Clowns Lounge starts with a phrase made familiar by Stone Template Pilots – “here I come, I come, I come!” Say what? I almost thought that instead of cuing up Clowns Lounge, I mistakenly dug into my STP cache. But no – I’m listening to Clowns Lounge, a collection of polished up Enuff Z’Nuff demos with a few new songs.
First of all, whenever I read the phrase “collection of demos,” I tend to throw up in my mouth a bit. Not all bands can pull off putting old, possibly unfinished songs into a new package. But more on this later.
“Dog on Bone” kicks of Clowns Lounge, and it’s probably the catchiest song on the album. The misstep of “here I come, I come, I come” aside, it has a great chorus reminiscent of The Monkees’ “Not Your Stepping Stone.” With original Enuff Z’Nuff singer Donnie Vie gone from the fold, and several time replacement Johnny Monaco nowhere to be found, Chip Z’Nuff takes the helm with a pleasant voice.
What makes “Dog on a Bone” stick out is the production. A lot of Chip’s studio work sounds outstanding. In fact, I’d trust Chip to record my new album any day. Well, if in fact I was a musician or songwriter. “Dog…”sounds radio ready – if there’s still such a thing!
Another somewhat recent track is “The Devil of Shakespeare,” featuring both Jani Lane and the previously mentioned Monaco on vocals. How can I categorize this song? It’s slow. Has a haunting vibe. A bit like a slower “Into the Great Wide Open” by Tom Petty. It builds into the chorus nicely. Lane handles the verse, but the real star of the song is Monaco. Hey Chip – let’s pull a few more like these out of the archives!
Now on to the other tracks.
First of all, there seem to be two schools of thought went it comes to Enuff Z’Nuff. One is that the band is a brilliant, should-have-been-huge, forgotten gem. The other involves Enuff Z’Nuff’s music completely going over people’s heads. Clowns Lounge illustrates both. They had great commercial sensibility. They just needed better guidance.
On one hand, like with “Radio,” the band can deliver a catchy riff and easy to remember chorus. One of the issues with the band’s first self-titled album is that it needed an up-beat follow-up to “New Thing.” Ballad “Fly High Michelle” could have been released after the band had found a little stronger positioning.
“Radio” may just have been that perfect second single. “Round and Round” would have been another. Both songs pre-date Enuff Z’Nuff (catch them on this live 1988 performance). Each song shows the band’s great sense of melody, an element both borrowed from The Beatles and further developed as their career went along.
“Back in Time” sounds like it was recorded after the VERY early 1984 record (unreleased until the mid-90’s) and the debut. “She Makes It Harder and “Good Luv,” each possessing crunchy riffs while showcasing the licks of then guitarist Derek Frigo, need a little work on the lyrics. But both certainly fit the hard rock pocket perfectly for the time. The just-as-crunchy ballad “Nothing” also fits into this mode well.
“One More Hit” would have also been perfect to release after first-ever single “New Thing,” or even the lead video for the band’s next album Strength. Not quite sure how MTV would have handled lyrics alluding to weed smoking, but it has quite a hook.
So now back to thoughts about bands releasing old demos in a new package. The songs on Clowns Lounge haven’t been commercially available, although I have listened to them on You Tube in one form or another. As for them being demos from 1988-89, they still sound acceptable. You can hear a slight hiss from the source tapes, but overall Clowns Lounge is a big hit.
Although it borrows from a few other songs, “Dog on a Bone” is strong enough to make you want to hear more from the Chip-era Enuff Z’Nuff. But c’mon pal – work on those lyrics. Did Chip really sing “trim?” Oh, my!
Clowns Lounge shows that with a few tweaks here and there, Enuff Z’Nuff could have been The Next Big Thing. Instead, they may be better categorized as The One That Got Away!
Enuff Z’nuff will be on tour with Ace Frehley in 2017. Visit their website for tour dates.
Buy Clowns Lounge.