This is Gonna Hurt (Eleven Seven Music)
by Scott Hefflon
A follow up to 2007’s dark and disturbing book/soundtrack Heroin Diaries, this is the soundtrack to Mötley Crüe bassist Nikki Sixx’s This Is Gonna Hurt: Music, Photography And Life Through The Distorted Lens of Nikki Sixx. Let’s just say Nikki’s exorcised a lot of his demons, and he’s now in a pretty good place. Unfortunately, people in good places tend to make weak, pussy-ass art. It isn’t always necessary to suffer for your art, but it sure helps. And, sorry drama queens, just because you “suffer” (actually, you’re just griping about mundane bullshit, you just sigh a lot more), it doesn’t make you or your “art” any more interesting.
So yeah, Sixx and his buds (A is for DJ Ashbe, and M is for James Michael) are back at it, and feeling pretty good about it. Same two guys. No break-ups or name-calling yet. Guitarist DJ Ashbe is best known for being in Gun N’ Roses after they mattered. Before that, he was in Beautiful Creatures (who were decent, if predictable), the band singer Joe Lesté formed after Bang Tango realized glam was dead and the corpse could only be raped for another few years. And before that, I read he did a year-long stint with BulletBoys. In 1998/’99. Uh, BulletBoys were still around then? “Smooth Up in Ya” was ’88/’89. Didn’t they have to sign with Deadline/Cleopatra (where all hair metal goes to die, but not as quickly as we’d like) soon after that? Regardless, the motherfucker can shred, and he’s got an ear for a powerful riff and tasteful fills that don’t interfere with the flow of the song.
Singer James Michael, despite powerful pipes, is primarily a producer. I guess you can sing for your supper, but if you wanna buy property, you produce. He’s produced Meatloaf, Mötley Crüe, and the Scorpions, all after they were worth listening to, as well as Papa Roach, who have yet to be worth listening to. And I’m not holding my breath. (Nah, that’s overly harsh: They’re not terrible, just unexceptional.) As a singer, Michael is as strong and passionate as any of the better glam bands were, and their knock-offs are. Add to that his drumming on the last two albums, plus his keyboard and strings work, and you realize you’ve got a talented guy here. That some of the guitar riffs sound like the cardboard box production of a high school rock band means he meant it to sound that way. Perhaps that makes it more human/homey than the overly-compressed Mansonesque style so many metal bands favor. But all is forgiven when each gasped breath is heard in a ballad, each piano key sounds pressed by a human finger, and all the instruments are blended properly, all with their moments of glory, all supporting the whole of the song.
Song-wise, This is Gonna Hurt is a collection of songs, like the book is a collection of writings and photos. There are a lot of moods and ideas and styles here. Which, uh, is a polite way to say there’s strong material here and some weak filler around it. Even comedians aren’t funny every second of the day, and hot chicks look crappy sometimes. There’s a lot of predictable but pleasant pop rock here, with cheesy lyrics to keep the mood light, and even the wallowing, for the most part, is reduced to townie quotables. You know what I mean or you don’t. “Worth dying for” and “we were younger then, we were dumber then” make a lot of sense to wanna-be hard-livers who work hard, play hard, and have credit card debt they never seem to dig out of with all the liquor store charges. While “This is Gonna Hurt,” “Lies of the Beautiful People,” and “Deadlihood” are hard-life grit polished to a radio-friendly sheen, and “Are You With Me?” is just pretty pop only slightly darker than a Matchbox 20 tune, “Live Forever” (with the above lyrics) is a solid teen rocker anthem. Teens want to live and love with passion, they don’t know how long “forever” can be (or feel like, if trapped in a shitty, or worse, abusive relationship), so they can fight for this, long for that, and lyrics like these will supply hope and strength, and not seem as cheesy as they do to us older folks who’ve seen some shit, thanks. Great vocals and solos, too.
Uh, “Sure Feels Right” is a snapshot of a nice day driving, thinking about how swell life is. As I said, being in a good place usually makes your art suck donkey balls. This song is worse than Sugar Ray, and they blow. They too used to have nuts (see Lemonade and Brownies, which took me a second to find funny. Not just for Charles in Charge/Baywatch’s Nicole Eggert sweet naked bod on the cover, but cuz songs like “Danzig Needs a Hug, “Big Black Woman,” and “Mean Machine” actually had some thrust). “Smile” is kinda like that too, only worse. Ok, you’re a rich rock star, you wake up and see your beautiful wife/girlfriend/lover/some chick beside you, and she looks stunning in the morning light, and you smile. Yeah, I get it. I’ve written lame, sappy shit like that too. They’re in notebooks or folders in the closet. Never typed ’em up. Wanna know why? They suck too. Awful drivel for lighter-waving, oops, cell phone-waiving girls and the guys who pretend to like them to get some action.
So yeah, a mixed bag of pop rock for fans too young to enjoy Cheap Trick, who can’t seem to understand all the fuss about Velvet Revolver, and who think Buckcherry is a little too “look how sleazy we are!” and the vocalist sounds like he needs to clear his throat. I hear some chipper harmonies here which remind me of the few Damn Yankees songs I’ll allow myself to recall (songwriters from Night Ranger and Styx, both of whom had some great pop rock songs slathered with commercial gloss), and many of the guitar solos tickle greatness.