Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Lipstick-Lipstick (2015 Special Edition)


Originally released independently in late May of 2014 (with this special edition version seeing the light of day back in June of this year), "Lipstick" is the full-length debut album from the theatrical glam rock/sleazy hard & heavy band of the same name. Based in Nashville, TN (by way of Cleveland, Ohio and Canada*!) Lipstick began life as a studio project between Greg Troyan (vocals) and former Warrent and Quiet Riot member Billy Morris (bass and guitar). A studio demo was recorded by Greg and Billy and due to fan interest and/or persistence that 12-track recording (which Greg didn't exactly want to officially release to the public at hand!) would eventually turn into the original version of Lipstick's debut album. While all of that madness was going on it turns out that Greg Troyan (vocals, keyboards and occasional bass) meet future band member Stephen Smith (bass guitar) by chance and (long story short) Lipstick would enviably transform into the wild and crazy outfit that stands before us now! While there are other (official?) contributing band members to the project and this particular (expanded) album (as well as a long-list of guest musicians/artists who help out on "Lipstick" including the aforementioned Billy Morris**) it sure does seem as if it is Greg and Stephen who are driving this easy & sleazy hair metal party wagon so we'll concentrate on them first and foremost! With Greg you get a front-man who dresses up in lace and lipstick (no pun intended!) and his "lovely" appearance is obviously a throw-back to the old Sunset Strip days. There's a lot of make-up involved with his get up, but voice-wise his style of singing is closer to garage rock than glam metal. Admittedly he is a tad "rough" around the edges and there is no way that you would ever mistake Greg for someone like Brett Michaels, Jani Lane or even Vince Neil. If anything Greg sounds like an older rocker whose sought-after voice has been hit hard by years and years in the business. Despite that admission, "Lipstick" does work with someone like Greg Troyan on the mic. And the reason why it works is fairly simple and straightforward. It works because it gives the dolled-up sleaze material here more of mean face. For all of the hairspray and make-up going on it manages to make Lipstick seem more gritty....almost punk rock if you will. Not that there is anything legitimately punk rock about a release like this mind you! After all we are talking about a band that piles "it" on deep (and by "it" I mean the gloriously cheese factor that was and still is at the heart of many a great glam metal/pop metal band!) by way of influences like Kix, Winger, Nitro, Poison ("Look What The Cat Dragged In"-era), Faster Pussycat, Kiss (the glam metal version of Kiss that is!), Warrant, Alice Cooper (his 80's pop metal days!), and Pretty Boy Floyd! Just going by the first two songs alone ("We're Here To Rock You" and "I Like To Rock"!) you should have no problem seeing where this album is heading, but if you still need help then consider the fact that there are three songs (that's right there are THREE!) with rock in the title! Nine times out of ten (with the tenth one being the sweet enough to eat "The Flash"!) this expanded edition album is cheesy glam rockin' pop metal and it offers no excuses as to it's behavior! But then again why should it? If you love what you're doing and you are good at it then why not highlight those wicked skills of yours and crank it up as far it will go? Lipstick obviously loves the look and the sound of sleaze and glam so they do what God put them here to do and they ROCK IT like there is no tomorrow! Even if it seems a tad silly at times (what with all the songs with "rock" in the title!) "Lipstick" is a fun ride and that has everything to do with the fact that Lipstick are obviously in on the joke! Don't think for a second though that Lipstick is a joke band. Far from it! These guys know how to write catchy material with sweet sing-along verses and their songs have a crap-load of rock and roll appeal! Between lead singer Greg and bass guitar player Stephen Smith (ex-Regdar & The Fighters) a band like Lipstick has more than enough energy and enthusiasm to go around and even with all of the cheese here on their re-released debut album you can't help but smile and groove along to the music!! Normally a band like Lipstick would not be my cup of tea so that says a lot about their ability to draw listeners in. There is something inviting about their music and I guess you could say that the group's "band down the road" charm goes a long way as does Lipstick's casual nature. The guys in Lipstick seem as if they would be cool to hang with and this band's recognizable lack of over-inflated ego makes you want to invest more of your time in their company. In spite of all of that I do realize that Lipstick‘s debut album won't be for everyone. For one thing if you are not into glam rock and sleaze metal you might as well keep on walking. If hair metal is too fluffy for your tastes then peace be with you but it's time to go. But for everyone who has stuck it out this far the expanded-edition (see track list below) album that I got in the mail from the band members themselves is definitely worth a listen. There is one last thing that I should touch on. Even though you have silly numbers like "The Conan Song" (where the band sings about how much they want to be on The Conan show!) there is a positive vibe going on with "Lipstick". Lyrically-speaking this is not your typical hair metal/sleaze metal release. There are no cat-calls and odes to drugs. And there isn't a shout-out to a some red guy with horns. Thankfully the optimistic "Lipstick" skips all of that noise and instead focuses on the joy of rocking out. That means you can actually blast this one loud without making your teenage daughter give you that "Really Dad?" look! And lord knows I see that look enough as is! So, if catchy, up-beat and actually positive(!) hair metal glam is something that you have been looking for then there is no need to look anything further! Lipstick should be just what the doctor (Dr. Rock!) ordered!!!!

Track List:
01. We’re Here To Rock You
02. I Like The Way I Rock
03. Alone
04. Merle
05. Having Fun
06. The Conan Song
07. I Want The World To Know
08. The Flash
09. Tonight
10. Love One Another
11. Rock N Roll Forever
12. It’s Christmas (And You Don’t Want Me Here)

Special Edition Bonus Tracks:
13. Having Fun (Alternate Mix)
14. Illium (Regdar And The Fighters cover)
15. Fight Club (Regdar And The Fighters cover)
16. I Want The World To Know (Alternate Take)

* Front-man, songwriter and part-time bassist Greg Troyan apparently hails from Cleveland, Ohio and formed his first band (Dyslexia) there. A four-piece high school act, Dyslexia was inspired by Gene Simmons and company with some of their Kiss-influenced music actually making it's way into what would eventually be Lipstick. Greg's partner in crime is of course Stephen Smith and this bassist, vocalist and songwriter is from Canada and his influences seemingly range from the Smashing Pumpkins to Weird Al! Besides being best friends with his fellow Lipstick founder this quirky bassist with a nerd punk background most definitely reminds me of Cheap Trick's Rick Nielsen! While there is much more to this funky cool band (as can be seen in their bio) I will leave that as homework for all of you to do on your own. That said, Sleaze Roxx has a great interview with this band as seen here and seeing as I pulled bits and pieces from said page (or if you will background information) and the previously-mentioned bio section I would feel dreadful if I didn't link this review to their always informative site. 

**Billy Morris also hails from my home state of Ohio and his lead guitar work of a number like "The Flash" is pretty righteous! While he was involved with Lipstick in the early days (likely not only providing bass and guitar duties but worthwhile advice and guidance since he is a hard rock veteran and all) his family commitments (rightly) came first. When it came time to pack up everything and move Lipstick from Cleveland to Nashville Billy ended up staying behind. For more on that story be sure to check out the aforementioned Sleaze Roxx interview. 

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