They're All Crazee Now

You wouldn't know it from this set, but there actually was some pretty fair racket produced under the banner of hair metal in the Eighties. Even if you disqualify every megaband that blurred the line between traditional hard rock and metal (Van Halen, Guns N' Roses, Def Leppard) and every speed metal act that slowed down enough for some radio play (Metallica, Anthrax) and every Seventies dinosaur that came back to vengeful life (Aerosmith, Kiss), you still would have a generous handful of pop-metal singles capable of providing a few moments of guilty pleasure (Skid Row's 1989 teen morality play "Eighteen and Life" leaps to mind, for some reason) or unapologetic rockin' (Motley Crue's ferocious and almost funky "Dr. Feelgood"). But this collection's single-minded pursuit of the marginal and the anonymous and the simply dull deftly manages to avoid nearly every one of them.

That's the dispiriting thing about Youth Gone Wild. Despite the uncontrollable balls-out partying recommended in title after title ("Lay It Down!" "Rock Me!" "Get It On!" "Goin' Crazy!" "Say What You Will!" "Gotta Let Go!" "I Want Out!" [exclamation points added]), the music is kind of boring. It is so mannered and so perfectly groomed that it rocks with all the risk and abandon of a Bach concerto. It isn't just the faceless fungibility of the singers and their songs (YGW boasts two appearances, for instance, by ace journeyman vocalist Joe Lynn Turner, whose generic pipes allowed him to holler with equal forgetability for both Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow and Swedish guitar weirdo Yngwie Malmsteen's Rising Force). It isn't just the inhuman mathematical precision of the "shred" guitars or the ham-handed thievery of riffs from other, superior sources (Kingdom Come's and Whitesnake's respective infamous Led Zeppelin rip-offs are both conveniently included on the same disc). Rather, it's the whole air of desperation these songs collectively conjure now, not enough years later, as troupe after troupe of sullen technicians whirls their massive manes in orgiastic glee and exhorts the kids to go wild, wild, wild.

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