American Hair Metal
By Steven Blush (Feral House)
by Brian Varney
There’s been much written and filmed about the ’80s and ’90s hair metal flash, most of which falls somewhere between tongue-in-cheek and downright mocking in tone. This is perhaps understandable – just about everything ancillary to the actual music, from the ridiculous hairdos to the even more ridiculous costumes, pretty much begs to be razzed. I pretty much expected more of the same from American Hair Metal, especially when I saw that the first page contains only a photograph of an Aqua Net can.
However, author Steven Blush’s foreword claims a true love of the form, so I proceeded with considerably more interest, partially because I welcomed a fresh view of the form, and partially because I too share a love for hair metal. While I can’t argue that a great deal to do with the music, from the already-mentioned fashion disasters to the crappy power ballads that seemingly every band after a certain point (say, post “Home Sweet Home”) felt compelled to include, I do have some lingering affection for bands like Ratt and Cinderella. I’m a fan of a good song in pretty much any guise, and anyone who tries to argue that “Round and Round” is not a good song is fighting a losing battle.
However, despite Blush’s protestations to the contrary, it becomes obvious very early on that this heavily photo-centric book’s aim is to mock. Again, I’m not trying to argue that hair metal is not ripe for mockery, or saying that I’d really like to read a serious, Peter Guralnick-style analyzation of the form, because I’m not sure such a thing is practical or even possible. What I am questioning, though, is whether we need to see more pictures of guys with mile-high hairdos wearing ridiculous spandex pants next to quotes that make their subjects sound like imbeciles. Yeah, it’ll probably provide a hoot or two if you throw it on the coffee table when you’ve got friends over and everyone’s had a few, but I can’t really see why you’d spend $23 for this book when a simple Google image search will yield similar hilarity.