Extreme II: Pornograffitti

#838: Wild Nights, Hot & Crazy Days

A sequel to #548:  Bad Boys

GETTING MORE TALE #838:  Wild Nights, Hot & Crazy Days

I couldn’t believe it when that red Daytona pulled into the cottage driveway.

“Is that Bob?” asked my dad.  It sure was!

Bob’s parents had a trailer not too far from our cottage, part way between Kincardine and Goderich.  It wasn’t unusual for him to drop in, but this time was different.  He was about to start a new job and wanted a little vacation before his first day.  He chose to come and stay at the cottage with us!

You might think it strange that he just showed up unannounced, but that’s not unusual for cottagers.  My dad’s friend Ron often showed up with his whole family, completely unexpected.  Bob had an open invitation; he was always welcome.

We raised hell that week.  Bob didn’t know, but my cousin Geoffrey and his family were also scheduled to visit.  Geoffrey was…how do I put this?  Hyperactive was the word they used, but at that age, he was…impossible!  I am glad he had since turned into a fine normal young man, but back then you could only take so much Geoff at a time!  Naturally, Bob and I ganged up against him, which was a nice change of pace!  It was during that week that Geoff infamously pierced his ear, while we took the blame for it.  I didn’t trick Geoff into anything, I just chickened out.  But that was just one of the many things we did that week.

Bob was obsessed with one album in particular that summer:  Extreme’s Pornograffitti.  In that Daytona, we all cruised endlessly to the sounds of that album.  My grandmother, in the cottage two doors down, was not impressed by our loud hootin’ and hollerin’.  I was at that age when I thought being loud and obnoxious was funny.

Pornograffitti is a special album, but that summer it was extra-special.  We played it on a loop, and I had just about every song memorized.  I asked for and received it for my birthday later that month.  While I liked all the rockers, “Hole Hearted” really hit me where it counts.  Its melancholy exuberance reflected how I felt at that time.  (I know that sounds like a contradiction!)  I was both excited and scared to be starting a new journey in my life, at University.  Fall was only a couple months away and I was nervous.  Whatever the case, the acoustic strumming of “Hole Hearted” was exactly how I felt, before I jumped into the deep end of school.

It was a beautiful summer, bright and warm.  Bob and I took the canoe out onto the lake.  There was a rock far from the shore, that was just inches below the water.  Finding it was the trick.  We were determined!  I knew roughly where the rock was located, but once you’re out on the featureless water, it was difficult to pinpoint.  Yet we found it relatively easily, by carefully looking for little crests of water where it rolled inches over that rock.

We dropped anchor and stepped onto the rock.  There was room for both of us.  Singing heavy metal songs at the top of our lungs, we both “mooned” the shore.  We were so far out that nobody would have been able to see.  I guess I’ve always been an exhibitionist.  But we did it — we mooned a crowded Lorne Beach.

As my dad likes to remind me, we could have been arrested!

Ah well.  “We didn’t,” was my answer then and now!

We had huge beach fires at night, and found plenty of activity during the days.  There was one afternoon that we took a trip up to Bruce Nuclear.  We usually did that once a year, to go on the tour.  There were actually two tours: one indoors through the visitor’s centre, and a bus tour through the grounds.   Bob came with the family on the bus tour.  And we were awful.  I don’t mind saying so.  That poor tour guide had to put up with our running commentary.  The grounds included nature preserves, and she was telling us about the wild deer that you could sometimes see in the trees to our right.

“Yeah, that one has two heads!” chuckled Bob out loud.  Chuckled, or heckled?  That’s up to interpretation.

I like to say that we were like Tom Green, but without the video camera.  If only we had one!  We were definitely a public nuisance.  And I’m definitely an old fart now, because I would find that behaviour annoying today.

But we didn’t hurt anybody.  Nobody got arrested.  We were loud and annoyed a few people, but at the time I thought that was very rock n’ roll.  We were ahead of our time.  My cousin started his summer by getting a hole in his ear and Bob and I had one last hoorah together.  That all sounds real good to me.

 

REVIEW: Extreme – Pornograffitti Live 25 (2016 Japanese 2 CD set)

scan_20170114-4EXTREME – Pornograffitti Live 25 (2016 Victor Japan 2 CD set)

When you hear that an album like Pornograffitti (which defined one of our teenage summers) turned 25 last year, don’t it make you feel old?  Maybe you haven’t played it in a while.  (If you haven’t, here is a refresher course.)  It was one of those discs that had appealing songs from start to finish, each different from the last.  All 13 songs (14 if you include the solo “Flight of the Wounded Bumblebee”) are reproduced in sequence on this new live CD release, fresh from a hot show in Vegas in 2015.  You can buy a blu-ray or DVD of the concert too, but CD collectors will want to spring for this Japanese double set.  On a second disc you get “Play With Me” (given more exposure in the movie Air Guitar Nation) and “Cupid’s Dead”, normally exclusive to the video version.  The total package is close to an hour and a half of some of Extreme’s best songs.  The Japanese printing also has its own cover art, though no other exclusives.

The familiar taped intro of rain and piano inaugurates the “funked-up fairy tail” that is Pornograffitti.  “Trying so hard to keep up with the Joneses!” begins Gary and and the Vegas crowd knows all the words.  With Nuno Bettencourt and Pat Badger helping out, the Extreme vocals are nice and thick live.  The sound is beefy goodness, wound up in electric guitar strings.  Kicking it on drums, Kevin Figueiredo keeps things pretty close to the way original drummer Paul Geary did it.  “Decadence Dance” is sincerely good nostalgia.

Following the vague storyline of the original album, “Lil’ Jack Horny” shows up amidst shimmery guitar harmonics and a funky lil’ riff.  The horn parts (tapes?) jack up the funky little guitar number, which carries over to “When I’m President”.  Nuno squeaks and squonks while Gary waxes poetic.  “So go ask Alice, ah you know what he said?  What did he say — remember, I wanna be elected?”   Maybe one day Gary, because it is indeed true:  just about anyone can be president!  Cherone promises that things’ll be different.  You can even be in his cabinet!

The funk peaks (obviously) on “Get the Funk Out” which remains as silly and fun as it was 15 years ago.  (Listen for a little bit of a lyrical modernization from Nuno!)  It’s pure live smoke only slowed down by the obligatory audience participation section.  This appropriately segues into “More Than Words”, which is slightly more than a singalong.  Stripped naked of the loud guitars, Nuno and Gary can still harmonize as clean and perfect as they always have.

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“Money” resumes the rock, as Gary bemoans the modern worship of the almighty dollar.  Nimbly killing it on both guitar and harmonies, Nuno Bettencourt is a super hero.  He does it again on “It (‘s a Monster)”, a stock album track that goes from point A to point B at top speed.  Some real gems start showing up a in steady string from there.  “Pornograffitti” possesses some serious funk metal riffage and guitar tricks, performed at an unbelievable level of rock supremacy.   Then it is time for the slow jazz lounge croon “When I First Kissed You”.  Piano flourishes and Figueiredo on brushes lend it a really pretty dusky sound.

“And now back to our regularly scheduled program!” shouts Gary as Extreme once again puts on their rock and roll shoes.  It’s time for “Suzi (Wants Her All Day What?)”, another funky rock combo.  Nuno plays some of the fastest licks ever attempted, but that is mere warm-up, for next is “Flight of the Wounded Bumblebee”, the legendary guitar instrumental that re-defined the guitar instrumental for a short while.  There is no time to recover because it’s straight into “He-Man Woman Hater”.  This Van Halen-like blast contains some of Nuno’s finest fret abuse.

Pornograffitti was also a little different, and one aspect of that is that it ended with two ballads.  Historically that has been demonstrated as a risky way to end an album, but Extreme pulled it off by using two that were different from any of the others on the CD.  “Song For Love” was a big pompous Queen-like anthem, and you can all but see the lighters and cell phones waving in the air.  “Hole Hearted” was the memorable acoustic closing number, great for campfires and rock concerts alike.  Live is just as solid as the studio original.

Onto to the Japanese bonus CD with its two bonus tracks.  “Play With Me” has always been a bit of a novelty, but notable for its sheer velocity and Mozart-a-go-go guitar dexterity.  Few players have chops like these.  “Cupid’s Dead” is a set highlight – heavy, funky and progressive at times.  Extreme III deserves as much praise as Extreme II: Pornograffitti so it is quite pleasing to have this adventurous track close.

Bravo to Extreme for making this trip back in time a real treat.

4.5/5 stars

 

 

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”.