Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Review: Dirty Penny - Take It Sleezy

Label: self-released

Released: 2007

Dirty Penny's clear love of Mötley Crüe might be hard to take had the Crüe not stopped making good records way too early (two records, good as they were, is a short legacy), but under the circumstances, it turns out to be a lot of fun. I'm not exactly the world's biggest hair metal fan. Sure I like early glam, but too few bands from the 80s tap into the New York Dolls or Sweet or T Rex. Dirty Penny manages to touch on that though, albeit via Crüe. Still, if you're going borrow heavily, do it from a good band, particularly one who either quit or got sidetracked before their time.

While Dirty Penny won't get any award for originality, they get plenty of points for enthusiasm. Particularly early and late in the album, they really have a great ability find that perfect line between heavy and hooky. The first few tracks are in a sense what I expected to follow Shout at the Devil and even 25 years later and from a different band, I'm happy to hear it. Oddly enough, Take It Sleazy trades its punch for slickness for a few tracks in the middle (beginning with "Take a Bite"), sounding more like later, lighter Crüe. The album regains both its energy and swagger (and just a bit of Judas Priest crunch maybe) on "Vendetta" which leads to a strong finish...except for the acoustic redux of "Sleaze Disease," whose grandiose strings and overly clean, cold playing are overbearing and underwhelming. That last track, even viewed as a bonus track of sorts, is a shame, because it taints an otherwise really good album.

While Dirty Penny's metally riffs are refreshing, the solos tend, as most solos do, to be mundane. The mandatory guitar solo is really a fault of the genre's formula, but Dirty Penny keep theirs thankfully short and to the point. Solos aside, they have a true band sound where the whole is greater than the individuals that comprise it. Considering the genre, I didn't expect poetry in the lyrics and lines like, "Pedal to the metal, I'm gonna go the extra mile; Whoa-oh, I'm runnin' wild" came as no surprise. Still, their clever play on Elvis' "Love Me Tender" in "Black n Blue" brought a chuckle and I got more than I'd hoped right there. Another source of the album's strength is solid production. Dirty Penny, even on this studio recording, has a lot of live energy and that's captured here without sacrificing quality.

At this point, hair metal is a niche market (albeit a growing niche). While it will never reach it's commercial heyday again and it has more than a few lackluster practitioners, there are a handful of bands that actually breathe some life into it. There's nothing new on Take It Sleazy, but in this case that's not the end of the world. Had this come out 25 years ago, it would have been outstanding. Now, it's just very good...and very fun.

Satriani: 6/10
Zappa: 4/10
Dylan: 5/10
Aretha: 6/10
Overall: 6/10



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