Under-Reviewed: TKO – “In Your Face” (1984)
Seattle is not typically a city that many people associate with great 80s Hard Rock, but the fact is that the Northwestern United States had a pretty vibrant scene of Metal and Hard Rock in the early/mid 80s. Probably the three biggest examples of Metal bands out of Seattle were Metal Church, Queensryche and Sanctuary (Notable as they would morph into Nevermore in 1992), but the scene on the street had a good number of other solid bands to offer. Culprit, who’d formed in ’81, released their solid trad metal album “Guilty as Charged” in 1985. Female-fronted Glamsters D.C. Lacroix also came into existence in Seattle. Even future Grunge superstars Alice in Chains started out as a Glam band, releasing several demos under the name “Alice ‘N Chains”. These bands are just a few among many.
But one of the original bands of the Seattle scene (having formed in 1977), TKO really hit their stride in the mid-80s when they released their second album, 1984’s In Your Face. They made their recorded debut ’79 with the solid if unspectacular album Let It Roll, but the music of the 5 years between albums had clearly made an impression on the seattle Hard rockers as In Your Face became an amalgum of heavy influences coalescing to create an album that’s at once commercial and dirty.
Album opener “I Wanna Fight” is a pretty standard, AC/DC-inflected rocker with a slow, bluesy rythm that, while being nothing spectacular, will definitely get you tapping your feet and preparing yourself for the red-hot rock of the rest of the album. The next track, “Run Out of Town”, is an ode to the road and the antics of a band basking in the glories of touring with the likes of (aformentioned influence) AC/DC, Van Halen, and The Kinks among others. Third track “Give into the Night” starts off by brilliantly rolling off of the previous track with the line “29 cities in 28 days/on the never-ending road” before moving on into a song about the power and temptation of a gorgeous woman. For a song of this well-used concept, it’s exceptionally well written, and kudos must go to Vocalist Brad Sinsel for maintaining lyrical originality.
“End of the Line” is easily the most metallic offering on the album, coming up with a searing, fast-paced to verging on Speed Metal style riff. “Working Girl” picks up where “Give…” left off, putting in a groovey riff and an innuendo laden lyric about, well, working girls. Kudos again to Brad for keeping it original, even continuing into “All I Wanna Do”, a song about sitting down and having that first conversation with an attractive woman; a scenario not often (if ever) tackled by bands in the Hard Rock or Glam styles who are too busy with lyrically jumping right into bed.
The remainder of the album is quite varied. “Don’t give it away” brings in an interesting metallic groove that’ll get even the most hardened listener strumming a little air guitar, then “I Can Do Without You” comes in as the album’s only ballad. “So This is Rock ‘N Roll” picks things up again with a bar room groover riff and is just an all around fun track, and “Danger City”, another metallic rocker, closes the album.
Overall, this is an outstanding and unbelievably overlooked album by a band who had a great sound and went unnoticed. For their 3rd album, 1986’s Below the Belt, the band went in a slightly more commercial direction in an attempt to achieve success. While still being a solid album, it didn’t reach the musical heights of In Your Face, nor did they achieve success on it’s back.
At the end of the day, this record is one of the best examples of the time in which it was recorded: When Glam was still Metal and not the frilly pop rock that would be created by Bon Jovi, Poison and their ilk. If you ever have the opportunity to pick up this album I highly recommend it.
Score: \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/ (9 out of 10)
(For more info on TKO, click here)