To date, The 69 Eyes’ career can be neatly divided into The Sleeze Years and The Goth Years. The band formed in Helsinki in either 1989 or the early 1990’s, depending on whether you believe Wikipedia or the band’s biography. Oddly, the Wikipedia entry which cites the year as 1989 has a footnote citing the band’s website which only gives a vague reference to “the early 90s”. The band’s first four albums (Bump ‘n’ Grind, Motor City Resurrection, Savage Garden and Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams) were decidedly sleeze rock. On 1999’s Wasting the Dawn, they completely redefined their sound to a mix of gothic rock, glam metal and horror punk. While this is a mix of seemingly incompatible genres, they actually make it work. Although the band continues to enjoy a certain level of popularity, true fans of each genre continue to hold them in disdain.
In other words, it’s a band that I’m almost guaranteed to like.
This article will focus on their sleeze rock years. I’ll write another focusing on the goth/glam/punk years later.
They cite many bands and artists as influences ranging from Elvis Presley to The Sisters of Mercy, as well as Hanoi Rocks, The Cult, Alice Cooper, The Doors, Misfits, The Ramones. The list goes on and on, and on many songs you can easily pick them out. If you’ve ever wondered what The Throbs would sound like if Elvis was carrying lead vocals, you might want to check out The 69 Eyes.
Neither the band’s Wikipedia entry nor their official website discuss roster changes, so I can neither confirm nor deny that the current line-up is the original line-up. I’d like to believe that it is, but since they’ve been together for 15+ years, I’m just jaded enough to think that’s not possible.
While the entire U.S. was navel gazing and wallowing in the self-pity which defined Grunge, The 69 Eyes broke onto the scene with this album. (They had a single called Sugarman released in 1990 which lead to enough label attention to get this album recorded.) The first four songs aren’t as much “sleeze” as they are simple and straight ahead rock and roll (although House By The Cemetery comes close). The influences of L.A. Guns and Faster Pussycat are obvious. Hot Butterfly gives some hint of their future move to goth. Starting with Sugarman, the song which landed them the recording contract, the album picks up. It, Dream Master, Too Sick For You, Blind for Love and The Hills Have Eyes move things along quite nicely. Barbarella is sleeze with a little punk thrown in for good measure. It’s infinitely more enjoyable than the movie, nekkidness excluded.
The Cleopatra reissue includes Elvis Presley’s Burning Love as a bonus track. I’m somewhat prejudiced because I love this song. These guys do it justice. In my opinion, it’s the best song on the album and might have completely changed their careers had it been included on the original album.
Overall, while there’s not much to love about the album, there’s not much to dislike. As far as sleeze rock goes, it’s a lightweight. For a first release, it’s decent enough but nothing beyond the level of average. I must admit though, the album grows on you. After 5 listens, you’ll definitely find yourself singing along.
Their second major release had to be a disappointment to fans. Or not. The original contained 14 songs, but six of these are repeats. (The reissue rings in at a jaw dropping 22 songs.)
It opens with Discipline, a strong 80’s/sleeze metal song, followed quickly by a remake of KISS’s Deuce. Frankly, this is one of the better covers I’ve heard. This backed up by Mrs. Sleazy, a solid piece of metal, which is followed by slightly extended and reworked versions of Hot Butterfly and Sugarman. While these are repeats from their first album, at least they were drawing on their strengths. In this regard, they were definitely drawing from KISS’s playbook, albeit earlier in the cycle. If you don’t believe me, go count the number of albums Rock and Roll All Nite appears on. Sixteen as of this writing.
Stop Bitching! is a nice piece of sleeze, while Barbarella is yet another slightly extended version of the original. Gimme Some Skin flirts with industrial metal on the vocals ala Gravity Kills but is an excellent piece of rock. The remainder of the album is quality sleeze. Too Itchy For Action leaves you wondering if maybe you should’ve worn a condom last night, while No Hestation is an instant classic ala L.A. Guns. If Phil Lewis had carried lead vocals on this one, we’d all have the lyrics tattooed on our ass. This is followed by yet another repeat, Alive from their previous album. Gene Simmons should have this band’s name branded on his soul. Oddly, the song works better on this album than it did on it’s first appearance.
The reissue adds 8 songs to the original, so it’s a steal at any price. Gimme Some Head oddly brings Ted Nugent to mind, but with a chorus of “Girls, girls, girls, girls, gimme some head,” how could it not? (Yeah, I know. Nugent wasn’t a big womanizer. Whatever. That guy got more head than all of us combined. Oh, and he never smoked weed either. I think I hear your mom calling.)
One-Shot Woman is quality rock and roll. It’s arguably their strongest song to date. I love it. You’ve got to experience it to really appreciate it. I could say more, but until you hear it, it’d be wasted energy.
TV Eye is another strong one. WTF? It seems like these guys held back their strongest material. I’ll say again that Burning Love, which was withheld from their first album, was their best song to date. TV Eye is definitely in the top 10. Those damned record labels … It’s like they don’t want us to get laid.
Return of The Fly is a crunching piece of metal. This should’ve been released in the U.S. as “alternative.” It easily could’ve broke the top 100. At least in my world. That scream in the chorus is easily worth $10.
Ah, Is It My Body … the Alice Cooper remake. This is good stuff. I wholeheartedly recommend the album on the strength of this song alone. More bands need to spend some quality time with Cooper’s catalog. These guys do the song justice.
Call Me Animal is very L.A. Guns/Faster Pussycat. Well done on any level. Broken English is always sexy … and I mean that in a non-homosexual way. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
Vietnamese Baby, a remake of New York Dolls’ song, is an amalgamation of about 15 different bands. L.A. Guns, The Doors, Sisters of Mercy, The Cult .. and on and on and on. Oddly, just about any band other than the Dolls. It’s not a great song, but it’s definitely enjoyable and better than about 75% of anything on the market today.
The reissue closes with Science Gone Too Far, a great 80’s-type song with enough 90’s vocal effects and 90’s musicianship to make it work. The chorus is just enough punk to keep the underworld interested. It’s probably one of my favorite. Mindless and hard, it’s good stuff.
This album shows that the band that has really matured. The sleeze is good on this one. The album opens with 1-800-SLEAZORAMA which is a somewhat disturbing voice mail and rolls straight into Tang which, while not explosive, is a very enjoyable piece of metal. Good screams.
Smashed ‘n Trashed … is that Aerosmith? Damn close, right up to the chorus. The verses are dead-on. This song shows how tight and steady the band has become and I think this would probably be a great song in a live venue.
Velvet Touch shows a heavy influence from The Cult. I can easily imagine Ian Astbury, after glancing around the room to see if anyone is looking at him, punching the quick-dial on his cell phone and calling his attorney. While very Cult-ish in the verses, the chorus swings off into non-Cult-land. It’s definitely better than anything The Cult has done since Sonic Temple.
Motor City Resurrection, named after their second album, is a very good piece of metal. I’d buy the album on the strength of this song alone. It’s a head banger. The influence is muddied on this one because there are about 15 different bands competing for the spotlight. The Cult is definitely there and I’d swear KISS makes a brief appearance at the start. I have no idea how drunk you’d have to be to write this song.
Ghettoway Car. Clever name. There’s a lot of 80’s metal influence here, but not the hair metal stuff. It’s more in-line with the 80’s straight ahead metal, aka Great White without the blues. Punk-influenced chorus. Overall very listenable.
Wild Talk is probably the least likable song on the album for me. It’s okay, but … meh. It’s not bad, but I’m thinking they should’ve had a few more drinks before hitting the studio. You know … I think I’ve changed my mind. This a great song. It’s funny how that second listen can change the world. The music is very much like Poison but the vocals are not. It’s borderline Alice Cooper meets Poison. But that’s a stretch.
Get It Off is another 80’s influenced song … but I’m at a loss to put my finger on the band. The wife says “kind of Bon Jovi,” but she says that about everything. She’s been brainwashed and, for the life of me, I can’t beat it. It’s an awesome song, though.
Always is a rocker. It’s a mix of too many different bands to mention. It’s absolutely an awesome rocker. I dig this one.
1-800-SLEAZORAMA (Reprise) is … like the title says, a reprise of the telephone call. An outro, if you will.
This albums signals a change in direction. While it’s typically grouped with their other sleeze rock albums, it’s definitely not sleeze. It leans heavily toward industrial metal and there’s hardly a sleeze song in sight. While it would be difficult to classify this as industrial metal, The 69 Eyes have obviously moved on. This is one of my favorite albums.
The album opens with a cover of Blondie’s Call Me. It’s immediately apparent that these guys are a huge influence on Deathstars. This song is more industrial metal than anything prior to this. It’s very enjoyable, but their future move to gothic metal is painful obvious here.
D.I.D. is heavy and the industrial metal vocals really push it over the edge. By this point, it’s clear these guys are switching genres. We’re two songs into the album and there’s not a sleezey note in sight. This is a good rocker, though. It’s awesome background noise.
Broken Man, Get Around and Too Much To Lose continue the “heavier than anything we’ve done to date” theme. It’s like The Cult grew a hair and finally let Billy Duffy go nuts. (Am I the only one who thinks Billy could’ve been a heavy metal god had it not been for Ian thinking only of himself and what might possibly appeal to the ladies? It’s like he was only thinking of how he could get laid …) Too Much To Lose, with the line “No one here gets out alive,” strikes me as something of a tribute to Jim Morrison, but I could definitely do without the female backing vocals. They just don’t fit.
Sore Loser is closer to the sleeze rock we’ve come to know and love, but it’s definitely heavier and more industrial than anything Faster Pussycat ever dreamed of – even in their most drug-induced state. Again, the influence on Deathstars is obvious and I wonder whether these guys might possibly have influenced Static-X. The guitar has a very late-60’s-early-70’s feel to it, while the drums and vocals are decidedly more heavy.
Skanky Man … well, the title sounds sleezy … but that’s where it ends. True, the lyrics would fit in almost any sleeze metal song, but the music is not sleeze metal. By this point, it’s obvious that we’re dealing with a band who has unhinged itself from the past and are seeking a new identity. But, my god, this is a good song. It’s heavy, repetitive and just works. I like it. Sometimes it sounds like he’s saying stinky man, which I find infinitely hilarious.
Wrap Your Troubles In Dreams almost starts as a ballad and then quickly rumbles to life. There’s a lot of The Cult here and this song is actually very close to sleeze rock. It’s our first indication that this is actually the same band we’ve been following all these many years. The song is so-so, but grows on you over time. It’s a stand-out because it’s so different from the previous seven songs. Jussi 69 really shines on this one. It ends with that annoying female vocalist … which is really very sad.
Hellcity 1999 returns to the heavy crunch which is so indicative of this album. We’re back on the brink of industrial and frankly, it’s a little difficult to tell one song from another. This song, while good, could easily be Broken Man, Get Around or Too Much To Lose. It’s quality metal but somewhat generic. (Yeah, I know I said this was one of my favorite albums. It is. That doesn’t mean it’s without its shortcomings.)
Turbobitch is a mix of sleeze music and industrial vocals. Yes, I like it. Of course I do. It’s not the strongest song on the album, but it’s damned good. It’s like Al Jourgensen hammering the hell out of Taime Downe but – suddenly, out of no where – Gene Simmons appears and puts the beat-down on both of them. Go figure.
L8R S8N, while being a lame song title, is actually a decent piece of metal. It’s a sly mixture of sleeze and heavy metal, while holding true to the industrial-style vocals which dominate this album. The lead guitar work is worth the price of admission. Timo-Timo really shines on this one. He lays waste.
And that ends the Sleeze Years, or what would more properly be called the Sleeze-and-one-really-heavy/industrial-album-years. Out of it all, if you could only afford two albums, I’d recommend Savage Garden (Amazon, Amazon MP3 Downloads) and Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams (Amazon, Amazon MP3 Downloads). Of course, all of the albums are high quality stuff. But these two are definitely the best-of-breed.
Stay tuned, though. The Goth Years are just around the corner.