Review: Extreme – Extreme

I must seem slightly fixated on Extreme: I’ve already reviewed their second and third albums on this blog. For the sake of completeness, this is my review of Extreme’s self-titled debut, released in 1989.

1989 at was the tail end of some major rock music releases, Def Leppard had released Hysteria, Bon Jovi’s New Jersey, Alice Cooper’s Trash and many other stadium-fillers had filled the rock charts. There was certainly a market for Extreme’s music, but in retrospect it may have got lost among the noise of the larger acts.

Maybe for that reason, Extreme’s debut isn’t as adventurous an affair as their later albums would suggest – it’s more of a straight-ahead hard rock effort with a few hints at the band’s potential. Nuno Bettencourt’s amazing guitar work is the central feature of the album, but the band exudes unstoppable energy throughout.

Still, Extreme is an outstanding rock album, opening in an explosion of harmonica, thundering drums and intense riffing with Little Girls, one of the singles from the album. Little Girls is an excellent showcase for what this band can do, but I’ve always been uncomfortable with the lyric in the second verse:

Some may say I’m too old for her
Old enough to be her father
Incestual blood is thicker than water

There’s just something creepy about that, and I’ve never been able to rationalise the line. What do you think?

Wind Me Up is a passable second track, but it’s Kid Ego that has it all: Memorable guitar work, catchy chorus and the fantastic drumming that are the signature of Extreme’s best work.

Watching, Waiting is a definite low point – a too-slow attempt at a power ballad that doesn’t quite hit the spot, but again shows a taste of some of the vocal harmonies that would develop in later work, most notably III Sides To Every Story.

Another outstanding track is Mutha, Don’t Wanna Go To School, which (when I had the tape) rounded off side one of the record. It begins with some light fretwork from Nuno over the sound of a baby burbling and works into a screaming crescendo of feedback and distortion before Gary Cherone comes in for the first verse. Again, Nuno proves himself a worthy adversary for Eddie Van Halen on the solo for Mutha.

What I fondly recall as ‘Side B’ of Extreme is mostly filler material, which ends with an almighty bang in the shape of Play With Me, another frenetic guitar-driven tune that showcases the band at their tightest.

Summary

While widely acknowledged to be their weakest material, Extreme demonstrate the songwriting and playing styles that would evolve over the following two albums. Gary Cherone’s voice is powerful and the perfect counterpoint to Bettencourt’s guitar playing, and the rhythm section of Paul Geary (Drums) and Pat Badger (Bass) provides a fantastic launchpad for Nuno’s fiery soloing.

Overall, Extreme is a strong rock effort, let down by some less-than-inspired album tracks. At a time when the rock charts were flooded with strong material, Extreme could easily have been buried. Thankfully they got a second chance with Pornograffitti….

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