It was inevitable that the original lineup of Poison would make a comeback effort in 2002 -- they had spent so long on the VH1 airwaves, they had set the stage for a storming return. Like many bands of their era, they were smart enough to make the comeback on a small indie label, which meant they had little pressure to conform to the shifting tastes of their time, and instead could offer a new record in their old style. And that's exactly what Hollyweird (wonderful title, eh?) is -- a return to the sound of Open Up and Say Ahh, but by an older, wiser, more ambitious band. "Ambitious" shouldn't be read as if the group has gone prog, although at times they can have the pomp and circumstance of Meat Loaf ("Wishful Thinkin'" has a chorus straight out of Jim Steinman). Instead, they're sprinkling serious subjects among the party anthems, in an attempt to draw a portrait of their hometown. Their (largely) serious intentions are given weight by their leanest, hardest production yet, the first to really showcase the band as a rock band, not a pop-metal outfit. The thing is, it all works, and the result is one of Poison's best records, if not their best; it says a lot that by far the worst moment is not an original, but an awful cover of a Pete Townshend song (granted, it's "Squeeze Box," the worst song he ever wrote). It may not really appeal to anybody but the converted -- despite their wide exposure on VH1, only the diehards are likely to buy a Poison album in 2002 -- but the weird thing is, this would be the album to convince doubters that the band is actually pretty good after all.
by Stephen Thomas Erlewine