Somewhere along the line, loud, fast rock and roll slammed on its brakes and sobered up. Hard rock and metal (KISS, Van Halen, Mötley Crüe) brought a sense of humor to the mainstream in the '70s and '80s, but now the old-school rockers are too busy paying penance for their wild past to have any new fun (check out the recent Crüe bio The Dirt for the depressing epilogue). And while hair metal is a tough cause to defend, at least some of those bands knew how to celebrate the debaucherous life of The Rock Star. So what if that lifestyle got trashy, degrading and monotonous, as long as the music was its own party.
The Toilet Boys tap into that old hair-metal/rock-star sparkle without losing their grip on reality. The New York five-piece draws from its hometown roots, uniting Dead Boys' punk, New York Dolls' glam and L.A. shithole-bar pop-metal into an entertaining rock show. Fronted by Guy -- a glamorous, platinum punk drag queen with rhinestone panties, studded belts and shredded shirts -- the Boys are known for their nonstop-weekend anthems and for shooting flames from their, as they must inevitably be called when discussing such a band, "axes." The band's eponymous, full-length debut (under their upstart Masterplan Entertainment label) is packed with songs like "Party Starts Now," "Saturday Nite" and "Good Times Roll," tracks that mix poppy punk metal with a respectful homage to the KISS "Rock & Roll All Night" mantra. The CD picks up where the Toilet Boys' EPs Living Like a Millionaire and Sinners and Saints left off, playing up Sunset Strip hedonism without all the deadly earnest, self-aggrandizing bullshit.
"We tend to get shit for not being serious," says Rocket, one of two Toilet Boys guitarists, from his home in Manhattan. "But there's nothing about us that presents itself as being serious, anyway. To me, it's obvious that we have a really big sense of humor. Look at the names of our songs, our name, how we look and who we are. We're not meant to be heavy -- [just] throw on the fucking CD and enjoy it. It is a balance, though; we're completely serious about rock and roll, and we love it, but at the same time, we know it's silly and that's part of what we love about it. It's all about having fun."
The Toilet Boys
Engine Room, 1515 Pease
Saturday, March 30; 713-654-7846
Always veering toward low-budget, punk-Vegas style, the Toilet Boys aim to give crowds a rowdy live show. "In the '90s there was so much anti-rock-star sentiment among rock stars, which seems really dumb," says Rocket. "Punk rock always had a good sense of putting on a show. Early punks like the Ramones, the Dead Boys and Johnny Thunders put effort into being on stage. We've always had in mind that no matter how humble you want to be as an artist, you're still up there on stage. I can't imagine trying to present an image like, 'Hey, we're just a bunch of regular guys.' We're not. We're a bunch of weirdos."
These five hot freaks found their initial refuge under the wing of Blondie goddess Debbie Harry and an old club called Squeezebox. Back in the mid-'90s, Squeezebox was a legendary Manhattan event. It was ground zero for the fringe and the foundation alike: Film and fashion scenesters rubbed up against crusty punks, drag queens, club kids and metalheads. Everybody got down to live music and Guy's deejaying sets that rocked the house with AC/DC and Mötley Crüe. When Guy's neighbor/pal/idol Harry was set to perform at Squeezebox in '95, he pulled together an opening act with drummer Electric Eddie and a couple of friends, christening the band the Toilet Boys. After a few lineup changes, the Boys solidified in '96 with Guy ("Miss Guy, if you're nasty!"), Eddie, Rocket, guitarist Sean and bassist Adam Vomit (the only member with a last name). They've since opened for Blondie, Orgy and Motörhead, backed up legends like Joan Jett, Cheetah Chrome and the Plasmatics' Richie Stotts, and even played a gig at Joey Ramone's final birthday party. "That was one of the highlights of everything," gushes Rocket.
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With lyrics like "Come on, baby / Get inside my rock 'n' roll limousine," the Toilet Boys revive trashy music with a style that takes the piss out of cock rock and celebrates its theatrics at the same time. For Rocket and the Boys, this escape from the everyday is what rock and roll is all about. "The mainstream is full of all these bands with singers crying about how they hurt their girlfriend's feelings and how they wish they weren't such jerks," says Rocket, laughing. "I don't really understand all these serious songs. I mean, I understand them," he admits, "but I really don't like them."