Home Read Albums Of The Week: Neurotic Outsiders | Neurotic Outsiders Expanded

Albums Of The Week: Neurotic Outsiders | Neurotic Outsiders Expanded

The Sunset Strip supergroup's sole album — now marking 25 years with an expanded reissue — owes more to ’90s rock stylings than its members' impressive pedigrees.

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THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE:Steve Jones, John Taylor, Duff McKagan and Matt Sorum have never been afraid to confront their demons — and as they’ve proven in their respective work with The Sex Pistols, Duran Duran and Guns N’ Roses, they don’t like losing.

They come from diverse British and American punk and rock backgrounds, but their lives only had to intersect once onstage at a sweaty Hollywood club before the members of Neurotic Outsiders knew they shared a common ground in their desire to rock without any restraint, and put what they’ve seen of the world under the microscope in their songwriting

Nothing’s airbrushed on their self-titled debut album. Nothing’s sacred, either. They draw the listener inside the mess with caustic songs that go beyond sex and drugs and rock ’n’ roll, to penetrate relationships and uncover personal breakthroughs — often packing a sharp twist of irony or a bit of self-effacing humor that would make less secure rockers uncomfortable. Fittingly, the music is brash, jagged and intense. There are hard-edged chords, incisive guitar leads, breakneck tempos and three lead vocalists (Jones, Taylor, and McKagan) who passionately guide us through the wreckage. The trick of creating great rock ’n’ roll is to blend a sense of true urgency with inspired musical chops, and this is what Neurotic Outsiders do.

Neurotic Outsiders chose Jerry Harrison to produce the album. He has one of the most esteemed backgrounds in rock, having been a member of both The Modem Lovers and Talking Heads. Both groups were favorites of the members of Neurotic Outsiders, who collectively trace their roots to the origins of punk rock. In fact, Taylor claims it was The Sex Pistols who inspired him to take up guitar. Recording took place at a Los Angeles studio, as well as McKagan’s home studio and at The Plant in Sausalito, near Harrison’s home.

“You wouldn’t think the mixture would work,” says McKagan. “It sounds like 1979 English punk rock with an American feel. It’s rockin’, it’s heavy. The record is really quite diverse. It’s three different singers. Jonesy writes the coolest pop. The Pistols‘ songs were great pop songs, hooky songs.”

Even N.O. members weren’t sure the mixture would work. But as the songwriting on Neurotic Outsiders demonstrates, their individual viewpoints complement each other. Jones, who penned eight of the tracks, tackles what he sees in the world around him: A bawdy, true story about being asked to pay for sex in the opening track, Nasty Ho, or the humorous rocker Jerk, with the lines “You’re a bitch / I’m a jerk / l don’t think that we can work / You’re a cunt / I’m a cock / Are you ready, ready to rock?” Story of My Life is his own addict’s lament, while Good News is for modern haters who use sexually transmitted diseases as murder weapons. Taylor delves inside himself, anguishing over a painful obsession in the driving Always Wrong, and doing some soul-searching in Better Way, which he co-wrote with Jones. In Feelings Are Good, he shares a simple but hard-won discovery, concluding, “This feeling thing is something new … Feelings are good.”

All the members of the Neurotic Outsiders were feeling good after their first gig. What began as a benefit jam (to raise money for cancer treatments for a friend of The Viper Room’s co-owner) quickly turned into a full-blown band right in front of the public’s eyes when word got out about Neurotic Outsiders’ Monday night jams. “I asked John Taylor if he’d play bass,” says Sorum, “because I’d always liked his playing in The Power Station, but didn’t get to hear enough of it in Duran Duran. Duff’s been playing guitar lately, so l asked him if he’d play. Duff knew Steve from mountain biking.” Adds McKagan: “We rehearsed in the afternoon and did it that night. We thought it was cool, everything was good. Good karma.”

Soon friends like Simon LeBon, Billy Idol, Iggy Pop, Izzy Stradlin and lan Astbury were showing up to join them at The Viper Room, and as many as 1,000 fans were being turned away. As Jones says, “We were like the hot band in town for no other reason than we just wanted to play.” It wasn’t long before record companies were interested, even though N.O. wasn’t even looking for a deal. “Maverick was into the energy of the band,” says Sorum. “They’d come to The Viper Room and see a lot of people were getting rowdy. It turned into a whole shindig. We chose Maverick because even though it’s part of Warners, it feels like an indie.” Says Jones: “We knew after the first gig we wanted to do it again. It’s fun. We have a good time. We’re all kind of equal. And we’re all getting to play some good rock ’n’ roll shit. I love it.”