Put away your copies of the big ol’ bloated Use Your Illusion! Open up your internet browser of choice and set your destination to Discogs / Amazon / Spotify / YouTube (delete where applicable), as we discover some alternatives to ‘The Most Dangerous Band In the World’ (© GN’R 1986) …
The most unlikeliest of things happened back in 1995. Johnny Depp contacted Matt Sorum asking whether he could put a band together for a benefit show at The Viper Room. Sorum says “sure thing” and enlists Duran Duran’s John Taylor and his Gunner colleague Duff McKagen. In turn, Duff suggests Steve Jones and the line-up is complete. They jam the afternoon of the show and then take the stage.
“I asked John if he’d play bass because I’d always liked his playing in the Power Station, but didn’t get to hear enough of it in Duran Duran” – Matt Sorum, 1996
It turns out that they had a ball. So did the crowd. They become The Viper Room’s resident band, with guests like Izzy Stradlin and Slash joining in and the likes of Iggy Pop, Ian Astbury, Simon LeBon, Billy Idol and even Sporty Spice getting on stage for renditions of their favourite songs. Rumour has it that folks were lined up around the block to see them play, with the majority turned away as the place was full.
“We were like the hot band in town for no other reason than we just wanted to play.” – Steve Jones, 1996
What was unlikely about this union? Well, the fact that what was a one off benefit performance resulted in the type of buzz that resulted in a small tour and the recording, and releasing, of an album. The Neurotic Outsiders had arrived.
“We were in the these high profile, high maintenance bands with very little actual playing. With Neurotic Outsiders, things felt completely loose.” – John Taylor, 1996
The album itself is a big bowl of awesome. The band sound pretty great – lean and powerful. As you can imagine from a group like this, there are varied influences, though understandably the album’s mostly sculpted from punk (most of the tracks penned or co-penned by Jones). Duff, Jones and Taylor handle vocal duties between them, so there’s a whole lot of variety and depth to keep it interesting.
There’s some heavy riffing from Duff and Jones (like on Taylor’s Always Wrong or Feelings Are Good) and there’s even a couple of pretty excellent, catchy, sing-a-long and almost anthemic, choruses thrown in for good measure (Angelina or the preposterously fun Good News). John Taylor’s bass playing is outstanding, too – some really great vibes. Along with Sorum, they provide the heartbeat to each of the album’s 12 tracks.
Despite some lyrical missteps and the subtlety you’d expect of paeans to sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll during the likes of Nasty Ho and Jerk (what more do you expect from tracks with titles like those, right?), there’s also some meditative moments during Better Way, Union, and Story Of My Life. They also throw in a pretty splendid cover of The Clash’s Janie Jones just for good measure.
It’s hard to fault this one; a perfect hybrid of UK punk (Sex Pistols and The Clash) and the US garage kind (The Stooges). Away from the ‘will they / wont they / what the hell is happening with Guns N’ Roses’ shenanigans, Duff and Matt were involved in a project that shook off excess and sounded vital. And it remains that way today. Top stuff.
“The chemistry was awesome, there was no pressure, no big money involved, just four people having a good time” – Duff McKagen, 1996
The Angelina EP followed (with a few extra tracks – one being Seattle Head, which Duff revisited on 1999’s ill fated Beautiful Disease), but this remains the Neurotic Outsiders’ only album. It’s a winner, though.