Punchline are both awesome. And so is their reunion album Suadades De Rock

    But please, shouldn’t everybody just stop using the term “hair metal” already? There’s no such thing as hair metal. I really hate that term. That term is an ex post construction. Back in 1986 – 1992 or whatever year, that term was never used. So why now?

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    1. Truthfully I can’t wait to review the next two albums. I’m actually in a phase of “filling in the Extreme singles” that I am missing, which gives me a great excuse to do so.

      I have NOT heard Saudades. Have you reviewed it? See there are two versions out there with bonus tracks (European and Japanese I think?) and I am waiting on finding one of those instead of buying the domestic.

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  3. I had this on cassette (so hot!) back in the day. I loved it. No idea where that tape ever got to… now you make me wish I’d sought out the CD last weekend in Taranna.

    I had this one and the next one, III Sides. Loved ’em both. And I saw them on that tour, in London, ON. It went Sass Jordan, Extreme, Steve Miller Band and the headliner was Bryan Adams on his Waking Up The Neighbours tour. Sass was fun, Steve Miller was lucky fans knew the words (he was pretty out of it, methinks), and Bryan Adams was the big draw. But I have to say, Extreme was the best band on that stage that day. They blew everybody backwards. I remember Cherone stopping the security from hassling the kids down front, and then when they got to GTFO, he got right down and sang it at the back of the security guy’s head. So fun. Anyway, that was a stellar performance. That band was tight.

    Yep, now I want that CD. Dammit Mike, you’ve done it to me again.

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    1. So hot!

      That’s three who’ve said they loved III Sides. I guess I had better get on that review, huh? It’s such a massively important album.

      I don’t know if you remember this. The III Sides cassette version has a bonus track. (Of course I have it.) The bonus track was meant to be the last song on “Side II”. You know how Side II gets progressively darker as it goes on? “Don’t Leave Me All Alone” kind of fits that vibe, it’s really sad.

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        1. It is not on the CD. It didn’t fit for time reasons at the time. Nuno talked about re-releasing it as a 2 CD set if it was successful but needless to say it wasn’t successful enough. Funny that so many people have grown to love it.

          The III Sides singles had some excellent B-sides though dude. I can’t wait to share some of these songs.

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    2. Caught this tour in Winnipeg..totally agree with u Extreme put on a great live show. 3 Sides had not been released yet but Rest In Peace was out as the single and man there chops,backing vocals were spot on.
      In winnipeg the Deadbeat Honeymooners opened followed by Sass(drunk) followed by Extreme (class band) Steve Miller( good but why was Jet Airliner omitted?) and Adams( good show cut short by a electrical storm so all us dudes did not have to sit thru the Robin Hood track!) as far as Adams goes Keith Scott stole the show his playing was spot on …

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      1. So Deke how was Gary as a front man? With Van Halen I thought it was an awkward fit and he didn’t really match their visuals. Van Halen were about the ultra-cool frontman (either classic like Roth or surfer-stoner like Hagar), not this kind of gawky short-haired dude.

        Having said that I didn’t think he was a bad frontman, just not the right frontman for Van Halen, which is why I’m curious.

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        1. I’ll jump in before Deke gets a say and just say he was crazy, all over the stage and wailing like a banshee. Great fun! He sounded just like the record, too. Him and Nuno, man. Damn!

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        2. That is awesome. Way cool. In every interview, also seems like a humble, cool guy.

          I have a solo album from him, called Tribe of Judah. It didn’t really catch with me, but I still have it.

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        3. Yeah Cherone was a very entertaining frontman….his jerking the mic stand between his legs on some songs made some of the woman around us to comment about that style..hahaha..I thought these kids have never seen a Whitesnake video!
          Hahaha….
          But seriously they blazed thru there hr set…they opened with Its a Monster…..to give u a idea

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        4. Grade 10, highschool. Air band week. My buddy Rob Vuckovich gets up there doing Slow An’ Easy, and he’s Coverdale. And he does all the mike stand moves…and completely creeped out every girl in the cafeteria.

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        5. Gary is a great frontman, but as you said, he didn’t fit in Van Halen one bit, totally wrong. They should have gone with Mitch Malloy instead.
          But with Extreme he was awesome. He’s a somewhat limited singer, I think, but his voice still fits Extreme very well.

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        6. Mitch was very close. But what they REALLY should have done in 1996 is stick with David Lee Roth! All’s well that ends well though. Van Halen 3 still gets played fairly frequently in my house, it’s darker Halen and I like a lot of it.

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      2. Second time I saw Sass she was in her cups, methinks. That night she opened for Jeff Healey Band in a small town hockey rink. But that’s another story…

        I don’t recall what Steve Mille played or didn’t. He had so many hits, it felt like we heard them all. :)

        Adams must’ve fought his way across the country, technical issues. The night we saw them, they totally impressed me: the night grew quite cold as the sun went down, and in the middle of a song, Adams guitar went way out of tune. So the band just stopped and held it. A roadie ran out with a new guitar, Adams strapped in and bam the band went right back into the tune where they left off, as if they’d never stopped. That impressed the hell outta me, a well-oiled machine for sure. I never forgot that.

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  4. This was a great album ,just remember the thing that impressed me the most was the diverse style of different songs on this. They got slammed by the one hit yrs later but I still also like Waiting For The Punchline disc….Cynical F**k is a great track ???one of my fav Extreme songs….

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        1. Isaacanscop u will like Waiting …..they stripped the sound right down for that one..raw production….excellent songs though,
          Forgotten album …except for me and Mike cuz were Cynical F**ks!

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        2. Damn right! I discovered this one by working at the record store too. Put it in one night, played it once…didn’t like it…until the very end. That surprise song. Decided to buy it on cassette (for the car). Discovered the cassette did not HAVE the secret song. Bought the first used CD that came in. So effectively I bought it twice in about a month.

          As you can see, I have not changed much since 1995.

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        3. Mike, the fact that you haven’t changed your musical ways in all that time is exactly what keeps us coming back. You are the Man With The Knowledge, and The Collection To Back It Up. :)

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        4. That’s the danger that lurks here with Mike: you will be sent off on a mission to find/procure, by any means necessary, any hard rock/metal disc you may have ever owned/sold/filed away the minute he posts a review of some (shouldn’t have been) forgotten classic!!!

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        1. God only knows, it wasn’t so uptight back then, but my buddies were kind of embarrassed for him. And the stories circulated for years, “Remember the guy who masturbated his microphone stand? What song was that?” And I’d be the only one who knew the song because they only knew 1987.

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      1. Best one ever was SPINAL TAP – Stonehenge. This was grade 13, final year…we had fun with it. I provided the music and the guys on stage did a great job…one of the guys stole a stop sign and turned it into an air guitar.

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  5. Do you remember when Extreme was a featured artist on VH1’s Bands Reunited? Most of the bands on that show actually DID reunite, but Extreme was one of only two (Squeeze being the other) I remember who they couldn’t convince to reform. Ironically, both bands did get together on their own terms a few years later. The issue with Extreme came down to Nuno, who had no interest in getting back together…and he wouldn’t even allow the footage they shot of him to be used on the show. I thought that was kind of a lame move.

    A year or two ago, one of their reunion shows was on cable (on Palladia here in the US) and they kicked ass. I’ve never been terribly passionate about these guys, but I do like them a lot and I can see why they have such a devoted fanbase.

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        1. I think Rhianna was later on. However it might have been around the time he was in Satellite Party with Perry Ferrell.

          I believe the original drummer is now a successful manager.

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      1. Actually I like that Nuno solo album ..Gravity,Crave and Note On The Screen Door are good tracks his album reminded me of the diverse styles that he had adapted on the Extreme albums.
        Some of it sounded like demos which I liked no glitz!

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    1. That’s a great album. Too bad they were the biggest bandwagon jumpers this side of Warrant. Their second album was pure crap.

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      1. Heh heh. I just finished writing that review last night. The selling out aspect of it became so large that I had to break it out into a separate Record Store Tale. So you will see that coming. I won’t say I have any inside info on the second Sven Gali album…just a funny story from somebody who says he does :)

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  6. I was just thinking, if you’re into this kind of hard rock funk stuff, have you ever heard of Electric Boys?
    They’re from Sweden and Bob Rock produced the international (read US) version of their debut album Funk-o-Metal Carpet Ride. They reunited a couple of years ago and released a brilliant rock album. I have a feeling you’d like this.

    http://etainmentnewsreviews.wordpress.com/classic-rock/classic-rock-reviews-2011/electric-boys-and-them-boys-done-swang/

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