ANIMALS WITH HUMAN INTELLIGENCE
Released March 9 1993 (Arista Records)
Well here we are again talking about an album that was released within the time of the dreaded grunge era. At the time of release, it was getting very hard to get a hold of the music I loved. Of course, the mainstream was mostly music from Seattle. When Enuff Z’Nuff’s Animals With Human Intelligence was released, it somehow slipped through the cracks for me. Of all my regular trips to the record store, did I never once come across this album? It wasn’t until this album was re-released by Spitfire Records in the early 2000’s that it was finally revealed to me what I had missed out on all those years ago.
The strange thing about the re-release was that the cover was changed. I can honestly see why this was done though. Original drummer Vik Fox had played on the album, but left, going on to play with Vince Neil. Fox was replaced by War & Peace drummer Ricky Parent. So Fox was not pictured on the original cover. That cover featured Derek Frigo, Chip Z’Nuff and Donnie Vie. To me, the original cover was very poorly done. Was it that Arista Records was not actually putting the money behind the band? This was actually the first and only release on Arista Records that the band would do. With the changing times, I assume the label felt that a band like Enuff Z’Nuff just wasn’t viable. On the re-release, the cover featured the 1993 touring line-up with Ricky Parent pictured amongst the other three members, even though he had not played on the album.
In terms of Enuff Z’Nuff‘s Animals With Human Intelligence, this is the last of the really solid albums the band would produce. Looking at the band’s huge body of work, it is my feeling that the original recorded line-up is and always will be the best. I believe that Derek Frigo’s style of guitar playing really factored into that equation. Unfortunately, Frigo would leave the band in the mid ’90s. He would return for a one off show in early 2004 with singer Donnie Vie and drummer Vik Fox. Technically, this show isn’t really termed as an official Enuff Z’Nuff show since none of these members were still officially in the band. Frigo would succumb to his demons, passing away shortly after the show. It is a true tragedy considering the man’s supreme talent. I also factor in the fact of Vik Fox’s sheer aggressive drum style also paved the way for some of the band’s success. You add in the genius songwriting tandem of singer Donnie Vie and Chip Z’Nuff, making the formula for a truly magical band.
There is so much that can be said about the year 1993 in terms of music. As a listener, it may have been the most frustrating time for me. The labels were still releasing material by bands from the era, but the promotion just seemed to not be there. In my eyes, when each album would be released from 1992/93 on, I always hoped that maybe this would just revert things back to the way they were, that possibly the average music listener would start to realize the substance and validity within the ’80s hard rock music. That was not to be as people moved on. Well actually, the people moved on because the radio and the big labels were telling them to move on. With society in general, the majority are like a herd of cattle, following what they are told to follow. With that in mind, I don’t class those of us who still enjoy the ’80s era into this equation. There’s a reason why we still enjoy this music. We are smart enough to not be persuaded by trends. We like what we like and we will always like it. That’s a story I will save for the future. Wait for the book and movie.
Let’s dive into the topic of conversation — Animals With Human Intelligence. The opening track “Superstitious” was always confusing to me. A fantastic song, but very confusing. Upon first hearing the track “Rock N’ World” long before I owned the album, I thought that would make the perfect opener. It actually closes out the album. Confusing indeed, but I did not make the decision of the track listing. “Superstitious” is a brilliant song. It carries the classic Enuff Z’Nuff formula. Vie’s vocal delivery is very dynamic as always. Right from the get go, this song gives the album a darker feel then the band’s two previous releases. “Black Rain” could be an indication of the band possibly succumbing to changes within the music industry. Of course, the obvious Beatles references are still heard within, but it has that depressed ’90s vibe. A great song, but showing a diversely different side of Enuff Z’Nuff. What makes this song still sound relevant to the ’80s genre is the smooth, textured guitar parts of Frigo. He’s kind of the saving grace. It allows the band to branch out slightly without going too far out in left field.
“Right by Your Side” has all the fire power to be a hit single. Had this been 1989, I am confident in making the assumption that this song would have indeed topped the charts. Could this be put beside a Nirvana song? I think not, it was far too good and produced for people to understand in 1993. With the predominant keyboard line and amazing vocal harmonies, this is still a hit to me regardless of what top 40 radio thought. “These Daze” may be one of my favorite all time Enuff Z’Nuff tracks. A great story of days gone by from Vie’s perspective. Lyrics like this invoke memories within me of my teenage years hanging out with my buddies. I can’t but help but remark about Vie’s cool vocal delivery in the verse. He sounds so laid back, as if it’s a hot summer day at the beach. So genuinely executed.
“Black Rain” with its very basic heavy rhythm guitar part shows once again that the band is trying to fit into a new generation of music. Are they hitting groundbreaking territory? I think not. Does it work? Quite possibly, if you’re into that type of thing. For me this is one of the weaker compositions on the album. Derek Frigo, once again, is a constant reminder of that old saying, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” His playing really adds much needed depth to this blatant display of melancholy. ”Innocence” is a track that really adds a different feel. The Beatles would be proud. Aside from the huge production, this could have quite possibly have found its way on one of the band’s later albums. It is amazing how Frigo attacked this solo. He didn’t try and dumb it down. Even on a slow, mystical ballad, he adds a texture that creates a build-up within. It’s like bringing a knife to a gun fight. It may not belong there, but if it works and you win, then you’ve done your job perfectly. Frigo really knew to not necessarily play it safe on a song. There are those that may hate that approach, but to me it’s his artistic expressionism. It’s how he sees it. Had he played it differently, there would be nothing to make the song more dynamically interesting. You may see it painted in solid red. Quite possibly the way he saw, it was multi-colored. Bringing it more life, adding his personality.
“One Step Closer” brings us back to the classic Enuff Z’Nuff sound we had all become accustomed too. A melodic rocker that speaks of loyalty, respect and jealousy within a relationship. You know the scenario where the guy loves the girl, but the girl is with a different guy, this guy, being Vie is trying to convince the girl that she is with the “wrong guy.” How many of us have been there? I recall when I started dating my wife. She was singing in a band, so she was out on a regular basis playing clubs in Toronto. There was a guy who would show up at the club she was playing at. When she told him she was in a relationship, without ever having met me, he says to her “He’s not the right guy for you!” He kept texting her for some time, but within time, he realized she wasn’t taking the bait. The situation in this song may not be entirely that exact situation due to that fact that it sounds like the other guy in the song isn’t exactly the nicest person to the girl. Regardless, as men, if we are interested in someone, we always think we’re better for them than the person they may be with. It’s that male dominance thing. I’d say we’re far removed from the cave man mentality, but are we really at times?
“Bring It Home” was a track that was included in the Jerry McGuire soundtrack. You may say to yourself, “I don’t remember that in the movie.” Well that’s because the scene was cut from the movie. I believe it may have been played in the closing credits, but don’t quote me on that. A great rock track that is a little more Bryan Adams than anything the band had done to date. “Takin A Ride” is another Beatles like track. The harmony vocal carries the majority of the song. This may be another track that I could do without. As I am listening to the album, I am starting to get the feeling that Animals With Human Intelligence really doesn’t live up to the sheer power of the band’s first two releases. It seems there is more filler than I had initially thought. This song really doesn’t have much to it. There’s really no substance. “Love Train” brings things back into perspective. A cool rocker, but the lyrics are a little passé. Very cliché. “Get On The Love Train” seems very juvenile to me. Maybe 15 years ago, I would not have thought twice about the lyrical content, but as I get older my need for substance has become more prevalent. In regards to the music, it captures me. It’s very listener friendly. I think this song could have been much better had the band taken the time to scrutinize their lyrics a little closer.
“Mary Anne Lost Her Baby” takes the lyrics a little bit more seriously, which for me is well received. This is a very structured song with dominant dynamics. The opening riff that leads into the song is very predominant in the mix. That riff is heard throughout various points in the song. A song like this is what I had come to expect from Enuff Z’Nuff. Being a band that never shied away from more serious content, this is a perfect continuation of the band’s earlier material. “Rock N’ World” as I stated before seems like an opener. The track listing is really confusing me. To be honest, it’s almost as if you have two different bands on this album. There is material that remains within the confines of the band’s previous works, than you’ve got material that is too close to what was happening in music at the time. It’s a very confusing release. “Fingertips” was not on the original US Arista release. It appeared on the Japanese pressing. When Spitfire did the re-release, it was included. The question I ask is “Why?” Seriously, this song is very dark and emotional, but really doesn’t fit the album. I think this song would have fit better on one of the band’s later releases.
As I theorize my evaluation of Animals With Human Intelligence, my emotions are mixed. Is this a good album? Is it a bad album? It’s both. Huh? I think it all comes down to what your feeling of the band’s overall work is. Being a fan of the band’s first two albums, it is a bit of a step backwards in spots. If you’re a fan of Paraphernalia or Tweaked, certain tracks may move you. As I’ve pointed out, the material that sounds like the earlier days of the band is what really captures me. On Animals With Human Intelligence, I feel that Enuff Z’Nuff were caught between a rock and a hard place. Trying to hold onto their integrity, but also succumbing to pressures of change. Take it for what it is! It still remains in my top three within the band’s catalog. With that said, it’s still a very distant third when put it up against the band’s first two Atco Records releases.
02. Black Rain
03. Right By Your Side
04. These Daze
05. Master of Pain
07. One Step Closer to You
08. Bring It Home
09. Takin’ A Ride
10. Love Train
11. Mary Anne Lost Her Baby
12. Rock N’ World
Donnie Vie – vocals, guitar
Chip Z’Nuff – bass
Derek Frigo – guitar
Ricky Parent – drums
Vik Fox – drums
Produced by Richie Zito
Enuff Z Nuff‘s “Right By Your Side” video:
The Lead singer of Enuff Z’Nuff Donnie Vie has formed a new band called V8. This is a link to V8’s first new single! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y-NPMtvkSz4 Donnie also recently released a new solo CD “The White Album” I highly recommend it, he still sounds great.