The early-’90s success of ultraserious new recruits like Metallica and Alice in Chains condemned to obsolescence a lot of what made hard rock so irresistible: its humor, sex appeal, big hair, colorful scarves, and tuneful shouts about hormone-addled runaways. Assorted Rancid-style bubble-punks and Sponge-style one-hit grungers have lately revived a few of those lost values, so the three-volume Youth Gone Wild: Heavy Metal Hits of the ’80s arrives at a perfect time — precisely when young adults who spent the ’80s in malls ought to start questioning whether those Poison records they’d been brainwashed into discarding were really so embarrassing after all.
Volume one concentrates on stomping pop, volume two on pompous slop, volume three on butt-shaking bop; all told, 42 acts pound out 42 hits. A couple of artists (Lita Ford, Krokus) aren’t represented by their catchiest material, and none of the power ballads are as worthy of inclusion as ”Heaven,” by Warrant, would have been. And the second disc’s overblown operatics and flashy guitars too often serve as a front for flimsy material.
But most of the noise is expertly chosen. Accept, Love/Hate, Bang Tango, Britny Fox, and Dangerous Toys feel transcendently slimy from their throats to their dancing feet, and who knew fourth-stringers like D.A.D. (”Sleeping My Day Away”) and Helix (”Heavy Metal Love”) had tunes this gloriously goofy? Almost invariably, the finest cuts come from the bands sporting the most hairspray. As Cinderella put it in the set’s most kick-ass anthem, ”Gypsy Road”: ”Who’s to care if I grow my hair to the sky?” Maybe all these dudes should just come back with Mohawks. Volume 1: A- Volume 2: B Volume 3: A