Back in 1990, melodic hard rock, glam, sleaze and AOR (the phrase “hair metal” is stupid, wrong and there has never been a music genre called that ever and I will never use it) was still big business and bands such as Winger, Slaughter, Cinderella, Poison, Skid Row, Def Leppard, Bon Jovi and Mötley Crüe were still the shit (not that any of them sounded the same…), selling large amounts of records and touring, playing for large crowds. But it would only take a few years for those bands to be a musical pariah, being ridiculed by the same fans who once banged their heads in the front row to them. Some bands – Bon Jovi, Def Leppard and older bands such as Aerosmith could still hold a big crowd and some bands were given more crap than others. Winger is one example – for reasons unknown because they were always a great band with their own style. Poison was another, in their case more understandable. And then there were Warrant. The band released their debut album Dirty Rotten Stinking Filthy Rich back in 1989 and due to a bunch of hit singles, that album shipped platinum in the US. The follow-up, 1990’s Cherry Pie, with the title track being the song most people know them from, was an even bigger success and it looked like there was nothing that could stop the band from being a huge act.
But Warrant’s career came into halt already by 1992 and the much heavier and more progressive Dog Eat Dog album. The musical winds had changed and by ’92 everyone was getting heavier, much to many hard rock fans’ joy. To me, Dog Eat Dog is Warrant’s finest effort to date, but the failure sales wise made singer Jani Lane leaving the band only to return a short while later. When we wrote 1995 and Warrant released their underrated Ultraphobic, guitarist Joey Allen and drummer Steven Sweet had left Lane, bassist Jerry Dixon and guitarist Erik Turner and been replaced by ex- Kingdom Come members Rick Steier (guitar) and James Kottak (drums). The sound was influenced as much by grunge acts such as Alice In Chains and Pearl Jam as by melodic hard rock and metal but the bandwagon-jumping didn’t help at all. The album bombed and the same was the fate for the all-grunge album, the crappy Belly To Belly (1996). By that time no one would be caught dead with a Warrant album. The band split and even though Lane toured with different constellations as Warrant all along, the band couldn’t even get arrested and no one really cared about them anymore. Until that day in 2008.
That was when the original line-up reunited but it didn’t last long. Lane was battling a severe alcohol problem and he screwed up too many times and was let go. He was replaced by former Black ‘n Blue frontman Jaime St James and the band released Born Again in 2006, an album that was alright but a bit uneven and lacked all the brilliant and simple hooks that Lane was so great at writing. This constellation didn’t last long either and it would take Warrant five years to release a new album, now with former Cry Of Love / Lynch Mob singer Robert Mason. Rockaholic was released in May 2011 and three months later, Jani Lane’s addictions had won – Lane died only 47 years old and with his death any chances of an original line-up reunion went down the drain. Another six years have passed and now Warrant, again with Mason at the mike, are back with a new record and even though Rockaholic was a decent album, I was hoping for a real killer this time.
The album opens with the title track and it is a blasting hard rocker, sleazy and pretty aggressive. It’s an ok song but a bit too standard – and a pretty far cry from their hey day, both style wise and quality wise. “Devil Dancer” comes in a mid pace but it’s groovy with a sleazy and dirty rhythm. The melody catches on pretty quick and it’s a good song without being spectacular. “Perfect” is also mid paced but this one throws a big nod back to the glory days style wise. It’s a melodic hard rocker right off the Sunset Strip and the big chorus sticks like a ton of glue – very, very good one. “Only Broken Heart” was the first track that was shown to the public off the album and even though the verses are really good and comes on like a sleazier Thin Lizzy melody wise, the rest of the song is standard melodic rock and the chorus never takes off at all, so it falters right there. “U In My Life” is the album’s big power ballad and even though it’s no “Heaven”, “Sometimes She Cries” or “I Saw Red”, it’s still bloody great. It’s more basic and not as saccharine as I’d expected, but that’s only makes it stronger. “Music Man” is slower and bluesier with a bad-ass groove that comes off like a raunchier “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”. A great tune that fits Mason’s voice like a glove – brilliant.
Next up, another ballad, but “Faded” is more uptempo with a huge pop feel. The chorus is insanely catchy and I will promulgate a big “HIT ALERT!” on it. A brilliant track and the best one so far. “New Rebellion” is a metal injected sleaze rocker that has more in common with Skid Row than Warrant. I love the aggression and the attitude but as a whole, the tune really goes nowhere – again it’s too standard. “Big Sandy” is a good time, swinging party rocker with an ace melody that comes from the early 90’s. It might not be the most original song in the world but it’s catchy enough and this is how I want Warrant to sound – great. “Choose Your Fate” is a pretty rough but melodic hard rocker with a damn catchy chorus that really hits home – very good. Closing track “Let It Go” is a good, catchy rocker in the AOR vein that makes me think of Danger Danger or The Defiants. It’s catchy as hell and another track that should be a single.
As a whole, this is a good album but not great. Jeff Pilson (Dokken, Foreigner) has done a good job producing it – it’s rawer sounding than the non-edge production of Beau Hill or the more 80’s hard rock sound of Keith Olsen who produced the last album. I did like the heavier production that Michael Wagener gave Dog Eat Dog, but I’m not really sure whether the sleazier and rawer production that Pilson has given them here really fits the band. But that’s not the big issue here, no, the big issue are the songs themselves. There are no bad songs here but too many are way too standard and they just don’t stand out enough, a problem that have been surfacing on all their Jani Lane less albums. It comes very clear why Lane was the sole song writer on Warrant’s earlier albums, the guy knew how to write catchy songs, how to make them stand out and it seemed like he had a drawer full of hooks that he could pick up anytime he needed one. The other guys in the band haven’t got that. All of the songs here – and that also includes the really good ones – could have been any hard rock band out there if you close your eyes and listen. But as I wrote, it’s not a bad album at all, I just hope that the guys would turn to some melody genius to help them out to get the most out of the songs next time because as musicians, these guys has always been very good.
More Warrant reviews:
1. Louder Harder Faster
2. Devil Dancer
4. Only Broken Heart
5. U In My Life
6. Music Man
8. New Rebellion
9. Big Sandy
10. Choose Your Fate
11. Let It Go