Review: Extreme II: Pornografitti

There’s a lot I want to say about this album. Pornograffiti was a really influential album on me growing up and listening to rock music. Extreme were a fairly clean cut band in the genre, but they had raw energy in everything they did. I still remember the first time I saw the video for Decadence Dance and synergy between Nuno Bettencourt and Gary Cherone.

Pornograffiti was first released back in 1990, before grunge killed hair metal in it’s tracks. Listening to the album sixteen years later (has it been that long?) I have a few problems with it that I overlooked back in the day.

Why Pornograffiti Sucks

First, the lyrics. They are shite. Pre-pubescent, childish, virtually worthless. Extreme were never any good with lyrics. It’s amazing what you’ll overlook when Nuno Bettencourt is blazing across a fretboard!

Second: the slush. Too many formulaic ballads – More Than Words, Song For Love and the worst-album-closer-ever Hole Hearted. You know why I bought Pornograffiti? To hear rock, that’s why. In the name of Jon Bon Jovi……why would you put so many shitty ballads in a band whose strength is hard rock and blistering guitar solos? Bettencourt! I want answers!

Wikipedia says that the ballads “were perhaps the least representative tracks on the album, both in terms of their musical style and thematic tone”.

Why Pornograffiti Rocks!

What Extreme lacked in lyrical ability, they more than made up for in conviction. Gary Cherone’s vocal delivery is jubilant, powerful and sensitive in all the right places. The rhythm section of Paul Geary (drums) and Pat Badger (bass) is tight, but inventive. Paul Geary’s dumming in particular is deceptively intricate. Ah, then there’s Nuno and his Washburn and some of the most satisfying, exciting guitar solos you’ll ever hear.

I was listening to the riffs and lead breaks in Decadence Dance this afternoon, and even now I’m surprised at how easily he switches between riffing and rhythm work and these fantastic lead breaks. Check out the amazing ascending run in the second verse of Decadence just as Gary Cherone sings “where the soles of your feet harden up like your heart did”. That’s what electric guitar was made for!

There are other outstanding moments. Naturally, Get The Funk Out is a cool, bass driven number with a sharp play on words and is one of the strongest tracks on the album. The title track, Pornograffiti is also a shining example of hard driving rock music, and other tracks like L’il Jack Horny, When I’m President and It’s A Monster will have your head banging along. I was playing this as I walked down the Dublin Road today and almost burst out with a couple of verses. Maybe someday….

The Songwriting

There’s a clear progression from Extreme’s debut album and this, their second effort. Where the first Extreme album was a straight ahead, fairly bland, by-the-numbers affair, the arrangements on Pornograffiti are a little more intricate, hinting at the ambitious Three Sides To Every Story that would follow.

John Chedsey describes this album as a ‘guilty pleasure‘ in his review. That’s probably as fair to say as anything. Sixteen years later, I doubt kids are rushing out to pick up a copy of Pornograffiti as I might have sought out Led Zeppelin IV, but there are some great rock moments on this CD that are worth a listen. And enough slushy ballads to keep your skip button busy!

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