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Ugly Kid Joe
Stairway To Hell
August 2012
Released: 2012, UKJ Records
Rating: 2.5/5
Reviewer: Erich

Fifteen years after disbanding, Ugly Kid Joe returns to the touring circuit with a new EP, STAIRWAY TO HELL. On board is most of the original lineup, with the important core duo of front man Whitfield Crane and lead guitarist Klaus Eichstadt. Right on cue for the band’s 20 year anniversary of their 1992 breakthrough album AMERICA’S LEAST WANTED, comes the new EP, following the formula that broke the band in the first place. Ugly Kid Joe has the distinction of having the first ever EP to be certified platinum by the RIAA, 1991’s AS UGLY AS THEY WANNA BE. Bands, like sports players, like to repeat winning formulas.

To UKJ’s credit, this is no simple self-plagiarizing of their early 90s sound. STAIRWAY TO HELL is a more modern, down-tuned affair no doubt influenced by Crane and drummer Larkin’s involvement with Godsmack and Crane’s project with some Soulfly members, Medication. There is definitely a grungy feel to this, a bit safe and stiff though, which leads me to question if the album would not have benefited from a little more of the old UKJ sound. “I’m Alright” does have that original feel on the chorus, more loose and relaxed. However opener and first single “Devil’s Paradise” is a fine tune but not one of the best on the EP, a questionable lead off to my ears despite the party themed lyrics. “Love Ain’t True” has some of the funk elements the band used in the 90’s with a semi-rap, but overall it sucks. Album closer “Another Beer” makes a perplexing play for country radio, stylistically out of place and not that great to boot.

STAIRWAY TO HELL is a six song EP, with three throw away tracks, not a good percentage to say the least. I was never a huge UKJ fan, but they had some great tunes back in the day that were a bit different than what most of the third tier of hair bands were doing just prior to grunge. In that context, this EP is a huge disappointment. Production is fine, but the songs lack personality and come across as underwritten and too basic, something you would expect from the first EP of a young band, not a group of veterans. In sum, STAIRWAY TO HELL serves as new material to justify the band’s touring and festivals this summer, but they should not have bothered.
Track Listing

1. Devil’s Paradise
2. You Make Me Sick
3. No One Survives
4. I’m Alright
5. Love Ain’t True
6. Another Beer


Whitfield Crane – Vocals
Klaus Eichstadt – Guitars
Dave Fortman – Guitars
Cordell Crockett – Bass
Shannon Larkin – Drums

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