Throughout the 1980s, hair metal was a goldmine for a lot of groups. Simply squeezing into spandex and lacquering on the Aqua Net would make overnight stars of some remarkably mediocre bands. Unfortunately, it also scarred a number of other groups whose music had nothing in common with the vacuous cock rock, thanks to record labels forcing the ill-advised hair metal imagine on any band with more than one guitarist. Among those unfairly tagged with the “hair metal” moniker was Chicago’s Enuff Z’nuff. Yes, the name is a little regrettable, but throughout the ’80s and well beyond, they offered a fantastic updating of pop and psychedelic rock influences from bands like The Beatles, Cheap Trick and Badfinger.
Clowns Lounge, their 13th album and first in about six years, is a collection of early demos and rarities reworked by the band. The album is crammed with sharp pop hooks and strong, chugging guitars. Original singer Donnie Lee left the band a few years ago to deal with health problems and disillusioned by the music industry, so Chip Z’nuff took over at the mic on this one and does a stellar job. His vocals soar on songs like “She Makes it Harder” and “Rockabye Dreamland.” There are a few wanky guitar solos here and there, not helping the case that the band didn’t belong in the hair metal category, along with a guest cameo from Warrant’s Jani Lane, but overall a solid collection pop rock songs from a long underrated band.