Rock in a hair place? No, says Buckcherry 

Los Angeles-based five-piece Buckcherry draws many comparisons: AC/DC; Black Crowes without the boogie; KISS without the makeup. But to Keith Nelson, the guitarist who started the band four years ago with singer Joshua Todd, Buckcherry is more closely related to Soundgarden, Stone Temple Pilots and even Nirvana. But listen hard to the group's eponymous debut and hear something else. Isn't this hair metal ... without the hair?

"No," says Nelson. Insert uncomfortable pause. "I'm really not a fan of that era of music." Insert second uncomfortable pause. "At least [the hair metal bands] weren't taking themselves too seriously."

But seriously folks, much of Buckcherry is Sunset Strip-style rock indeed, played by a bunch of tattooed bad boys more than a little eager to inject the sex and drugs back into rock & roll.

In other words, crank it up and let's party. Todd, Nelson, Devon Glenn (drums), Jonathan Brightman (bass) and Yogi (guitar) seemingly are after nothing more or less than a good time. "Lit Up," the group's barn-burning first single, might be a toast to a chemical escape from one's troubles. Chainsaw guitars and a brutal rhythm-section thump set the stage for a tune with the couplet -- "I love the cocaine/ I love the cocaine." That may be viewed as either gloriously straight-forward and un-PC, or a shortcut to a cheap shock.

"We never thought that it would be accepted as widely as it has been," Nelson says. "We got way more mileage out of that than we thought it would get. It captured the vibe of what we were all about."

Buckcherry, to give credit where it's due, is littered with music and lyrics that are more complex and less generic than your average hair-metal anthem. Todd drops some real-life characters into such songs as "Check Your Head," about the deaths of two friends. The band's sound, also on the plus side, is as live as you like, with a certain raw edge to the guitars and an unfiltered huskiness characterizing the singer's vocals.

That good-time sound was on full display during the band's triumphant appearance at the Woodstock '99 music festival. Amid the decidedly doomy metal lineup, Buckcherry's no-frills rock & roll was like a breath of fresh air. (The just-released two-disc "Woodstock '99" set features a rough-and-tumble live version of "Lit Up," one of the few highlights of the album.)

"We wanted to make music that was exciting, that wasn't this whiny ... self-deprecating shit all over the radio. We were interested in music that allowed you to have a good time," says Nelson.

Mission accomplished.

More by Philip Booth


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