By JAY ROBERTS
The Cassette Chronicles is a continuing series of mini reviews and reflections on albums from the 1980’s and 1990’s. The aim of this series is to highlight both known and underappreciated albums from rock, pop and metal genres from this time period through the cassette editions of their releases. Some of the albums I have known about and loved for years, while others are new to me and were music I’ve always wanted to hear. There will be some review analysis and my own personal stories about my connection with various albums. These opinions are strictly my own and do not reflect the views of anyone else at Limelight Magazine.
KIK TRACEE – NO RULES (1991)
You would think I’d stop being surprised by this, but after listening to the Kik Tracee album No Rules for the first time ever, I was struck by how good this turned out to be. Of course, since they were among the third generation of glam bands in the 1980s / early 1990s heyday of metal music, they pretty much disappeared without a trace once grunge took over the music scene.
But that doesn’t invalidate No Rules as a damn fine album. In fact, the album had enough going for it that had it been released earlier in the 80s, they just might have made a far greater impression on the scene.
The first side of the album opens with the song “Don’t Need Rules”, which a a humdinger of a rock and roll number with which to kick things off with. I found myself loving the vocals from Stephen Shareaux from the start. He had both grit and gravitas threaded throughout his performance. And the guitar work on a bunch of the songs was phenomenal. The song “You’re So Strange” starts off with more of a moderate pace but grows into more of a blown out rocker and the solo in the song really stands out. Guitarist Michael Marquis had some chops!
The song that really got me fully embedded with the band’s sound was the full bore rocker “Trash City”. There’s something about the way this song flows that really had me wanting to pump my fists in the air. “Hard Time” is another fantastic rocker that kept my energy level flying high throughout the song.
Sadly, the first side of No Rules has a catastrophic mis-step on it that initially had me wondering what the hell the band was thinking…and then what the label people were thinking by letting the band record and release their cover of Simon & Garfunkel’s “Mrs. Robinson”. I’ll give the song some credit by having a compelling twist to the upgraded tempo of the music, but I hated the way the vocals came out and no matter how much I might have appreciated the music, it was just a total failure to my ears overall.
But that’s the only mistake I felt Kik Tracee had on the first side of the album. Hell, even their ballad is amazing. It’s called “Big Western Sky” and I thought it was just an instant ear grabbing track for me. It has a scope and death to the music that fits the images conjured in my mind by the song’s title. And since Kik Tracee had been referred to as a clone of Guns N’ Roses, I thought this song was where I first heard Shareaux’s vocals sound significantly like Axl Rose. But I didn’t consider it a bad thing necessarily because the song is just so damn good.
As for Side Two, I did tend to enjoy the music here as well. But the closing track, the 43 second “Fade Dunaway”, was kind of useless piffle for me.
But the album side did start out rather nicely. The song “Generation Express” has a brief slow intro that then launches into a fast moving and blazingly paced rocking soundtrack. And it is DAMN CATCHY too!
I have to admit, I got a little distracted the first time I listened to the album so I had to go back and listen to the next three songs on Side Two again. I was at work and my attention to detail had to be a little more focused on a task I was doing while listening to the album. But once I gave those songs my full attention, I found that “Soul Shaker” was a stunningly great track. It actually does showcase more of soulful vocal turn (combined with the requisite rock and roll fuel mixed in of course). It’s a song that has a lot going for it and it needs to be heard by a larger audience. I loved the rocker “Tangerine Man” a lot as well.
The song “Lost” goes for more of a midtempo feel, though I wouldn’t quite call it a ballad. The song starts out mostly with vocals and guitars and pretty much stays that way the whole way through. But the more in-your-face rock returns with “Velvet Crush”, a song that has a real hard driving stomp to it. And the song “Rattlesnake Eyes (Strawberry Jam)” was a blazing rocker that caught my ear right from the start. Definitely one of the best individual tracks on the album.
Kik Tracee may not have made too much of a mark on the latter part of heavy metal’s decade of dominance but looking back at the No Rules album with the benefit of three decades of hindsight, this album has almost everything you could possibly want in rock/metal release of the early 1990s. And the band does it with almost effortless aplomb. Yes, I’d like to wipe their cover of “Mrs. Robinson” from my brain but otherwise, there is no doubt here that No Rules is a flat out fantastic album that definitely should be given a new listen by many a music fan.
NOTES OF INTEREST – The album was produced by Slaughter bassist Dana Strum. While the No Rules album was the band’s only official studio release, they had been working on an album called Center of a Tension when they broke up in 1993. The album remains unfinished.
There was a 2-disc compilation called Big Western Sky (recycling a song title on No Rules for the album’s title) released in 1997 that had demos, rarities and B-sides. There was also an EP called Field Trip that had been released in 1992.
Kik Tracee bassist Rob Grad appeared (with his new band Superfine) on a 1997 episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.