Hell & Back Together: 1984-1990

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Poor T.S.O.L. had long ditched any musical evidence of a punk rock past and jumped into the Los Angeles hair metal scene by the time this compilation was released. Although this transformation was more than just a quick changeover, the band went from a politically motivated hardcore band in 1981 to a superficial hard rock band in 1991 with a completely different lineup featuring no original members. The transformation is documented here with an emphasis on their latter-period material, making the change seem like a "growth" when it essentially documents a band falling apart and being put back together by musicians with no interest in the original goal of the band. Thus you are presented with a record that almost seems like two different groups, one that made excellent gloomy alternative rock and one that sounded like Guns N' Roses lite. The material from Revenge and Change Today stands out for being the best on the collection, but the lack of material from the latter is quite disappointing. Still, tracks like "Flowers by the Door" and "Nothin' for You" display a passionate band on edge, making vital L.A. post-punk that practically crackled with electricity and intensity. The rest of the music is passable hair metal that hardly even sounds like the same band, shuffling through simplistic riffs and dull covers with a pedestrian delivery that betrays everything the original lineup stood for. Any album they released up to 1986 is unquestionably an important document of the Los Angeles club scene, but this fails to do anything more than turn people away from a band that was much better than this uneven record would have you believe.

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