Hookers and Blow

Here's a little advice for Houston's snow angels who think they'll be doing something unique by offering members of Buckcherry some Colombian marching powder before or after the band's upcoming show: Don't. You are way behind the curve.

Since the release of its breakthrough hit "Lit Up" from the group's 1999 self-titled debut -- on which singer Joshua Todd sang the straightforward chorus, "I love the co-caine / I love the co-caine" -- aspiring Tony Montanas have lined up across the country to foist mounds of the white stuff on the group.

"It's happened about as many times as people ask me if my tattoos hurt," says multi-inked guitarist Keith Nelson with a laugh. "We get offered it pretty damn often. But it comes with the territory, and it's pretty damn amusing. We've managed to keep it all out here on the road and stay alive, though."

So there's no Behind the Music crack-ups for the band members just yet, which is just as well, since they'll be pretty busy the rest of the year, touring behind the just-released Time Bomb. While the 12 tracks (and one hidden tune, "Open My Eyes") are an artistic step forward from its debut, Buckcherry hasn't strayed from its formula of short, loud and unabashed rawk, mostly about drinking and partying and fucking. In an age in which the overwrought "nu-metal" of acts like Tool, Korn and Godsmack are providing Moroses for the Masses, Buckcherry's music is actually a -- dare one say refreshing? -- throwback to the sounds of their beloved '70s heroes.

"I guess people make music for different reasons. I don't make music to exorcise demons -- they have therapists for that sort of shit," Nelson says. "Most of my favorite music growing up and to today has been good-time stuff. The soundtrack of Friday night."

Not surprisingly, many articles and reviews of the band have included finger-wagging from critics who find the band's retro sound and in-your-face (or, more likely, on) hedonism somewhat shallow. Even the band admits that it's easy to "pop out" some lyrics from Time Bomb to illustrate this point: "It's comin' for you / It's comin' for me / Life ain't nothin' but bitches and money" (from "Ridin'"), and the not-so-subtle "Don't you know we fuck for money / I'm a big dick motherfucking porno star" (from the impossibly catchy "Porno Star").

Still, Nelson says only "lazy fucking journalists" peg the band based on just one song or one lyrical hook. "Porno Star" is written from the perspective of the title character; it's not simply Todd bragging about the size of his member (although he's probably not too upset if audiences don't catch that nuance).

"We didn't invent the genre of singing about that stuff. Somebody who just hears 'Lit Up' or [Time Bomb's] 'Whiskey in the Morning' think they have the band all figured out. It's just the result of people not digging deep enough, of listening to the whole record. There's other aspects to us," Nelson says. Then he adds wryly, "Like I like to say, it's not all hookers and blow."

But it's plain that Time Bomb is a mother lode of party anthems. While the requisite power ballads such as "You" and "Helpless" don't quite get off the ground, there is still a rare elegance to Nelson's guitar intro on the latter. Other numbers like the title track, "Whiskey in the Morning," "Underneath," "Slit My Wrists" and "Fall" certainly meet Nelson's Friday-night soundtrack vision.

"The majority of times it's the music first, but it's got to stand on its own and inspire Josh to come up with lyrics. Then we just bounce things off of each other," he says of the band's songwriting process. "For Time Bomb, there was a lot more of passing tapes back and forth between us."

Los Angeles-based Buckcherry formed in 1995 after Nelson and Todd met through -- and this could happen only in L.A. -- a mutual tattoo artist and began writing songs together. The band took its name from a transvestite who frequented its early shows.

Adding bassist J.B. Brightman and drummer Devon Glenn, the quartet recorded Buckcherry. Later adding the single-monikered Yogi on second guitar, the group hit the road to refine its sound and managed to score hits with "Lit Up," (a No. 1 Billboard rock hit, also nominated for a Grammy) and "For the Movies."

"We really started to evolve as a band during those two years. We were more sure of what we wanted, and those experiences shaped where our head was for this record," Nelson says. He adds that while the band members were relieved that DreamWorks wanted a follow-up to their debut album, they took nothing for granted. "We weren't really a household name, and we felt that we had to overachieve a lot. We still had an underdog frame of mind and definitely wanted to make a better record than the first."

Buckcherry's current headlining tour has it playing mostly large clubs and small theaters throughout the United States. Nelson is excited about playing 90-minute sets, which allow more breathing space than the band's previous shows as opening acts. Still, Nelson wouldn't trade those early gigs for anything, particularly the shows in which Buckcherry opened for its spiritual forefathers KISS, AC/DC and Aerosmith. The guys felt almost giddy being in such proximity to musicians they had previously seen only on album covers or from the cheap seats.

"With all the acts that we've toured with who've inspired us, there's always that moment where you go, 'Oh, my god! Aerosmith's dressing room is right next door!'" Highlights have included AC/DC just coming by to "hang out" in Buckcherry's dressing room, and the members of KISS -- in full makeup and costume and on their way to the stage -- stopping by to take pictures with these awestruck Angelenos.

The band just shot a cameo in the upcoming film The Banger Sisters, in which Goldie Hawn and Susan Sarandon play former '60s and '70s rock groupies now facing middle age. One can easily imagine that, despite the age gap, the Buckcherry guys would still do both of them and your girlfriend in their spare time. Hell, they might even let you watch -- if you bring some cocaine.

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Bob Ruggiero has been writing about music, books, visual arts and entertainment for the Houston Press since 1997, with an emphasis on classic rock. He used to have an incredible and luxurious mullet in college as well. He is the author of the band biography Slippin’ Out of Darkness: The Story of WAR.
Contact: Bob Ruggiero