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Vixen - "Live And Learn" (CD)

Vixen - "Live And Learn" CD cover image

"Live And Learn" track listing:

1. Anyway (3:34)
2. Live And Learn (3:12)
3. I Try (3:53)
4. Little Voice (3:47)
5. Pacifist (3:50)
6. Don't Want It Anymore (3:55)
7. Love Song (3:27)
8. Angry (3:14)
9. I'm Sorry (3:04)
10. You Wish (3:44)
11. Suffragette City (3:25)
12. Give Me Away (4:36)

Reviewed by on August 20, 2010

"'...if you’re expecting this album to sound like the Vixen of the 80’s you’re going to be surprised.'"

Vixen was one of those 80's bands you either loved or hated. Accused of pandering to the MTV crowd, they came under a lot of fire from some for their radio-friendly tunes and glam (albeit sexy) looks. But these ladies blew off the ridicule, and rightfully so. After all, band founder and lead guitarist Jan Kuehnemund could actually play – arguably better than many of the male guitarists of the day, and no one could deny that Jan Gardner’s vocals were perfect for a metal maiden. Sure they dressed in leather from head to toe, but their hair wasn’t any bigger and their makeup no thicker than that sported by Twisted Sister, Motley Crue, or any other glam band of the day. And like Twisted Sister and Motley Crue, Vixen managed to leave their mark with songs like "Edge of a Broken Heart."

Fast forward to 2007 and Vixen is a much different band. In fact, except for the fact that Kuehnemund is still basically running the show, there’s not much resembling the Vixen of the 80's and 90's. Vocalist Jan Gardner has been replaced by Jenna Sanz-Agero (Kuehnemund is the only remaining original member), and the heavy guitar, wailing vocals, and hard rock/glam sound has evolved into a less showy, lower range, almost 70's classic rock sound. That's not to say "Live And Learn" is a bad album – it's actually a pretty good one – but if you're expecting this album to sound like the Vixen of the 80's, you’re going to be surprised.

"Pacifist" and "Love Song" are the two tracks to look to if you like traditional bitchy, sleazy, gritty girl metal. Agero's vocals in the intro of "Pacifist" are slightly hollow, but the way she almost growls them out makes them also slightly eerie. Carrie Underwood may threaten to key your car, but Agero sounds like she'd happily key your car, slash the tires, and run a sledgehammer through the windshield. "Pacifist" is also one of the few tracks where we see some of the guitar work that made Kuehnemund famous. It’s tempered a bit, but unlike many of the other tracks, it's not drowned out by the vocals. Add to that a thrumming bass and you've got a recipe for a great tune.

Unfortunately the rest of the tracks tend to have nothing more than brief moments of greatness. It’s not that any of them are terrible, though Argo's higher range wails in "Little Voice" are a bit painful, but the material sounds dated, and the backup vocals throughout do more harm than good. There’s a golden opportunity on the track "Live And Learn" for Kuehnemund to show her stuff, but she doesn't take it. And the album closer, "Give Me Away," probably should have been left off the album entirely, but certainly shouldn’t have been the last thing you hear.

The remake of David Bowie's "Suffragette City" is solid. There’s no attempt to make it something different from the original, which is actually nice considering what happens with a lot of remakes. And the lyrics for the whole album are worth taking the time to read – they reinforce the album title, and reflect the life challenges most 30 something women have faced. Lyrically and thematically it's solid, but performance wise it's average.

Highs: "Pacifist," with its sleazy guitar, thrumming bass, and bitchy vocals, reminds us what makes girl metal great.

Lows: "Give Me Away" is a confused medley of off key notes, distracting backup vocals, and a bagpipe to close that leaves you wondering why.

Bottom line: A decent hard rock album that sounds nothing like the 80's version of this girl band.

Rated 3 out of 5 skulls
3 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)