Then came grunge, which supplanted the hirsute bon vivant spirit of pop metal with a healthy dose of punk angst. Heavy music fans were thusly confused enough to start supporting horrible bands like Korn and Limp Bizkit. Slickly produced metal was vanquished to Eastern Europe and tiny apartments in the San Fernando Valley, it seemed, for good.
Barry Sparks, however, didn't get the memo, and is striking a blow for the return of radio-friendly pop metal with Can't Look Back. The 14-song compendium of the joys of hard rock--lots of minor-key cautionary tales ("Long Time Coming," "Fooled Again"), patriotic anthems ("Liberty," which includes soloing from the Nuge) and Songs Eddie Money Could Have Written ("Between the Sun and Moon")--is either a total anachronism or so modern that the culture hasn't caught up with it yet. If you ever owned, and proudly played, a Def Leppard album; if you ever flashed your titties at the Crüe; if you ever mouthed the words "On a steel horse I ride," then Barry Sparks is probably perfect for you.