Friday, June 1, 2018

Review of Twisted Sister's "Stay Hungry"

I posted this review earlier this afternoon on the Sputnik Music website:

Review Summary: "Stay hungry, you're alone."

Twisted Sister began their life as a New Jersey band modeled after the glam-rock unit The New York Dolls. In the mid-seventies, they hired Dee Snider to be their lead singer, and shifted their music in a heavier direction, modeling their sound after bands such as Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Alice Cooper. By this time, they had moved to Long Island, becoming one of the top bands in the thriving Long Island club scene, along with groups such as The Good Rats and Zebra. Known for both their KISS-like makeup and their heavy riffs, they played to packed houses throughout the New York City area. They didn't begin recording, however, until the early eighties.

Stay Hungry (1984) was the band's third album, and it's the one that put them over the top nationally (albeit for a fairly brief time). Less metal than hard rock, the album is a masterpiece of driving rock anthems and radio-friendly power ballads. The album coincided with the glory days of MTV in the United States, and two of the songs from the LP were made into videos that became staples of the MTV rotation, "We're Not Gonna Take It" and "I Wanna Rock". Both of these songs were released as singles, with each going Gold in the U.S. and Multi-Platinum in Canada. A third single from the album, "The Price", was also somewhat successful.

All three of these singles are decent songs, with "We're Not Gonna Take It" being the best of the three. It's an adolescent rebellion song that held the same kind of appeal for the 1980s teen boy as had songs such as Alice Cooper's "School's Out" and Pink Floyd's "Another Brick in the Wall" for the schoolboy set in the prior decade.

For me, though, the real strength of Stay Hungry comes from the deeper album cuts. Energetic numbers such as the Darwinistic title track (which advises you to "expect no sympathy" from life, because "There's no room for the wannabes, the has beens or the bad"), and the cautionary "Burn in Hell", which warns, "Make your choice now, for tomorrow may be far too late", propel the album forward relentlessly. (This is why it's my favorite exercise -- or maybe that should be exorcize -- album of all time). The two-part "Horror-Teria (The Beginning)" adds to the dark vibe. It introduces the listener to the character of "Captain Howdy", a psychopathic child killer (whom Snider went on to portray in his 1998 horror film Strangeland), then dispatches with him in the second part of the song, "Street Justice", which is a musical tribute to violent vigilantism. And other winning tracks include the dynamic ode "Don't Let Me Down," and a mid-tempo classic called "S.M.F." (guess what that stands for).

As previously mentioned, Twisted Sister's time at the top was relatively short-lived. Their follow-up to Stay Hungry, 1986's Come Out and Play, saw a significant drop-off in sales, and it was all downhill from there. Stay Hungry, however, still holds up well today. It won't really scratch the itch for metal fans, but for mainstream rock fans (especially those with a dark sense of humor), it's likely to prove enjoyable.

Rating: 4 of 5 stars