Oh, no, no," moans Bret Michaels during the final, crashing chords of the newly reconstituted Poison's attempt to reestablish its lacquered toehold on the bubble-metal beach front, "I'm the bastard son of a thousand blues!"
As epiphanies go, this one almost ranks with Luke Skywalker's revelation that the bad guy, Darth Vader, is really his father. Full of blustery harp and honky-plonk piano, "Bastard Son of a Thousand Blues" is a bastard all right, the mutant offspring of John Lee Hooker by way of ZZ Top, down to the opening "How-how-how." But its self-effacing self-awareness still distinguishes Poison from the other bighairs at the top (Bon Jovi, Mötley Crüe) and the bottom (Warrant, Cinderella) of its MTV class. That righteous goofiness helps to forgive Poison's sins impersonating everyone from Aerosmith ("The Scream" and "Stay Alive" might have come screaming straight off Toys in the Attic) to Lindsey Buckingham ("Native Tongue" is a liberal translation of "Tusk"). When Michaels huffs the thesis of "Stand" "You've got to stand for what you believe in" the only belief he makes explicit is his belief in copying John Mellencamp. No one can accuse Poison of abandoning its roots as a cover band.
Maybe Michaels is thinking ahead to the arena, where delivering "Stand" immediately before "Something to Believe In," the hit from Poison's last studio album, the triple-platinum Flesh and Blood (1990), could be just swell. But while Poison's been off in rehab, the kids who sank for its hooks three years ago are now getting high on teen spirit. New guitarist Richie Kotzen is passably whizlike, and drummer Rikki Rockett establishes himself on every track as one of the genre's heavy hitters. But Poison may have to dream up sharper material than Native Tongue's if it wants to keep talking, dirty or otherwise, to the hordes. (RS 652)
(Posted: Mar 18, 1993)