This could be referred to as my Rocklahoma edition of Lesser of two evils since both bands are on the bill for this year's festival (as are a lot of other acts who have been on this feature of mine). Perhaps it could be the $2 version of Lesser of two evils since I paid a whole dollar each for these CDs. Maybe it's the Lesser of evil for return visitors as Warrrant become the first band to be featured in a second contest and Nelson drummer Bobby Rock is here for the third time since both Nitro and Vinnie Vincent Invasion have been on here before. Well, whatever the case we have...
Nelson-After the rain
Warrant-Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich
Those Nelson boys seemed to come out of nowhere and assault good taste by being played so often on the radio back in 1990. They seemed to be kind of sissy music to me back then. I had not heard this album for at least 18 years. My first exposure to Warrant was seeing the video for "Down Boys" on Headbanger's Ball in 1989. My reaction was something "what is this shit and who is the idiot that gave these losers a record contract?". I think that is still my general reaction twenty years later. While thrash was still going and the death metal scene was on the rise, the hard rock scene around 89-91 seemed to be getting softer and fluffier. The bands may have had long hair, but this was marshmallow pop with a few guitar solos plugged in to make seem like hard rock. These guys made Poison sound like a real band if you can imagine that. It's no wonder these acts would get wiped off the map by grunge. So lets get the fire started and roast these weenies.
Both Matthew and Gunnar Nelson are up for the band named after them and they are taking on Jani Lane of Warrant. The Nelsons looked like they spent all their time fixing their hair, but they actually had some okay voices. Not overwhelming and certainly not terribly exciting, but they could carry a tune. Some of the melodies were catchy although others were sappy and generic. Jani Lane might be one of the least charismatic singers of all time. I have such a hard time with Warrant because Lane was such a dull singer who manages to suck the life out of whatever comes out of his mouth. It's not so much that he isn't in tune, it's that he cannot conjure up any real energy or passion or anything that would make me care.
Point to Nelson
Brett Garsed and both Nelsons contributed for their side while Joey Allen and Erik Turner handled duties for Warrant. Both bands seem to be all too happy to keep the guitars down low and have a syrupy sound prevail. If any heavy moments emerge, they are quickly overwhelmed by keyboards and/or vocals. What guitar rhythms are here were old and dry even by 1989-90 standards. They go through the motions for much of these songs likely posing with their instruments more than playing them. The only difference I could make out between the two bands was that there were a couple of slightly above average solos from the Nelson camp so...
Point to Nelson
Matthew Nelson handled bass and Bobby Rock handled drums for Nelson while we have Jerry Dixon on bass and Steven Sweet on drums for Warrant. If the guitars were down on these albums then the rhythm sections were practicly drowned out altogether. Hard rock in the late 80's-early 90's was a low point for rhythm sections as they only seemed to exist in the credits of the insert. The bass is almost non-existent and the drums could have been done by chimpanzees smacking on trash cans for all of the emotion and energy displayed here. Only the production was able to allow me to make a decision here. Bobby Rock's drum sound stands out just a little more and it took me two excruciating listens to realize that. If his drum sound had been as big as his hair then the decision may have been even easier to make.
Point to Nelson
There are a few moments where Warrant sound a little like Poison if you really listen down below the layers of gloss. On other songs they actually do have their own sound. It's a sound that should have never been copied and largely is wasn't. Nelson sound like Bon Jovi on a few songs and on other tracks they just sound like rather generic AOR/hard rock. The production on Warrant is full of shiny polish and not a whole lot else. I tried adjusting the settings on my stereo to try and hear there was much else down below the surface on Warrant. Really there isn't, but the production doesn't help them to sound like a rock band. The production on Nelson is okay, but it does manage to enhance some melodies without burying anything.
Point to Nelson
Who rocks more?
I think Warrant were the first band that had me thinking hard rock was dying. They were all show and the music was some of the most shallow pulp to ever creep into my ears and that was just their debut. As I said above, the production didn't help them to sound like a rock band either. By 89-90 for every band like G-n-R or Faster Pussycat you had 2-3 bands like Warrant. Which should tell you why this stuff died out shortly after that. Nelson are actually better than I remember. Not good mind you, but not as sappy overall as I remembered them being. They hit a few slightly decent moments. I guess the real deciding force here is that I made it through Nelson without shaking my head and sighing. I couldn't say the same thing about listening to Warrant.
Point to Nelson.
I thought it would be closer, but Nelson were better than I remembered and Warrant were exactly as I remember them. If I ever miss music from the late 80's-early 90's then I can just put Warrant on and realize that I don't miss all of the music from back then. So there you have it. I'll be back in a few weeks with another match-up.