A Los Angeles, California-based metal outfit featuring ex-members of King Cobra and Ratt, Bulletboys' flamboyant blend of glam metal and hard rock found success via a gold-selling debut album that arrived just in time to catch the last wave of the 1980s hair metal scene. They disbanded in 1998 after enduring numerous personnel changes and stylistic misfires, but found a measure of success again in the 2010s with a retooled lineup and a rekindled thirst to rock hard that helped fuel late-career outings like Elefante (2015) and From Out of the Skies (2018).
Citing influences like Van Halen and AC/DC, the band was founded in 1987 by vocalist/guitarist Marq Torien, guitarist Mick Sweda, bassist Lonnie Vencent, and drummer Jimmy D'Anda. Bulletboys inked a deal with Warner Bros. shortly after forming, and released their eponymous full-length debut in 1988. The LP reached the upper echelons of the Billboard 200 via a pair of popular singles: a cover of the O'Jays' "For the Love of Money" and what would go on to become their signature hit, the punchy "Smooth Up in Ya," both of which received heavy airplay on MTV.
The group's 1991 sophomore effort, Freakshow, was generally well received but failed to make the same impact as their debut, due in large part to the onset of the grunge scene -- the single "Hang on St. Christopher," a Tom Waits cover, did reach number 22 on the mainstream rock chart. Released in 1993, Za-Za would be the band's final album for Warner Bros., but it also signaled the end for Sweda and D'Anda, both of whom left the fold shortly thereafter. Featuring Torien and Vencent along with newcomers guitarist Tommy Pittam and drummer Robby Karras, 1995's Acid Monkey saw the band making some stylistic changes. Bulletboys spent the next few years on hiatus, eventually re-forming in 1998 for a tour, but it would be five years before the band would release any new material.
A lineup featuring Torien, Jason Hook (guitar), Jimmy Nelson (bass), and Pete Newman (drums) delivered 2003's Sophie, which featured a guest spot from Sebastian Bach (Skid Row), while Torien assembled an entirely new cast of characters for 2010's 10¢ Billionaire. A greatest-hits compilation, Smooth Up in Ya: The Best of the Bulletboys, and a concert LP, Behind the Orange Curtain, arrived in 2006 and 2007, respectively. Subsequent studio releases like Rocked and Ripped (2011), Elefante (2015), and From Out of the Skies (2018) continued to beat the hard rock/glam metal drum, with Torien, the group's sole original member, leading the charge with a rotating cast of seasoned players. ~ James Christopher Monger