Extreme II: Pornograffitti


A & M Records, 1990


REVIEW BY: Ken DiTomaso


The early ‘90s were a strange time to be successful for a band like Extreme. It's a weird limbo area in music history where the ‘80s had come to an end but grunge hadn't yet exploded on the scene to wash the residue of the decade away for good. Achieving success at the tail end of the hair metal era gave Extreme the advantage of hindsight. By 1990, almost all of their contemporaries had fallen victim to the excesses of the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle, and the illusion that this lifestyle was a glamorous one to be desired was no longer something that could be maintained and taken seriously. Porograffitti turns a mirror on its own genre exposing just how ridiculous it all can be, while simultaneously showing that this sort of music can still be a heck of a lot of fun. It's a brilliant idea, and an album that could only have been made in this era.

Extreme reveal themselves as a band smarter than they had any right being, and the great thing is that casual listener might not even notice the degree of satire that pervades most of these tracks. If you aren't paying attention, songs like “He-Man Woman Hater” and “Li'l Jack Horny” could come across as dumb, bordering on offensive. But look a little closer and it become obvious that they're taking the piss out of bands like Motley Crue and Def Leppard. It's a really clever inversion of stereotypes, and one that the less attentive listener might not even pick up on. Extreme is having a good time while simultaneously poking fun at just how ridiculous it is to buy into these facetious ideals, all while blowing your mind with great riffs at the same time.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Speaking of great riffs, I almost can't get over what an enormous leap ahead from the debut this album is. Absolutely everything is improved. The vocal hooks are no longer just decent, they're fantastic. The production still has a hair metal vibem, but it's no longer embarrassing in the slightest. The glossy reverb that marred their debut is a distant memory. These songs sound huge but still hold together extremely tight and punchy. But what really takes this record to the next level is that Nuno Bettencourt is unleashed. Not a moment goes by that isn't jam-packed with an absolute barrage of non-stop riffs, licks, and solos. Check out how almost every line of vocals in “Decadence Dance” is followed by a completely different riff, each one good enough to support an entire song of its own. He has come fully into his own on this album. Nuno's guitar parts are often complex but never overwrought. I couldn't even begin to think about playing any of the solos on this album myself, yet despite their complexity they get completely lodged in my brain. Retaining melody in technically-tricky guitar playing is a tall order but time and time again Bettencourt proves that he's up to the task.

The less heavy tracks on this album are an interesting case. They eschew the satirical theme the rest of the record has and feel a little out of place as a result. “More Than Words” became enormously successful and is still the song most people think of when they think of Extreme today. The weird thing though is, despite its reputation, it's not a power ballad at all. Extreme had the good sense to know that a humble love song actually has more impact than a cheesy bombastic one. It gets overlooked these days with how commercially successful the song has been, but I adore how intimate the song feels. It's like the band is right there in the room with you. “Song For Love” on the other hand is a fully-fledged power ballad and the only outright flop here. It's such a transparent attempt at an anthem that it's a little bit embarrassing. It, along with the limp lounge-pop exercise “When I First Kissed You” are all that prevent this record from receiving top marks from me. Thankfully, much like their debut, they save face at the last minute with the tremendous closer “Hole Hearted,” which trades electric guitar riffage for equally great acoustic action.

This album's message isn't hidden too deeply – it's right there in the album title after all (“graffitti” being the keyword here, not the other way around). But it's a great message all the same, and they pull it off without ever coming across as preachy. Ultimately, however, when it comes down to it you can simply ignore all the subtext and just rock out, since Pornograffitti is an absolute blast to listen to from start to finish. Few records get my air guitar rocking harder than this one.

Rating: A-

User Rating: B



© 2014 Ken DiTomaso and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of A & M Records, and is used for informational purposes only.