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Sea Hags: Sea Hags - Album Of The Week Club review

The Sea Hags: the throbbing, ragged heart of Saturday night, or more 80s rock'n'roll bullshit? You decide

Sea Hags - Sea Hags
(Image: © Rock Candy)
Sea Hags - Sea Hags

(Image credit: Rock Candy)

1. Half The Way Valley
2. Doghouse
3. Too Much T-Bone
4. Someday
5. Back to the Grind
6. Bunkbed Creek
7. In the Mood for Love
8. Miss Fortune
9. All the Time
10. Three's A Charm
11. Under The Night Stars

Sea Hags’ toxic legend precedes them, but even in 1989, everybody knew these dudes were doomed. Even they knew it. Every step on their shockingly brief trip to semi-stardom was fraught with peril, and their eyes were always too blurry to see the headlights coming right for them. 

With the possible exception of Rock City Angels (a long and tragic story for another day), nobody was ever gonna be the “next Guns N’ Roses”, although a lot of bands got saddled with that unfortunate tagline, including these dudes. Are you kidding me? You can’t just invent another Axl Rose, man. 

If anything, Sea Hags were the Guns N’ Roses that couldn’t afford rehab. That’s the terrible beauty of it all, really. This band is what happens when you attempt private-jet decadence on a blue-collar budget: it kills you, and before that, it makes you suffer.

For a certain segment of the population, Sea Hags will sound exactly like it’s supposed to: like the throbbing, ragged heart of Saturday night. To everyone else, it’ll just sound like more 80s rock’n’roll bullshit. And that’s fine. But you should probably know that these dudes almost died making this. And a couple of years later, at least one of them was, and a couple others were thoroughly ruined.

Every week, Album of the Week Club listens to and discusses the album in question, votes on how good it is, and publishes our findings, with the aim of giving people reliable reviews and the wider rock community the chance to contribute. 

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Other albums released in April 1989

  • Beneath the Remains - Sepultura
  • Sonic Temple - The Cult
  • ...Twice Shy - Great White
  • Doolittle - Pixies
  • Buzz Factory - Screaming Trees
  • Blue Blood - X Japan
  • Full Moon Fever - Tom Petty
  • Headless Cross - Black Sabbath
  • Blue Murder - Blue Murder
  • Best Wishes - Cro-Mags
  • Repeat Offender - Richard Marx
  • Mr. Music Head - Adrian Belew
  • 1,000 Hours - Green Day
  • The Black Swan - The Triffids
  • The Headless Children - W.A.S.P.
  • Slippery When Ill - The Vandals

What they said...

"The Sea Hags album was very much in the style of the first Guns n Roses album and as it happens was produced by Appetite for Destruction producer Mike Clink shortly after he finished the latter record. Sea Hags is perhaps not quite as urgent sounding as Appetite For Destruction, perhaps less punk-influenced, and thus didn’t propel Sea Hags to such dizzy heights – but Sea Hags still has a strong claim as a “lost” classic nevertheless." (Every Record Tells A Story)

"Maybe their mistake was stopping short while driving down the coast and settling in San Francisco, because the notoriously chemically fuelled quartet's only album from 1989, though rapturously received by rock critics, never managed to connect with consumers. In retrospect, and in light of the revealing lessons of grunge a few years later, the more likely explanation is that Sea Hags deeper, darker inclinations (and quite deadlier fuels -- i.e. heroin) simply didn't result in the sort of music that the era's party-and-eyeliner-obsessed cock rock masses wanted to hear." (AllMusic)

"There are a few nitpicks to be made. First off, the boys have no clue as to how to end a song. Every song fades out, and if it doesn’t it leads right into the next one. This is only a small problem, but with the exception of Bunkbed Creek, this album does not slow down. The songs can start to blend together. This leads right into the next problem: the Sea Hags has a great sound, but they can’t hold a candle to A-list sleaze bands." (Sleaze Roxx)

What you said...

James Praesto: I have always had a soft spot for the “hair metal” scene of the late 80s; especially as it started charting heavier territories after the debut album of LA Guns, but before grunge made the world a sad and depressing place. To a 17-year-old nerd with rock star ambitions, there was just something irresistible about a culture that promoted big guitars, black leather, bikes and strippers. It was like Rob Halford’s straight universe… with hair.

Since I came from an early 80's NWOBHM background, I was never a Poison or Warrant fan; I just could not relate to the softer poppier side of the scene. So, when bands like Every Mother’s Nightmare, Spread Eagle and Skid Row entered the stage with a little more weight behind the riffs, and a little less (nail) polish, I found my niche and my true calling to be the next Johnny Crash. Sea Hags was one of the bands that found its way into my collection early on, but revisiting the album now, 30 years later, was not as awesome as I thought it would be.

As a matter of fact, most of the albums from this era did not age very well. Scratching off the varnish of nostalgia, in the name of research, the musical and conceptual flaws really show through. Sure, some of those soundtracks of a youth gone wild have stood the test of time (Skid Row’s Slave to the Grind and Spread Eagles’ debut, to name a couple), but most fall into the Sea Hags category of this genre’s Lost-and-Found (and lost again). 

After the very competent opener (and still enjoyable) Half the Way Valley, the album slowly spirals downward the Faster Pussycat formula, much like the whole scene did: big riff, snarling vocals, cocky chorus and all the attitude in the world – followed by increasingly blander and more generic offerings towards the end, barely coasting across the finish line. 

By the time the album is drawing to the close, I find myself organising my sock drawer and playing with the cat. Was I supposed to be doing something? Oh, that’s right, Sea Hags… Is it still on? For all its initial swagger and bravado, it is very forgettable, and I could not hum one riff if you so threatened to draw moustaches on my Shotgun Messiah album covers.

I truly loved this time in my life, so when I do put on the rose coloured glasses again, and let these fun albums bask in the nice star-shine of nostalgia once more, it is still a place I don’t mind coming home to every now and then (much to my wife’s “delight”). You just have to be careful to not open the door to the bedroom or the cupboards; the wallpapers are peeling and it’s usually a fucking mess after all. Unfortunately, Sea Hags just do not have enough momentum from my 80’s flashbacks to carry them back into my graces.

Brian Carr: While I’m fairly certain I had heard of the Sea Hags, I’m just as sure this was the first time I poured them into my ear canals. Pretty straightforward sleazy vibe with sneering vocals and blues based guitar riffing. It’s good, but after giving Sea Hags repeated listens over the weekend, nothing really stood out to me - I thought the songs were not very memorable. Which made me wonder about all the eighties hard rock I loved and devoured and still like today. 

If I didn’t grow up with those bands and heard them for the first time as a 40-something, would I find them just as unmemorable as I did the Sea Hags? Maybe, maybe not. The closest comparison I could find was the debut album from Faster Pussycat, which I remember not digging too much. I didn’t mind jamming Sea Hags, but don’t know if I would think to grab it again to listen.

Roland Bearne: I was vaguely aware of the Sea Hags but never in any way that made me want to seek out the record and I did like most of the "big" names from that sunset strip scene but only as a section of the whole collection. It all got more interesting when the likes of Skid Row, Faith No More, Saigon Kick et al filled the gap. 

A really horrible cover too! I sort of remember Doghouse" probably from rock nights or whatever, but as for the album itself, no idea. I was expecting something really rough and ragged around the edge like The Dogs D'Amour at their gnarliest so was surprised that these songs, which are pretty ok, not world beating but ok ...seemed to be getting the full million dollar production treatment. 

All the instruments sound pretty sweet with carefully managed grittiness and there are some good-of-the-time vibes. The singer seems a bit one dimensional, certainly no Axl (love or loathe!). As has been previously mentioned, a lot of material from that nail polish and hairspray moment didn't age well and from this it seems clear that the A&R men weren't going to hang around trying to find re-makes of Appetite for long. 

If I saw it in Oxfam for a quid, I'd probably grin and pick it up and it was fun company on a couple of morning runs, but I can totally see why it was a (presumably expensive) flop. Didn't they self immolate in a dirty bomb explosion of substance abuse or something? A good curio, but just that.

Carl Black: I can remember this album coming out and getting quite a few column inches in Raw and Kerrang! magazines. The trouble was there where so many in front of them who, as the lead post suggests, wanted to be the next GN'R. As we found out, there is and only ever will be one GN'R so the A&R search/ hope for proved fruitless.

On listening to the album the band seem to fall foul of the GN'R dream. The first two tracks are short and hooky, you can almost hear someone say, "get the most commercial ones on first, that's how we are going to get noticed." They are not very good, not least because its does not represent the true nature of this band. 

I was about to write the album and band off as also-rans but I was glad I didn't. It's not until they slow down a touch, and add that bit of goth/ darker material to the mix that I thought they have something. A clever music person should have said to concentrate on this aspect. It's different and more intelligent. But it appears no one did. I still think it would have taken a lot more for the sea Hags to break through, especially as Love/Hate got hold of the darker, Doors-laced glam rock to some degree of international success. The one that got away for more than one reason.

Nigel Lancashire: I actually saw the Sea Hags supporting Georgia Satellites in 1989 and clearly, they had very little impact on me as I cannot remember anything about them for the life of me (and no, I wouldn’t have been drinking because I was usually designated gig driver in those days)! Given that I was a fan of glam and sleaze metal bands back them, it says something that I didn’t give their record a listen, or even a second thought, off the back of that gig, So, here I am in 2020, here’s the Sea Hags album — let’s have at it!

If the Sea Hags sound specifically like anyone else here, it has to be Faster Pussycat, with Ron Yocom showing a vocal similarity to Taime Downe, but despite a strong opener in Half The Way Valley, where they lose points immediately is the very staid, session musician-like sound, with none of the discernible ’swagger’ or groove to their playing that Faster Pussycat and others of the genre’s best displayed.

To be fair to the band, this could be a fault of producer Mike Clink... except he wasn’t known for sterile recordings — witness his Guns N’ Roses work or Whitesnake’s Slip of the Tongue, produced in the same year. A search for early demos and live footage from before the album shows a far less polished, looser, livelier sound. Nevertheless, this album is what we have, and for the most part, it’s competent and inoffensive, but utterly without its own character.

By the halfway mark, I’m finding it hard to keep my attention on the music and need to remind myself to actually listen, and a subsequent play a day or so later has the same effect. Nothing’s terrible, but past Half The Way Valley and Doghouse, nothing’s sticking either, and it’s not even all that much fun. In all honesty it’s probably a far better played and sung record than say for instance, LA Guns’ debut, but the attitude just isn’t there, and for this genre, that’s what always counted.

Gary Claydon: Just read the review by Nigel Lancashire above and he's pretty much written mine for me (only better!). Like Nigel, I saw Sea Hags supporting Georgia Satellites and, again, like Nigel I can't really remember anything about their set other than thinking they had a rubbish name. I did hear this album, or at least a few tracks from it, at the time of it's release but the only one I could drag to mind was Half The Way Valley and that's mainly because I thought the guitar riff sounded like they'd been listening to Led Zep's Rock And Roll

So not the most memorable of bands. Listening now, like several others have already said, I found it didn't engage me. Generic sleaze rock but lacking the in-yer-face swagger. I played it through twice earlier in the week and the only thing I can drag immediately to mind today is Half The Way Valley and that's mainly because the guitar riff reminds me of something.

Happs Richards: Hmmm. It’s ok, like many of said it smacks rather of many other bands around at that time and although Three's A Crowd and Half The Way Valley are good tracks there’s not enough here to make them memorable.

Still, looks like they properly lived the rock and roll excess lifestyle of the time so extra brownie points for that, I suppose.

Bill Griffin: My immediate reaction was favourable but by the end of the album, my opinion had soured. I'm thinking this is an album best listened to one side at a time with some time off in between.

Jonathan Novajosky: This is the kind of 80's rock that I just don't think has aged well. Most of the songs are decent, but nothing more. By the time I was few tracks in, I was already getting fatigued from the album. I don't fault Sea Hags for trying to jump on something that was popular and find their own success, but it's just not there for me. 5/10

Chris Wigmore: The Sea Hags. Isn't that an awesome band name? So yeah, on the surface they appear to be GN'R wannabes, or bandwagon jumpers, or derivative rock. But scratch the surface and there's way more going on than that. 

For a start they're from Seattle and moved from there just at the wrong time to San Francisco where thrash was king, so they were always doomed to fail. But this record is tight as a drum. The songs are mostly solid and a few are bangers - Doghouse, Half the Way Valley, All The Time. But some of it just isn't strong enough. Listening again now, it reminds me of The Throbs, and has the same witchy style. I think rock'n'roll killed them all by death after this album, which was probably their ultimate goal, but a shame cos it's a great debut.

Mike Knoop: The Sea Hags may have had Guns N' Roses' appetite for (self) destruction, but there's one important thing they didn't have: different hairstyles.

No, really. Remember when the original Appetite album cover got banned for being "rape forward" and they replaced it with the skull-adorned crucifix? You could still tell which skull belonged to which member by their hairstyles. Now cue up the Half The Way Valley video on YouTube and what do you have? Four Izzy Stradin lookalikes all bashing away on their instruments. There's not even a dedicated front man!

And the hairstyle formula pre-dates the "rule changing" Guns N' Roses. There's the Van Halen model: blonde lion-maned leader and his three or four non-blondes. See also Mötley Crüe, Bon-Jovi, Faster Pussycat, even Ratt with guitarist Robbin Crosby towering over his darker-tressed bandmates. Billy Duffy and Ian Astbury? Light and shade. Still don't believe me? When did Mötley Crüe tank? When they got a lead singer that had the same hair colour as the rest of them. Then there's the Poison model: every band member has a dazzling hair color and style all their own. I guess Guns N' Roses had more in common with the glammest of glam metal bands than we thought.

Of course, that's all a load of crap, right? Hairstyles determining whether a band is any good or not? "Ridiculous!," you scoff. Let's call it a metaphor then, for the fact that by the time this album came out in '89, the West Coast metal scene was running on a formula that was wearing increasingly thin. Guns N' Roses goosed the formula with heroin and dirt, but they also had solid songwriting and a band full of strong individual and interesting personalities. I don't see – or, more importantly, hear –either in the Sea Hags. Without those, it's just the emperor's new clothes. Even if the band had not imploded under their own weight, it seems unlikely there would have ever been a Sea Hags Vol. II.

Rick Anderson: Man, I’m struggling with this one. Nothing memorable so far except the drums sound like cannons. That’s not necessarily a good thing.

Iain Macaulay: I remember liking this when it came out. Music from the strip. Only a bit darker. I didn’t buy it. I did get Faster Pussycat’s Wake Me When It’s Over, and some of the other second wave of American sleaze bands, Cats in Boots, The Throbs, Salty Dog (Now there was a band. Surely an album worth reviewing here?). 

The Seahags had it all, including celebrity backing (Kirk Hammett and Ian Astbury to name a couple), but somehow it was all a bit lacking. The music was kind of there, the attitude, the energy. But the production just doesn’t show it. It’s too nice. Too processed. There is a lot to like about this album ... but there’s so much that makes you realise why they didn’t get the recognition they deserved. The upbeat stuff really works, Half The Way, Three’s A Charm, All the Time and Back To The Grind. Even Dog House

But there are too many mid-paced plodders to really capture that dirty edge. All The Way should have been swapped for Too Much T-Bone and they would have had a killer side one that might have caught the attention a bit better. There is a great idea in the whole concept of the band that I don’t think was capitalised on properly or looked after in the right way, which is a shame. But then a lot of those bands were used and abused to make a quick buck. Three of those bands I mentioned above were one hit wonders.

John Davidson: Although touted as a potential follow up to Guns N' Roses, Sea Hags aren’t in the same league in either attitude or songcraft. GN'R were a beautiful shambles, who produced some of the finest songs in rock, played with a loose punky swagger ( alongside some total train-wrecks). Sea Hags are a better than average bar-room boogie band and although their singer has that punky sneer, they basically play blues based rock without any trimmings.

There are no train-wrecks but, then again, they aren’t really taking any risks either. The guitar work is good, but they don’t have a Slash or an Angus to lift them beyond the pack and although there are certainly no stinkers, there aren’t any songs that jump off the stack and demand to be added to an essential 80s rock playlist.

Of the better songs Dog House has a sleazy swagger, Someday has a decent sing-along title and a good guitar break in the middle, Back To The Grind has some of the best guitar breaks and Bunkbed Creek is a slow-burn bluesy instrumental (and probably the best track on the album).

Overall a good pick and one I’d never heard before. No killer, no filler. A solid 6/10.

Final Score: 5.47⁄10 (69 votes cast, with a total score of 378)

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