In some ways, Extreme was a band who never got the recognition they truly deserved. Musically, they often proved themselves to be a sharp group, thanks in no small part to the work of vocalist Gary Cherone and guitarist Nuno Bettencourt. Maybe they were stigmatized by the success they eventually had with two ballads, "More Than Words" and "Hole Hearted" - a fate that sunk other bands of that time, like Mr. Big (who are still together) and Saigon Kick.
But in other ways, Extreme might have been so much hype. They never were able to repeat the success they had with Extreme II: Pornograffiti, former members have had difficulties with post-Extreme work (I'm not commenting on drummer Pat Badger's new project, only because I have yet to listen to it), and most of their albums have disappeared into the realms of obscurity.
In a way, this disc tries to mimic some of the biggest cliches in rock at that time. You have your song that sounds like it was lifted from Nazareth's "Hair Of The Dog" ("Flesh 'N' Blood"), you have your stereotypical paeans to good ol' T&A ("Teacher's Pet"), you have your Van Halen-clone (uh, maybe we shouldn't go there) in "Mutha (Don't Want To Go To School Today)", and you have Bettencourt proving he studied the Eddie Van Halen book on guitar licks. You even have the sign of things that were to come in the ballads department with tracks like "Watching, Waiting" and "Rock A Bye Bye".
Okay, sounds as if all I'm gonna do is piss and moan about this album, right? Well, maybe for a little longer. Extreme's songwriting shows that there is still some work that was needed on tracks like "Big Boys Don't Cry" and "Play With Me," but it didn't seem like anything major needed to be tweaked. (This was confirmed one album later.)
For all the weaknesses, Extreme does turn in some high-caliber performances and efforts. "Kid Ego," the song that first woke people up to this band, has the chops that easily could have made it a hit single, and offers a glimpse into the vein that they'd follow on songs like "Decadence Dance" and "Get The Funk Out" on Extreme II: Pornograffiti. Likewise, "Wind Me Up," a song that admittedly has to grow on you, proves itself to be a catchy track that holds up to repeated listenings.
Other tracks like "Little Girls" and "Smoke Signals" aren't quite as strong, but they eventually prove themselves to be as deserving of your attention as tracks like "Kid Ego".
The biggest problem that Extreme had at this time was that the band was searching for its own unique voice - and had they found it in their songwriting at this time, then Extreme might have been unstoppable. Sadly, this was not the case.
Extreme is the kind of album you occasionally pull out to remind yourself just who these guys were before they hit the big time - and crashed to earth not long after. Is it required listening? With the recent release of an Extreme greatest hits disc, maybe not - and admittedly, some parts of the album are a little painful to get through. But it's still worth listening to at least once in order to understand who they were at the start of their career, not where they would eventually go.