Two-Bit Thief, Another Sad Story . . . In the Big City (Combat, 1990)
The Big Idea: Former crossover act tries to re-invent itself as edgy hard-rock band
Choice Cuts: "Desperado," "Folsom Prison Blues," "Broken Hearts" and "Hard Times"
Sonic Brethren: Circus of Power, Junkyard, Manitoba's Wild Kingdom
San Francisco is best remembered for its thrash-metal scene, but the city also yielded some great bands in other genres. Two-Bit Thief was among the non-thrash acts that called the Bay area home. The group's debut disc, Another Sad Story . . . In the Big City, showed a lot of promise, but never amounted to much for the band.
Much like Junkyard or Manitoba's Wild Kingdom, TBT featured musicians who came up in the punk rock scene and wanted to explore a more commercial hard rock sound. Indeed, vocalist Andy 'Airborne' Andersen, guitarist Chris Scaparro, bassist Rick Strahl and drummer Eric Brecht all recorded with the crossover act Attitude Adjustment. The only "new" member in TBT was guitarist Ron Shipes.
Despite the group's roots, the only remnant of hardcore music is the shouted gang vocals that adorn several of Another Sad Story's 12 tracks. Otherwise, this is (mostly) straight-up gritty hard rock from the gutter, with an occasional thrash riff worked in for good measure. Bouts of slide guitar give the record a rootsy feel in a few places, while Brecht conjures up the specter of Guns N' Roses' Steven Adler through the liberal use of his cowbell.
The self-righteous social consciousness of thrash seeps into the lyrics of "Industry" and "Crime," but otherwise Another Sad Story is an unrepentant 42-minute joyride that revels in the vices of urban decay. Standout tracks include "Desperado" and "Folsom Prison Blues." The former is a tale of gambling that provided the likely inspiration for the album's cover shoot. Meanwhile, the latter is an ingenious re-working of the Johnny Cash classic that draws equally from punk rock, metal and rockabilly all in the space of two minutes and 40 seconds. It's nice to see a band cover someone other than the usual suspects. Not quite as inspired is the album's closer, a cover of Rose Tattoo's "Remedy."
Another Sad Story ultimately didn't have the commercial muscle the band had hoped. Regardless, this is a strong effort and a pleasant departure from the standard Bay area sound.