The Last Hard Men

Way back in 1996, a heterogeneous grouping of musicians got together to record a song for the soundtrack of Scream. These musicians were Sebastian Bach of Skid Row, Kelley Deal of The Breeders, Jimmy Chamberlin of Smashing Pumpkins, and Jimmy Flemion of The Frogs. After recording this song, an ingenious cabaret cum tribal version of Alice Cooper's "School's Out", they decided to record an entire album. Then the major labels got involved, adhering the project to oblivion with enough red tape to pay the mortgages for a handful of laywers. But apparently someone guarding the vaults fell asleep and The Last Hard Men has at last escaped to harass and confuse the general public.

The result of these four disparate musicians is a bricolage of songs, some very good, memorable tunes and some inane filler to torment your existence. While listening to this album, I got the definite impression that most of the songs were recorded minutes after they were written, capturing four musicians messing around and having fun just because they can. There is a fine line between humorous songs and novelty songs and too many times, this project steps over the line, attempting to be witty but instead coming off as juvenile and childish. Some standout tracks include "Sleep" with screaming vocals and razor guitars (the perfect mix between Breeders and Skid Row), "That Very Night", a touching yet off-kilter duet between Bach and Deal, and "I Hate The Way You Walk", a schizophrenic track that flips between freaked out spooky and 60s psychedelia. In the amazingly fun cover of Rogers and Hammerstein's "I Enjoy Being A Girl" you can almost hear Deal's fruit-piled hat of Bugs Bunny fame. Due to the many styles represented in the band members themselves, many of the songs seem to be a tribute to various influences. "In Search of The Peace of Mind' begins with a frenetic Iron Maiden dual guitar riff, "Play In The Clouds" tips it's hat to middle-period Zeppelin acoustic songs and "Who Made You Do It?" has the same chord progression and stadium-rock feel as Motley Crue's "Home Sweet Home." Fans of these bands will surely enjoy such intimate tracks as the sparse, plaintive piano duet "I You Wanna Rock, Go To The Quarry" where Deal and Bach again match talents, not to mention the various studio chatter that is scattered throughout the tracks. With bits of hard rock, punk, alternative, show tunes, and ballads aplenty, there is probably something for everyone on this platter. However, this extreme variety is as much a liability as it is a strength for in addition to the tracks you'll like, you're sure to find an equal number of tracks that make you glad CD players have a skip button.

This review first appeared in WhatzUp, November 2001.