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Stairway to Hell [Bonus DVD]
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  • If ever a band appeared destined to an eternal adolescence it was Ugly Kid Joe, a bunch of goons who rode in on the last wave of hair metal. They were so intentionally gross and stupid, both in their music and visuals, there seemed no way for the group to grow old gracefully, so they did what most bands do -- they broke up. Each member wound up pursuing a different path in the hard rock/metal circuit but, despite some measure of success, the group couldn't resist the clarion call of nostalgia. And so, come 2010, Ugly Kid Joe reunited, first for a tour, then for an EP called Stairway to Hell that seemingly bears no connection to Chuck Eddy's landmark 1991 book of the same name. That decade-plus the Ugly Kid Joe members spent playing professionally is immediately evident here, as these former ruffians feel polished and slick; they trade enthusiasm for execution, which ain't necessarily a bad way to mature. Certainly, if they were diving headfirst into the juvenile decadence of the past, Stairway to Hell would carry a sense of desperation, but by relying on reliable old showbiz tricks, they come across as road-weary entertainers, ones who no more than wink at their past (the selection of acoustic covers that round out the EP contains "Cat's in the Cradle" but not "Everything About You," a sign that they know their limits). The songs here aren't stellar but they are sturdy, the work of lifers who know how to take advantage of a good gig when they get one. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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