Bulletboys Bulletboys (Warner Bros.) 1988

1.      Hard as a Rock (3:06)
2.      Smooth Up in Ya (4:25)
3.      Owed to Joe (2:47)
4.      Shoot the Preacher Down  (3:42)
5.      For the Love of Money (3:47)
6.      Kissin' Kitty (3:11)
7.      Hell on my Heels (3:26)
8.      Crank Me Up (3:40)
9.      Badlands (3:14)

The Bulletboys? Sounds like the name of some punk band from the early 80's, or perhaps one of those terrible, corporate, pop boy bands. It could also be an incredibly bad name for an 80's hair band. Indeed the later is true. The Bulletboys debut album was produced by Ted Templeman, who was known for his work with Van Halen during their golden Roth-years. Also, much like Van Halen, the BulletBoys were formed in Los Angeles, California. As such, the Bulletboys have a lot in common with early Van Halen. In fact, the Bulletboys debut rocks harder than anything Van Halen has released since "Fair Warning". Not surprisingly, the album sports several hits including "Smooth Up In Ya" as well as a cover of The O'Jay's song "For the Love of Money". The album went certified gold in '89, selling well over 500,000 copies and pushing the album into Top 40 chart success for a short time. Frankly I think the O'Jays cover is one of the weaker songs on the album. In fact, the better tracks are the non-hits such as the hard rocking opener "Hard As Rock", the Kiss-like "Owed to Joe" and the heavy swing of "Shoot the Preacher Down". The later is one of those songs that really has that Van Halen-esque sound.

Vocalist Marq Torein has a smooth, bluesy voice that fits well the clean hard rock sound of Bulletboys. Former King Kobra guitarist Mick Sweda offers everything anyone would expect from an 80's guitarist from smooth riffs to skillful chops.  Surprisingly, for a major label, big hair release in 1988, the rock and roll hasn't been striped out of the band by the production. In fact, the guitars are out front, the bass and drums holding up the bottom end and the vocals sit right into the mix where they should. There is no over-saturation of keyboards, if there are any at all. Really, despite a name that would have them pegged as a horrendous pop band, the Bulletboys debut is a surprisingly solid hard rock album.

Freakshow Bulletboys - Freakshow (Warner Bros.) 1991

  1. Hell Yeah! (3:19)
  2. THC Groove (3:33)
  3. Thrill That Kills  (3:06)
  4. Hang On St. Christopher (3:48)
  5. Talk To Your Daughter (3:36)
  6. Freakshow (3:33)
  7. Good Girl (4:22)
  8. Do Me Raw (3:08)
  9. Ripping Me (2:52)
  10. Say Your Prayers (3:13)
  11. O Me O My (2:59)
  12. Huge [instrumental] (3:03)
When people think of music in the 1990's, they generally think of grunge or some of the other alternative rock that plagued rock radio in that musically depressed era. However, in the early 1990's, good time rock and roll was still thriving and hadn't been completely obliterated yet by the likes of Nirvana and Pearl Jam. Bulletboys were one of those bands still riding the 80's wave of loud guitars, skillful chops, crashing cymbals, undisciplined bluesy metal riffs and that party-till-you-puke attitude. "Freakshow" rocks hard, dirty and is the product of a band that is convinced they are as big as Aerosmith, Zeppelin and especially Van Halen. As a matter of fact, some of the guitar work and vocals would make me think that the Bulletboys may have even thought they were Van Halen. And why not? Van Halen certainly weren't kicking out the jams like this in 1991, instead focusing on tame pop rock tailor made for the radio. "Good Girl" and "Ripping Me" rockin' like they could have been recorded for VHII. However, let's not pretend that "Freakshow" is some clone/tribute album. In fact, the band attempts to widen its sound with the hard rock shuffle of "Freakshow", the groovy Tom Waits cover "Hang on St. Christopher and such lofty constructs as "The Groove". The entire album is chock full of hooks and brought to life with a meaty recording. I dig the way the guitar solos are generally played over the bass and drums without a backing rhythm guitar, which gives the album that live vibe. Yes, yes, I know, it's not cool to like the Bulletboys. They were text book glam rockers in a time when glam rock was becoming uncool. However, I really don't give a rip how much Aqua Net they used at the time or how ridiculous their spandex were. I only care that the music is good. "Freakshow" delivers. One slight annoyance is there are no lyrics included and the song titles are out of order on the back insert. 

Za-Za Bulletboys - Za-Za (Warner Bros.) 1993

1.   When Pigs Fly (3:59)
2.   Slow And Easy (2:11)
3.   The Rising (2:10)
4.   Sing A Song (3:48)
5.   Mine (4:09)
6.   1-800-Goodbye (3:27)
7.   The Show (3:02)
8.   For The Damned (4:12)
9.   Laughing With The Dead (3:13)
10. Fess (3:05)
11. Crosstop (3:21)

"Za-Za" is the Bulletboys oddly titled third album. The album starts off with a kick-butt, scorching, hard rock song called "When Pigs Fly". The follow-up song, "Slow and Easy", is a another solid song with a funk groove that reminds me of Extreme. For whatever reason, after these two songs the album tends to get bogged down a bit with filler and fluff. "The Rising" is just over two minutes and is some sort of industrial sounding song that might have worked as an intro for the album but sounds dull on it's own. Tracks four and five are both mellow ballads. "Sing A Song" is the better of the two, being an acoustic blues based song, whereas "Mine" sounds like a left-over ballad from an old Journey album. "1-800-Goodbye" is just plain goofy. Midway into "'Za-Za" and despite two solid opening songs, the album fails to impress and feels very disingenuous. Finally with tracks seven and nine things pick back up again. "Laughing with the Dead" is a Van Halen-esque rocker while "The Show" is a more upbeat heavy rocker. "For the Damned" is another blues-based acoustic number. "Fess" is a boogie-woogie track, also in the traditional of Van Halen. I'm sure this connection is helped further by the production skills of Ted Templeman. "Za-Za" closes with a final heavy rocker that easily could have fit on either of the Bulletboy's previous albums. Overall, "Za-Za" has some very good songs but isn't a solid listen all the way through. It's almost like they are trying to please everyone and in the process please no one. As it turns out, "Za-Za" was the band's last album for quite some time and their last for Warner Brothers.

Behind the Orange Curtain Bulletboys - Behind The Orange Curtain (Crash) 2007

1.   Hard As A Rock (3:26)
2.  Hell On My Heels (4:02)
3.   Shoot The Preacher (4:43)
4.   For The Love Of Money (5:50)
5.   Hang On St. Christopher (5:14)
6.  THC Groove (4:12)
7.  When Pigs Fly (5:10)
8.   Walls (3:14)
9.   F9 (4:06)
10. Toy (3:41)
11. Shake Me Awake (5:51)
12. Smooth Up (5:43)

"Behind the Orange Curtain" is the Bullet Boys capture live and raw at The Galaxy Theater in Santa Ana, California. On this live recording, sole original member and vocalist Marq Torien is joined by guitarist Tommy Pittman, bassist Jimmy Nelson, and drummer Pete Newman. The band charges through a set of hits and fan favorites such as "Hang on St. Christopher", "THC Groove" and "Hard as a Rock", as well as a cover of the O'Jays' "For the Love of Money". There are a handful of grunge-inlfuenced newer tunes such as "Wise" but for the most part the band sticks to their older catalog. The sound quality on this recording seems to be a point of contention with fans. The way I see it is, "Behind the Orange Curtain" sounds about as live as it gets. I doubt there are any overdubs to fix the rubs or studio tricks to spice things up. Rather, this sounds 100% live. As such, the performance isn't perfect, including the vocals. It's almost bootleg-ish, though every instrument is clearly heard. However, I think it gives the band an edge and a raw sound that wasn't heard on their polished studio records. It's sort of an intimate recording and is an entertaining listen for die-hard fans, but this one isn't for audiophiles.

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