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The late eighties were a great time for rock music in general. The only real bad thing was wading through the wannabes to get to the real deal in those pre-internet days. Your only reference was magazines and every week mags like Kerrang would proclaim the next big thing or pin the ultimate five K (KKKKK) review on an album by a band that you’d never heard before. As soon as you got the word you’d be out down the club asking for songs or if the review was good enough and the reviewer trusted enough you would part with your cash sight unseen.
I must admit that over the years I was pretty lucky as I never really landed a complete dud sight unseen; but a few purchases came close to not exactly delivering what was promised. Vain hit the pages of Kerrang with absolute rave reviews and everything seemed to stack up. A reviewer who normally hit the mark, a cool description of the sound and ‘the look’. Vain looked exciting before you heard a note… so if only they delivered.
The first actual song I heard by vain was Secrets and on the strength of that I went to buy the album as soon as it was released in the UK. And even though I still think that Secrets is one of the best tracks on the album there is so much good material it’s hard to pick an absolute favourite. I have a friend that I played the album for as soon as I got it and even today he still regards ‘Beat the Bullet’ as the absolute perfect rock song.
Seeing Vain support Skid Row shortly after was probably one of the best concerts I’ve been to certainly top 10. Vain were absolutely everything you wanted to be all hair and sleaze and sex and sweat and meeting them a day or two after that first live gig was a revelation in itself. The guys were just so impossibly and improbably nice! Possibly the most polite and respectful rock stars I have ever met or am likely to meet. I still remember Ash asking if I minded him using the word ‘fucking’ as he wrote “VAIN – UK fucking rocks” on the back of my jacket, ‘no keep the fucking’ I said ‘UK rocks doesn’t sound half as good’ I still have that jacket which ended up being signed by Vain, the Dogs D’Amour and Love/Hate over the next few months.
Getting back to the album itself it is Top 10 of all time material. It’s probably the best example of the genre I can think of. Everything is right, the production, the guitar, the volume, the look, the voice, everything. It all stacks up but unfortunately the label didn’t. The last time Island had touched a rock band successfully was Free in the 70s and promotion was pretty poor especially in the states. At least in the UK we got some interesting formats of ‘Beat the Bullet’ (Bullet shaped 3” CD; 12” with a non album track! And 7” Vain logo picture disc- I have them all of course signed by Davy and the boys.
The best thing about the album though is that it has aged so well and still sounds great in this its 20th year since release.
When the riff of the opening track hits and Davy screams out ‘Secrets’ you should already be hooked. The disturbingly simple but catchy riff makes you realise that this is what rock music should be all about, uncomplicated, dirty, sleazy fun. I love the guitar sound on this CD in general and the solos fit the songs absolutely perfectly.
Listen to the guitar at the start of ‘Beat the Bullet’ and tell me it doesn’t still sound exciting. In all honesty the song itself is hard to beat and probably close to the best Davy ever penned.
There’s not a lot to complain about here even songs like ‘Icy’ which was never one of my favourites still sound cool today. Tracks like ‘Down For the Third Time’ and ‘Who’s Watching You?’ are a couple of the catchiest sleaze rock songs ever recorded!
We close with ‘Ready’ which used to close the live set an all out rocker that leaves you wanting to taste some more. But that of course was another story. After the first album you just expected everything to explode for these guys, they seemingly had the world at their feet, but it never happened. It’s the age old story again. Where the music delivers in Aces and the world lets you down…
I know a lot of people always bang on about certain albums but this really is so good it’s frightening. The next album ‘All Those Strangers’ sadly never got an official release and then after that the only news from Vain we got was two discs from Japan before Davy’s solo album and the reformation disc. That music is great and when I caught Vain at ROK in 2008 they still had it live and Davy was still barefoot. If you were lucky enough to catch the band in the UK in December 2009 and see the original band play this live one last time you were one of the lucky few.
Quite simply one of my favourite albums of any era or genre.