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Saturday, January 29, 2011

CD Review: Twisted Sister - You Can't Stop Rock 'n Roll Reissue

Twisted Sister - You Can't Stop Rock 'n Roll Reissue
2011 Armoury Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

This could just as easily be a Metal Louvre installment here. As basic as the cover for Twisted Sister's You Can't Stop Rock 'n Roll, may be, it's an identifiable leather 'n metal emblem that was perhaps the most replicated band logo in the eighties behind only AC/DC and Iron Maiden. Come on, Gen X'ers, how many textbooks did you deface back in the day with the Twisted Sister logo? They knew, most assuredly, if you recall the "I Wanna Rock" video.

Very few albums can get away with minimalism on their covers and still attract an audience. Okay, The Beatles had The White Album and Metallica The Black Album, but the measure of worth relies more upon what lies inside the packaging. It just helps the cause if an album is kickass and so is its cover.

As Armoury Records takes a stroll through all of Twisted Sister's main releases except for Under the Blade, we come to You Can't Stop Rock 'n Roll, one of the declarative hard rock albums of the eighties. While this reissue of You Can't Stop Rock 'n Roll is the exact version Spitfire Records put out awhile ago, complete with three bonus songs not released by the Atlantic pressing, the objective is to corral newcomers and oldsters who sold their vinyl ages ago. It's about rediscovering the joy of Twisted Sister and heavy metal.

Does it get much better than "The Kids Are Back?" Cue it from your memory banks, the classic intro march, the aggressive, punchy rhythm, the humming bass line from Mark Mendoza and the sneer veneer of Dee Snider. Ahhhhhhh, fists up. One of Twisted Sister's calling card songs, "The Kids Are Back" is what it's all about if you dare approach the crossroads and step over to the other side. It's one of the finest lion's pride anthems Twisted Sister boasts in their arsenal (and they wrote plenty), even just a click more chewy than the famed title song, another for the ages.

While Under the Blade retains its title for most venomous (and many say best) album in Twisted's catalog, You Can't Stop Rock 'n Roll might be their most refined. Sure, Stay Hungry is their most popular and at times most over-the-top, but there's something about You Can't Stop Rock 'n Roll that pushes it beyond 1983 when it was first released. If ever there was a timeless album conjured from Hairball Heaven, this is the one.

If you've never heard this album, seriously, people, get with it. Guaranteed you will be snarling along to "Like a Knife in the Back" (one of this writer's venting tunes straight out of his teen years and beyond) and wishing you had a Harley purring between your legs on "Ride to Live, Live to Ride." "We're Gonna Make It" is the pro empowerment cousin of "We're Not Gonna Take It," and honestly, it's a bit more fun to hear the former in your own privacy than the latter at hockey arenas when the opposition scores.

"The Power and the Glory" is one of Twisted's faster songs with faboo shredding by Eddie "Fingers" Ojeda and Jay Jay French. In fact, most of their solos on this album carry a free spirit, wisely released by producer Stuart Epps. Versus the chunky, nastier riffs and searing solos on Stay Hungry and Come Out and Play, French and Ojeda are far more relaxed on this album and the songs sway instead of tear. Even a ballad like "You're Not Alone (Suzette's Song)" has a metal-grounded oomph to the misty breeze of the un-metal melody.

And, kids of all ages, "I Am (I'm Me)" is the rally cry against authority most people missed back in the day because Motley Crue came along with "Shout at the Devil" with inherently the same message and were crucified for it. Of course, that was before Theater of Pain and Girls Girls Girls brought them into boys' locker rooms and the girls' pajama parties. "I Am (I'm Me)" is a pure hook and it will remind listeners of the first time they defied their parents as teenagers. Yes, you can do it without an expletive.

The bonus tracks on You Can't Stop Rock 'n Roll are mostly fun, the best of them being the speedy "Feel the Power," a kindred song in title and flow to "The Power and the Glory." "One Man Woman" is a noncommittal rock jive, the extra dab of mustard to a meaty metal pastrami Twisted Sister slapped together from Long Island on their way up the totem. Hoagie, anyone?

For historical purposes, You Can't Stop Rock 'n Roll is Twisted Sister's catharsis. All the years they'd pushed themselves through the rock underground and they couldn't get domestic interest despite their best efforts and their best word of mouth. By the time Atlantic scooped them up after Under the Blade was first delivered from the UK, you can hear Twisted Sister making the most of their moment as newcomers to the majors. In a sense, You Can't Stop Rock 'n Roll is equivalent to the backup quarterback getting his first start and he tosses a breakout game. Atlantic gave Twisted the ball and they nailed the end zone immediately. Sad that the band stumbled upon the chewed turf of the metal gridiron the later the decade progressed. Yet You Can't Stop Rock 'n Roll will forever be the Hail Mary longball we'll all be talking about like those in the know. Everyone knows Stay Hungry, but we know the real deal and yes, the kids are back...

Rating: ****1/2


Metal Mark said...

We listened to a lot of stuff back in the mid-80's. Even though I liked so much back then not all of it has aged well. Particularly a number of hard rock albums. However those first three Twisted Sister albums have stood up very well. All three are top ten albums for their release years in my book. You can't stop rock and roll might be the one of the three that gets overlooked the most. It doesn't have the hits of Stay Hungry or the raw growl and cult following of Under the blade. However it's just as good and the album that really saw this band maturing. If a band wearing ripped shirts and facepaint can mature. Seriously I play this one as much as I did back in the 80's. The re-mastered version sounds terrific too.

Ray Van Horn, Jr. said...

Yeah, I agree with that. A lot doesn't hold up from eighties, but much of it does, or at least holds a nostalgic value. This album, UTB and SH certainly transcend their times, and I think YCSRR might be Twisted at the height of their talents and craft. I've always cherished UTB as their best album and it's definitely their most aggressive, while Stay Hungry is the most polished and in-your-face, but there's something about YCSRR that takes us straight back to the heart of the scene as it was coming up.