photo & text by nacrowe
i first became of AMERICA'S LEAST WANTED (MERCURY, 1992) by SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA ALTERNATIVE METAL band UGLY KID JOE in the mid-90s shortly after moving to NIGERIA from a fellow AMERICAN oil brat at school that was a few years older. that student also introduced me to likes of FAITH NO MORE and ALICE IN CHAINS around the same time.
like most people, what caught my ear about the band were the distinctive vocals of singer WHITFIELD CRANE and the crunchy riffage and punchy tones of guitarists KLAUS EICHSTADT and DAVE FORTMAN (the latter of which has gone on to a production career working with the likes of SLIKNOT, MUDVAYNE, OTEP and EYEHATEGOD among many others). this is especially apparent on standout tracks like "SO DAMN COOL," "DON'T GO," "PANHANDLIN' PRINCE," "GODDAMN DEVIL" and "NEIGHBOR." the vibe of the record is generally upbeat even when lyrically covering aggressive topics related to personal relationships and the record industry.
when comparing this record to its peers, and by that i mean ALTERNATIVE ROCK bands like NIRVANA, SOUNDGARDEN, JANE'S ADDICTION, FAITH NO MORE and ALICE IN CHAINS, what this record lacks is any credible sense of pathos. much like the cover artwork, the band almost sounds like a cartoon-version of a rebellious rock group. to my ears they come off as if they are having fun (which is great!). this is evident in songs like "EVERYTHING ABOUT YOU" and "COME TOMORROW." those other bands lyrically and sonically seem to be more about an attempt at catharsis, a sense of releasing or channeling some inner grievance or turmoil. UGLY KID JOE are distinctive in that sense, with a more warm disposition that makes them more similar to MOTHER LOVE BONE than PEARL JAM, if that makes any sense. for some reason i see CRANE's persona as very similar to that of the ANDY WOOD as opposed to EDDIE VEDDER. and maybe that is indicative of the era and the general shift within the industry.
regardless, AMERICA'S LEAST WANTED is a criminally underrated and under-appreciated record with some incredible tracks that deserve further investigation for anyone interesting in the ALTERNATIVE ROCK and ALTERNATIVE METAL scenes of the late 80s / early 90s.
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