I was just a little too young and suburban to be a big-haired Poison fan in the late ’80s and early ’90s, so my admittedly imbalanced opinion of Bret Michaels is primarily based on unfortunate clips of Rock of Love and The Apprentice 3 from The Soup. So, of course, I jumped at the chance to review Custom Built, his latest solo album, as I was sure it would be a train wreck.
Though the target audience seems to be hot messes, strippers, and the men who love them, Michaels latest effort is still mildly likeable. However, calling it a true effort might be a stretch, as only a handful of the 12 tracks are truly new to listeners.
To my extreme surprise, I actually found a few of the tracks to be worth a second listen, including Nothing To Lose. The album features two versions, one with harmonies by unlikely collaborator Miley Cyrus. Though its slightly disturbing to imagine the two crooning to each other, once you get past that, its actually a catchy ballad. Actually, the solo version, which leaves the teen pop tart at the mall, holds up on its own.
Moving on, “Open Road” is a summer anthem for biker buds and babes who are young, wild, and free, also included on Michaels 2005 solo album. A countrified version of Every Rose, featuring Brad Arnold of Three Doors Down and country artists Chris Cagle and Mark Wills, provides a welcome update to the Poison classic. And though Bradley Nowell might be howling in his grave, the cover of Sublimes What I Got actually stays pretty true to the original, with just a few huhs and oh yeahs thrown in.
However, most of the album focuses on dirty, sexy, bad romances and one-night stands, with often eye-rolling lyrics, such as those in “Id Die For You”:
I am love, you are hate
You are laughter, I am rage
My love is forever, my heart is true
You live for me, I’d die for you
(Oh yeah, rock it baby)
“Riding Against the Wind”, the theme to Michaels’ upcoming Life as I Know It reality show, kicks off the album, which leads one to believe that this attempt was released only to draw attention to his latest VH1 venture. There are also new mixes of the previously released “Driven” and the Rock of Love theme “Go That Far”, which could never be anything other than a theme song.
In sum, Custom Built as a whole is forgettable summer music, as it’s scarce on new music and can’t stand up to the test of time. But, on the plus side, you can pull some of the tracks to add to your Skeezy Rock playlist, chopper tunes, and pole dancing repertoire.