Poison’s Look What The Cat Dragged In turns 30 on May 23.
30 years on and I would say that this album, originally released by Enigma Records, stands the test of time.
Look What The Cat Dragged In was Poison’s debut album and is credited as being a huge part of the second wave (the MTV-era wave) of glam metal, and a snapshot of hard rock at the time when it was released.
Check out my full retrospective of the album here.
The album starts with the angsty and defiant “Cry Tough”. This song was also the debut single of both the album and the band.
The song opens with the following lyric:
“Remember the nights we sat and talked about all our dreams // Well little did we know then // They were more distant than they seemed // Well I knew it you knew it too // The things we’d go through // We knew the things we had to do to make it, baby.”
This lyric builds into the chorus, which was anthemic at a time when Poison was still playing clubs:
“You gotta cry tough // Out on the streets // To make your dreams happen // You gotta cry out // Out to the world // To make them all come true.”
In a time when Thrash and hardcore bands were all trying to play faster than each other and Death Metal bands were trying to be more gruesome and grueling, Poison opened up their debut album with a timeless rock ‘n’ roller that never charted in the U.S., but that insisted on perseverance anyway.
The first time I heard this song, I fell in love with it, and I still listen to it when I need some inspiration. When I wrote about this song on my personal blog a while ago I quoted the chorus: “You gotta cry tough, out on the streets, to make your dreams happen” and stated that it (the chorus) was too big and too important to ignore. I still believe that.
The second song on the album is the third single; “I Want Action”. A fun, pounding, guitar-driven track about what else? How much the singer wants to have sex. I don’t have much to say about the song, except to say that it has a fun video.
The third song is the fourth single, “I Won’t Forget You”. Noted as being the albums power ballad, the song brings the heart. There are those who have argued that power ballads are cheap (as is the argument against pop music). Who hasn’t been in love? Whose heart strings aren’t being pulled by this? They have a point, but I don’t care, because it’s just so damn good.
“Late at night I close my eyes // And think of how things could have been // And when I look back // I remember some words you had said to me // It’s better to have lost at love // Then never to have loved at all // I won’t forget you baby // (I won’t forget you) // Even though I could // I won’t forget you baby // (I won’t forget you) // Even though I should, yeah.”
From the very first guitar lick through the first lyric and into the chorus my heart feels both pained and also comforted.
Plus, the music video is pretty cool. It shows the band on tour, including shots of fans running into the stadium to get to the pit.
The next song is “Play Dirty”. I once wrote on my personal blog:
“I was going to say that ‘Play Dirty’ was a throw-away track, but at best you’d have to consider that in the context of the scene (which I don’t know that well). On the album, it stands up pretty well (even if it immediately seems unnecessary followed by the crunchy (for Glam Metal) powerhouse that is ‘Look What The Cat Dragged In’”.
I don’t think that my feeling about it has changed much. This song benefits from what Bret Michaels said about Look What the Cat Dragged In, that it was a “glorified demo”, because I think that it could benefit from a bit of thought and further work.
The title song was never released as a single. Despite this “Look What The Cat Dragged In” is a good tune to crank. It’s anthemic as hell. Truly made for the stadiums. I’m not saying anything new.
I remember that the day after I got drunk for the first time my uncle blared this song as we rode to some family function. Of course he was doing it to give my cousin and I a hard time for being hungover, but I’m okay with that. I rocked out anyway.
The next song, “Talk Dirty To Me” was the second single off of the album (and thus the second single from Poison ever).
This song is sure as hell a sex song. I think there’s more to it though.
“You know I never // I never ever stay out late // You know that I can hardly wait // Just to see you // And I know you cannot wait // Wait to see me too // I gotta touch you.”
A song about being in the drive-in, down in the basement, talking dirty. For those who were teenagers when they first listened to the song, I’m sure that it lit them on fire. I know that it does me. It also reminds me of the first time I talked dirty to a girl and the first time a girl talked dirty to me. I wish I would have felt half as confident as the protagonist in the song when it happened, or half as competent, but I wouldn’t trade the memories for anything.
A couple of the songs (“Want Some, Need Some” and “Blame It on You”) are arguably filter, but the album picks up with “#1 Bad Boy” and then brings it home with “Let Me Go To The Show”. Exemplifying Michaels’ unique belt, and some interesting guitar work. It’s a fun song with enough angst to be appealing but not so much angst that you have to trade in your teasing comb for spiked arm bands. Plus it ends with some grumpy old dad yelling, “YOU HEARD YOUR MOTHER! TURN THAT SHIT OFF!”
Fuck him, right?
The 2006 re-release songs aren’t much to write about. Single versions of great songs that I’ve already written about and then the cover “You Don’t Mess Around With Jim” by Jim Croce.
Considering that five of the ten songs (13 if you count the 2006 re-release) on this album go on to be on every Poison greatest hits C.D. Four of them are singles and one of them (“Talk Dirty to Me”) breaks top 10 in the U.S. (“I Won’t Forget You” reached 13) and considering everything that I’ve written above I give this album 3 out of 5 cans of hairspray.