Picks and Pans Review: America's Least Wanted

updated 09/28/1992 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/28/1992 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Ugly Kid Joe

Maybe these yahoos are just a product of their environment. This young quintet, after all, flashed to fame last year out of the college town-hippie enclave-party mecca of Isla Vista, Calif., with a cheerful chart-climbing ditty called "Everything About You": "I don't like a thing about your mother/And I hate your daddy's guts too/And I don't like a thing about your sister, no, no, no/Cause I think sex is overrated too."

Their five-song quickie debut, As ugly as they wanna be, with its gleefully delinquent attitude, sold 1,045,000 copies, making it the best-selling debut EP in history.

Both "Everything About You" and "Madman," which concerns a psycho's trip to Disneyland, are reprised on the group's first full album, still heaped with steaming slabs of rip-slash guitar from Klaus Eichstadt. (Dave Fortman has replaced Roger Lahr on rhythm guitar.) But with the exception of the trauma-inducing "Goddamn Devil," this isn't the same rude, raucous rock that gained the band attention. The arrangements and style of the songs are less frantic, more polished and mature. Maybe Eichstadt and singer Whitfield Crane learned some things touring this year with their childhood idol, that master of metal, Ozzy Osbourne.

If the music is more controlled (and, mostly, less inspired) the lyrics are just as scornful. In "Neighbor," a rancid picture of suburbia, Crane sarcastically asks, "It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood/...won't you be my neighbor?" Wail till Mr. Rogers hears this. Then there's the album's weirdest, most extraneous track, a burly treatment of Harry Chapin's "Cats in the Cradle," the strangest cover since Guns N' Roses did Paul McCartney's James Bond theme "Live and Let Die." More accomplished and commercial, Ugly Kid Joe still isn't ready for polite society. (Mercury)

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