Friday, 29 April 2011

100 LPs Shortlist #7 - Extreme - "Pornograffitti"

Can it really be 20 years since I first heard this album? Sure enough, it was February 1991, six months B.N. (Before "Nevermind") when I was handed a tape of this by a friend on that hot summer's day at the very start of the school year....

What blew me away was not just how great sounding or technically proficient the guitar playing was, but just how melodic and inviting the music was. Guitarist Nuno Bettancort's playing was technical, to be sure, but it didn't sound or feel unapproachable, like, say, Yngwie Malmsteen was. The guitar parts were instantly singable, very cleverly played and memorable. I totally loved that about this album.

Lyrically the songs seem to lend themselves to a song cycle, on the themes of sexualisation of pop culture and media saturation and how they seem to be mutually benefiting one another. How prescient - not much has changed in the ensuing years. The ambition in this record was almost tangible, and so it should be. After all, Extreme's biggest musical influence was Queen.

Most casual listeners would remember the band's Mega-hit single "More Than Words", an edited version of which went to No.2 in Australia. I would have loved to have seen the faces of the people who bought this album on the strength of that song...they would have gotten the shock of their lives! The only other song that remotely sounds like that would be the follow-up single "Hole Hearted" (which was omitted from the vinyl LP because of space reasons). The album is mainly made up of highly charged rock music with funk and rhythmic leanings, with a few curly bits thrown in. The only real time the band hit a flat spot is on the track "When I First Kissed You". Intended to be an affectionate Sinatra tribute, it suffers from flat production and a bad synth-piano track and equally bad synth-strings. Then again, piano playing is not what this record is about - the guitars are the real winner here.

This is definitely a guitar player's album - Nuno is a musician's musician. He frustrates me because he can play far better than I can and he can't read sheet music....but I digress. This record is beautifully crafted and well played. It still sounds great today.

"Pornograffitti" seems to strike the perfect balance of intelligence, ambition, and song-craft. There is plenty to excite the musos, but there is still heaps for every other music fan to enjoy here as well. In 1992, with the LP "III Sides of Every Story", they over-extended themselves and tabled a concept so bloated that it ultimately was crushed under the weight of its own ambition, but that's another story...

Check it out...

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