STEPHEN PEARCY – Smash

smashThe year was 1984 and I was listening to the radio, something I usually didn’t – and still don’t – do very often. This was some mainstream radio station and the reporter talked to a young female who had been living in the U.S. as an exchange student and one of her friends had dragged her along to see a concert with a band called Ratt. She told the reporter that she had been so knocked out by the gig and was now a huge Ratt fan so she asked the reporter could they play Ratt’s recent hit single “Round And Round”? They could – and did. Now, I had never heard Ratt before but I had heard the name mentioned because the band had made it big over there. It only took the opening riff for me to get completely blown away and I bought both the band’s self titled E.P. from 1983 and their debut full-length album Out Of The Cellar (1984) and became a fan right there and then. Invasion Of Your Privacy (1985) is in my book the band’s best album but also their last great one. Dancing Undercover (1986) had some really great songs but was a disappointment and both Reach For The Sky (1988) and Detonator (1990) proved that Ratt’s glory days were probably over even though both had some good song on them. Since then the band have split up, reunited, split up again and reunited once more with sliding doors for band members, both original and new ones, to come and go, making it really hard to for the fans to know who’s actually in the band at the time. As for now the line-up looks pretty stable – at least for the time being.

Lead singer, the charismatic Stephen Pearcy, never took a break from music throughout the years when Ratt was on hiatus and he has had numerous of projects in his back pocket, some of them at the same time as a member of Ratt. He has released two albums with Arcade (that also featured Cinderella drummer Fred Coury), one with Vicious Delite, one with the band Vertex and no less than five solo albums – Social Intercourse (2002), Fueler (2006), Stripped (2006), Under My Skin (2008) and Sucker Punch (2011) – none of which I have heard one single note from. Some of them I didn’t even know they existed until today when I started to write this review. No, my interest in Ratt or the different members of the band hasn’t exactly been big in the last decade or so (even though I loved their 2010 album Infestation). However, with Ratt being back on track with three original members – Pearcy, guitarist Warren De Martini and bassist Juan Croucier, leaving the feuds with drummer Bobby Blotzer behind them – and guitarist Carlos Cavazo (ex- Quiet Riot) who replaced John Corabi who replaced Keri Kelli who replaced the late Robbin Crosby – onboard and ready to kick the band into motion again, Pearcy has now decided to release a new solo album. A bit surprising as a new Ratt album would have been the logic thing to do. But I guess one will show up eventually.

Opener “I Know I’m Crazy” kicks off with an alternative sound, parts even makes me think of Nirvana, which is never a good thing. However, Pearcy’s past still lingers on, thankfully, which gives the song a sleazy and rowdy feel and the mix of the darker 90’s and melodic hard rock of the 80’s marries fine here. A good song that touches more on Arcade than Ratt. “Ten Miles Wide” is a dirty groover that could very well have been a newly written Ratt tune. Fact is, to these ears, this is classic Ratt – way to go, Steve. Way to go! “Shut Down Baby” bursts out with a sleazy, nasty groove, a bit funky with a dishevelled slide to spice things up. Sound wise a mix of Arcade and Ratt – a good song! The gritty “Dead Roses” sounds like something Guns N’Roses or maybe L.A. Guns could have come up with back when – a bit punky, a bit sleazy, but the song never grabs a hold of me at all. It’s not bad, it just is. “Lollipop” is magnificent, though. Completely unpretentious, this little pearl comes with a happy-go-lucky, big pop chorus, a charming groove and the whole thing takes me back to 1987 again. The title might be a bit cheesy, but the songs brings a smile on my face  – ten miles wide (pun intended). “Hit Me With A Bullet” is hard-hitting, punch friendly but somewhere along the way the song loses me. I can’t find anything that really sticks and the tune passes by pretty much unnoticed.

“Rain” slows the pace down to mid-tempo and it holds a palpable groove and a melody that sticks all the way through the song – the arrangement is very melodic. There’s a soft and soothing piano the takes us to the end of the song – very atmospheric. All in all, a very good song. “Want Too Much” is all Ratt, classic in the vein of Detonator or Reach For The Sky – a melodic hard rocker with all the hooks in the world. One of my favorites one this record. “What Do Ya Think” is a classic arena rocker, pop-rock with a heavy riff and a good dose of blues feel – the bastard child of Ratt and Cinderella – really good stuff. “Jamie” is a pretty good melodic hard rocker – a party rocker, if you will. It reminds me of “Can’t Wait On Love” from the Detonator – good, but not great. “I Can’t Take It” is the best song on the album as far as I’m concerned. The song is total Ratt, the chorus sticks like glue and it could very well have been a lost gem from Ratt’s hey-days. Makes me long for a new Ratt album! “Passion Infinity” is a blasting kick-ass rocker with enough fuel to kick-start a drag-race car. It sounds as if it could have come from the Infestation sessions and if a song like this can’t get a crowd roaring, I don’t know what will. The album ends with “Summer’s End”, a powerful ballad (no, not power ballad!!) that comes with a floating, billowing and trippy swagger. It’s mellow but still uplifting and it just makes you feel good.

To be honest, I had no expectations on this album at all and now when it has sunk in, I’m pleasantly surprised. Sonically, this is an updated version of the mid to late 80’s sound when arena rock ruled the world and the album contains a whole lot of songs that could (and should?) have been used for a future Ratt album. Kind of proves just how important Pearcy was to the classic Ratt sound and the songs that made the band great. Pearcy’s voice might have sounded somewhat brittle and even cavernous on some of the live clips I have seen from later day concerts and make no mistake, Pearcy has never been no Pavarotti, but on this album, Stephen is in fine form and his voice is intact. So, if you’re a Ratt fan, this album is a no-brainer but I’d recommend it to anyone who has a soft spot for big, kick-ass, sleazy hard rock ‘n’ roll with dirt under the finger nails. In a world that is upside down with crap happening all over the globe, we need music that says: don’t think, just rock and that’s what this album does – it rocks!

7/10

Tracklist:

1. I Know I’m Crazy
2. Ten Miles Wide
3. Shut Down Baby
4. Dead Roses
5. Lollipop
6. Hit Me With A Bullet
7. Rain
8. Want Too Much
9. What Do Ya Think
10. Jamie
11. I Can’t Take It
12. Passion Infinity
13. Summer’s End

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