Danger Danger -- _Four The Hard Way_ (NEH/MTM, 1997)

The Hard Rock bands of the late '80s and early '90s needed to do something as grunge asserted commercial dominance and pushed them out of the scene. They had many different strategies: Kip Winger reinvented himself as a top-flight acoustic rock songwriter. Slaughter went for a post-psychedelic glam feel. Dokken and Warrant both incorporated grunge influences and wound up sounding like King's X. King's X lost their contract. Jon Bon Jovi took up acting. Tommy Lee (of Motley Crue) did some movie-making, too, so I'm told, not that I've seen any of it or anything. Poison complained a lot.

Danger Danger was one of these bands, full of smoothly-produced arena rock and ballads about girls and, well, girls, but they manage to emerge on the on the other side of the '90s more successfully than most of their cohorts. Instead of a full-scale reinvention of their sound, they simply tightened it up, made it darker, incorporated a fair bit of the '90s feel, and got a lot more serious lyrically as well as musically. They kept the catchy melodies, the killer guitar hooks. They lost the arena-friendly production, making everything more intimate. Most of all, they didn't try to become anything they weren't, focusing on their forte instead of fleeting fashion, and that's why _Four The Hard Way_ works. It's got great ballads ("Captain Bring Me Down"), fusions of the '80s and '90s ("Still Kickin'"), and crunchy Cheap Trick-influenced rockers ("Heartbreak Suicide") -- in fact, guitarist Rick Nielsen of Cheap Trick is thanked for "his blessing" in the liner notes, always a good sign on an album -- which makes the record a tremendously satisfying listen to people who are looking for high energy rock without the post-grunge feel. I hope the folks at 95X are listening, because you hard rockers are gonna love this.

(For more information and audio samples, check out the NEH Records website at http://www.nehrecords.com .)

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