Veteran rock band Skid Row has been making music in some form or fashion for more than 30 years. Over the course of that time, the band has released only six albums. Most bands that have been around for such a long time have released well over that total, leaving one to wonder if perhaps the high turnover in the band’s lineup (and a three year hiatus in the late 90s) played into that surprisingly low number of albums. The only band that even comes close to the number of lineup changes that Skid Row has seen is L.A. Guns, and in their case, the matter goes even deeper and will be saved for another discussion at another time. Getting back to Skid Row, the band released its sixth album, The Gang’s All Here Oct. 14 through earMusic, and on its latest record, the current lineup has offered rock fans and Skid Row’s most devoted fans plenty to appreciate. That is proven in part through the musical arrangements that make up half of the album’s body. It will be discussed shortly. The lyrical content that accompanies the album’s musical arrangements make for their own share of interest and will be discussed a little later. The record’s production puts the finishing touch to the whole and brings everything full circle. It will also be addressed later. Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of the album. All things considered they make The Gang’s All Here an enjoyable addition to this year’s field of new rock albums.
The Gang’s All Here, the sixth new album from Skid Row, is a mostly successful new offering from the veteran rock band. The record’s appeal comes in part through its featured musical arrangements. The arrangements are of note because by and large, they feature so much of the adrenaline-fueled, guitar-driven styles and sounds that made Skid Row (and other hair metal bands of the late 80s) so popular. At the same time, there is also something about the arrangements that gives them a modern touch, too. That something is something that is difficult to put into words. It really is something that audiences must hear for themselves in order to fully understand that style and sound for themselves. Whether it be the controlled vocals of front man Erik Gronwall, the crunching guitar riffs, or something else, the fact of the matter is that each arrangement offers its own unique blend of vintage hair metal and modern rock/hard rock that really is surprising in its ability to engage and entertain audiences. The simple truth is that the approach that the band took with this record’s overall musical body is that it keeps the band fully relevant and is certain to appeal not just to Skid Row’s most devoted audience base, but to even the most casual rock and hard rock fan.
As much as the musical content featured in The Gang’s All Here does to make it appealing, it is just one part of what makes the album worth hearing. The record’s lyrical themes make for their own interest. They range from typical hair metal fare to more thoughtful, defiant statements to matters in-between that are familiar in their own right to audiences from one to the next. One of the most notable of those in-between works comes late in the album’s run in the form of ‘October’s Song.’ In the case of this song, Gronwall seems to wax existentially as he asks in the song’s chorus, “How do we get down the mountain we climb day by day?/What do we do when the light that we shine fades away?/We leave the prayers and confessions behind/Day by day/Waiting on fate to bring something divine and be saved.” He also notes of being “scared of what cannot be seen” even though “I’ll see you again in-between.” He gets even more existential early in the song as he sings that “Winter’s on the rise/Autumn still in my eyes.” This certainly comes across as metaphor for the stages of life and death. Winter is that end while autumn is close to death but not quite there. The reference to “the night of the longest goodbyes” could certainly make even more reference to this concept. This is all just this critic’s own interpretation of things, but the song certainly seems to point toward a theme of contemplating one’s mortality. If in fact that is the case then this song is, lyrically, quite an intriguing presentation that will engage audiences.
On the exact opposite end of things, lyrically, is the album’s title track, which comes far earlier in the album’s run. Specifically, it is the album’s second track. In the case of this celebratory, high-energy composition, the song comes across as being just about the joy of being with friends. This is inferred right from the song’s lead verse and chorus, which state, “I’m burning down the city and I’m getting with the gang/Street fight/Car crash/Starting with a bang/Working up the money/’Cause someone’s getting busted/Looks like we’re walking/’Cause the car got jacked/’Don’t worry about it ‘cause we got your back,’ he said/Alright, alright/The gang’s all here/The gang’s all here/The gang’s all here tonight.” This comes across as being that noted statement that while yes, things can and do get bad, it’s all OK when you’ve got friends you can be with, because those friends make everything better. That celebration of friends gets even clearer in the second verse, which finds Gronwall singing, “Got a bloodshot sun is rising/Jumping in the fire/I’m falling out/Shutting down/Preaching to the choir/Donny’s drinking nitro/Hanging from the ceiling/Everybody’s dizzy/And they’re losing all the feeling/That’s right.” This just seems to be an illustration of the over-the-top good time that those friends bring before Gronwall returns to the song’s chorus, celebrating that joy of being with said friends. It is a light, loose theme that, when paired with the song’s high energy musical arrangement, makes this song all the more enjoyable and just one more example of the importance of the album’s lyrical themes.
‘Resurrected’ is one more song that really seems to hint at the album’s lyrical themes. In the case of this song, the theme comes across (at least to this critic) as being that all too familiar topic of defiance and standing up to naysayers and anyone who would try to be an obstacle in whatever way. That includes those in power at any level. This is inferred early on in the song’s lead verse and chorus, which state, “Yeah, brothers and sisters/Listen to me say/The world’s on fire/But not the end of days/It’s not religion/I’m not the voodoo child/Don’t bless my heart or curse my soul/Just lead me to the wild/The judge and jury in suits and power ties/Stone cold and living out their lives/We’re not playing dead/That’s all in their head/Now’s the time to see/We’re resurrected/No one can bring us down/Or push us underground/We’re back where we should be/We’re resurrected/Yeah.” Now to a point, one could argue that maybe just maybe this is also a reference to everything that has happened with the band through its life, what with all of the lineup changes and possibly people wondering if the band even has any relevance. At the same time, even if that is the case, then it still serves as its own unique starting point for the bigger theme of not letting people or anything in life get and keep anyone down. The song’s second verse adds even more to that seeming theme as Gronwall sings, “Got to remember to look them in the eye/And watch their smile crack/As they bleed the system dry/Drunk with power without a soul to save/I know that you know/That we know what they know/Crossing fingers that I fall on my face/But they’re still jumping in my grave.” Again, this sure seems personal, and perhaps has something to do with the band’s career. At the same time, the overall theme of defiance and standing up to those in power and those who would rather try to hold people down is still there. To that end, it is still just as powerful and accessible to audiences and yet another example of why this record’s lyrical content is just as important to its presentation as its musical content. When this seeming theme and the others examined here are considered alongside the rest of the album’s lyrical content, the whole makes clear why the album’s overall lyrical theme is so important to its presentation.
As much as the overall content does to make The Gang’s All Here so important, it is not all that audiences should note. The record’s production also plays into the album’s engagement and entertainment. The production is important because the result of that work is an expect balance between the record’s vocals and instrumentations, and the instrumentations themselves. Gronwall’s vocals are perfectly balanced with the work of his band mates from one song to the next, making understanding of the words he sings so simple. Believe it or not, that does not happen with every album out there from every act. There are some records that suffer because of this aspect, where the balance between vocals and instrumentation is simply not there. Thankfully that is not the case with this record. At the same time, the balance of the guitars, bass and drums gives each work so much fullness to each overall work. It also is to thank for helping to really bring out that blend of classic hair metal and modern rock/hard rock. The result of the work there and with the vocals is an overall general effect that ensures audiences’ engagement and entertainment just as much as the record’s content itself. When all of this is considered together, the whole makes The Gang’s All Here a record that is in fact all there.
The Gang’s All Here, the latest album from Skid Row, is an enjoyable new offering from the veteran rock band that casual rock fans and the band’s more devoted fan base alike will enjoy. Its appeal comes in part through its musical arrangements, which blend the band’s late 80s/early 90s sounds and style with a more modern touch for a unique whole that is engaging and entertaining in its own right. The record’s lyrical themes are of their own interest. That is because of their diversity. From the serious to the far less so, the lyrical themes offer a range of topics for audiences to take in. The album’s production puts the finishing touch to its presentation, bringing everything full circle. Thanks to the production, the album’s general effect is just as appealing for audiences as its content. Each item examined is important in its own way to the whole of the album. All things considered they make The Gang’s All Here a welcome addition to this year’s field of new rock albums.
The Gang’s All Here is available now through earMusic. More information on the album is available along with all of the band’s latest news at:
To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go online to https://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.