Under The Radar: Dirty Looks – Cool From The Wire

Jaide Alicia
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Under The Radar: Dirty Looks – Cool From The Wire

Victims of an ever-changing music industry, Dirty Looks took a hit when their first major-label release Cool from the Wire failed to reach the mainstream level of success it deserved.

With the sound of an AC/DC-Krokus love child, Dirty Looks was brought to life in the mid-80’s by Danish vocalist and guitarist Henrik Ostergaard. The band quickly became regulars in the San Francisco circuit, having released an EP and three records independently before being recognized and signed by Atlantic Records. Finally, having a major label under his belt, Ostergaard completed the Dirty Looks lineup with the additions of Gene Barnett (drums), Paul Lidel (guitar), and Jack Pyers (bass) and the band went on to release their underrated hard rock gem Cool from the Wire.

Cool from the Wire, released in 1988, is a melting pot of the times and is everything a hard rock record should be. Produced by Max Norman of Ozzy Osbourne notoriety, the album had all the makings of a hit record- groovy bass lines, catchy guitar riffs, and lyrics laced with enough sex, drugs and rock and roll to appeal to a wide demographic. Ostergaard delivering Bon Scott-esque vocals put the band into a different league than many of the ‘big names’ at the time. Dirty Looks saw some commercial success as the lead single “Oh Ruby” received regular rotation on MTV and major rock radio but fell short on the Billboard 200 as the album peaked at only #134. Cool from the Wire serves blues-rock, sleaze rock, and hard rock all rolled into one, but being lumped into the last major wave of the hair metal movement is likely what gave Dirty Looks the kiss of death.

Although the band may not have had the opportunity to peak in their heyday, Dirty Looks is considered a cult classic among rock and metal fans. The band’s second release under Atlantic Records, Turn of the Screw, initially sold as well, if not better, than its iconic predecessor but has yet to reach the high level of nostalgic acclimation as Cool from the Wire. The cutthroat nature of the music industry at the end of the decade of decadence took what could have been a household name hard rock band and reduced their success at the time to an MTV video, one-hit group. Be this as it may and following the unfortunate passing of Henrik Ostergaard in 2011, rock fans have not let the legacy of Dirty Looks die and continue to support the band and regard Cool from the Wire as one of the champion albums within the genre, regardless of the reception it received 30 years ago.

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