Hurtsmile…Former Van Halen Vocalist Gary Cherone Comes Back With A Bang

Hurtsmile’s debut CD features lead guitarist Mark Cherone of the band Flesh, a rocking outfit that had some hard-hitting radio songs in the 1990s on WAAF and WCGY in the Boston area.  Mark is the younger brother of lead singer Gary Cherone, of Extreme and Van Halen fame,  both brothers also performing in yet another group, Slip Kid, a tribute to the rock group The Who.

Hurtsmile also features bassist Joe Pessia and drummer Dana Spellman on a very exciting platter which touches all the bases, and touches them well.  Opening track “Just War Theory” is a tremendous alternative rock track that, if released on vinyl in the 1970s, would have been a punk rock classic in the vein of Flipper’s “Sex Bomb” or Dead Kennedy’s “Holiday In Cambodia”.  I know, I know…a mainstream group like Extreme whose college radio hit was “MUTHA (DON’T WANT TO GO TO SCHOOL TODAY)” when they were known as The Dream could be considered sacrilege by the purists…but…as time goes on…and as artists change course, Gary Cherone is clearly opening his box of magic tricks and exploring all kinds of styles.  Thus, the new permutation is – for the fans – something offbeat and different, growth in a good way instead of fading out and riding on past glories.

The tune has a solid riff, snarling Johnny Rotten-style vocals from Gary Cherone, and an attitude that would’ve cut just fine on a 45 RPM.  Followed by “Stillborn”, a melody with churning guitars, this title would’ve fit just as well in the hair band craze of the 1980s as it does in today’s market. In yet another stylistic change, the acapella  opening to “Love Thy Neighbor” brings the group back to the doo wop era of the 1950’s – for just a moment, until the drum, bass and guitars kick in.  But the point is the quartet gives a nice cross-section of styles and deliver a professionally crafted selection of music that has just tons of commercial potential.

Gary Cherone had created a wonderfully alternative techno-rock album with Tribe Of Judah about ten years ago in 2002 (see my review on Now he takes Hurtsmile to very satisfying heights.

With so many names on so many projects – Extreme, Hurtsmile, Tribe Of Judah, Slip Kid, the fan base gets to enjoy the buffet; but perhaps a boxed set is necessary so that the general public can get a taste of what the singer from Extreme and Van Halen has recorded since his early days with Extreme (they do tour and record from time to time) and his stint with E.V.H. and the boys.

That being said, Hurtsmile stands on its own as an album that delivers with punch and lots of style.  Encore.


Hurtsmile are performing on  Fri, Oct 14 at 8 PM at the Montage Music Hall, Rochester, NY and on Saturday, October 15 at 7 PM at The Rapids theater, Niagara, NY with FRAN COSMO Former Lead Singer of BOSTON and Special Guest: DEREK ST. HOLMES.

Joe Viglione is the Chief Film Critic at He was a film critic for Al Aronowitz’s The Blacklisted Journal, has written thousands of reviews and biographies for, and produces and hosts Visual Radio. Visual Radio is a fifteen year old variety show on cable TV which has interviewed John Lennon’s Uncle Charlie, Margaret Cho, Ray Manzarek, John Densmore, Felix Cavaliere, Marty Balin, Bill Press and hundreds of other personalities.