Ratt – Infestation

Holy shit.  This place has really gone to hell since I left.  It’s only been four months!  I’m sorry, ColuMnists.  I never would have left had I known.  Fortunately for all of us, cmsof has begged me to contribute a few columns this year, and I can think of no better subject to kick off Sparks 2010 than the forgotten 80’s hair metal band, Ratt.

The members of Ratt have never been what you would call a supergroup consisting of our nation’s strongest songwriters.  But they have contributed some decent rock songs.  Their heyday, like about 400 other hair metal bands, was in the mid-1980s when they dominated the charts with their breakthrough album Out of the Cellar (1984), propelled by the smash single “Round And Round”.  That was followed up by Invasion of Your Privacy (1985) and Dancing Undercover (1986).  Like the awesomeness of their album titles, each subsequent record met with diminishing success.  The last Ratt record that I bought was Reach for the Sky (1988), which featured the hit single, “Way Cool Jr.”, which I personally loathed.  The last I heard of Ratt was the single, “Nobody Rides For Free” from the Patrick Swayze/Keanu Reeves epic, Point Break.  Ratt might have recorded and released other albums between 1988 and 2010, but nobody is quite sure.  I guess you could check Wikipedia if you were super interested.

So, like a majority of hair metal bands, Ratt vanished from pop culture.  They still toured (with various original band members), but outside of that horrific fire at that one Great White concert, nobody but the diehard fanbase is ever aware of these C-circuit tours.   Will Infestation change that?  Probably not.  It’s not going to skyrocket to #1 on the Billboard charts.  It’s very much a Ratt album.  But it’s a GOOD Ratt album, which is a surprise. It’s got great energy, great production values, and a collection of catchy, rockin’ songs.  Most of the original line-up is back together (Stephen Pearcy on vocals, Warren DeMartini on guitar, Carlos Cavazo (formerly of Quiet Riot) on the other guitar, Robbie Crane on bass, and Bobby Blotzer on drums).  They don’t stray from the formula in music or lyrics, but why would you?  Hair metal isn’t about issues or politics or really anything.  It’s about sex, cars, and partying.  That’s it.  Mostly sex.

So let’s take a look at the tracks on Ratt’s newest record.  Let’s take a look . . . and a listen.

Value Village ran out of black t-shirts.

01  Eat Me Up Alive

A great lead-off song for the album.  Fast, tight, catchy, and rockin’.  This is my personal favorite.

02  Best of Me (4.19)

“I’m not a liar/and I don’t care
I’m gonna make you play/truth or dare”

There’s just something about a 50 year old man singing this lyric that’s a little creepy.  This is the first “single” off the album and it’s catchy.  Pretty standard hair metal.

03  A Little Too Much

The record starts out great.  Three really strong songs in a row.  This one ALMOST has a GNR vibe to it.  Warren DeMartini, one of the guitar players for Ratt is pretty awesome throughout the album.

04  Look Out Below

Not one of my favorites, but it’s more a matter of personal taste.  The song still rocks, just doesn’t match the intensity or musical quality of the first three songs.

05  Last Call

Not a bad song.  It has its moments.  But it never really rises above your typical hair metal fare.  Not that that’s a bad thing.  It’s just not necessarily a good thing.

06  Lost Weekend

This sounds like a track left off of Invasion of Your Privacy.  Which isn’t exactly a stellar compliment.  Still fairly catchy.

07  As Good As It Gets

After a couple of so-so songs, the album turns it around with another fun one that is classic Ratt.  I feel weird writing the word “classic Ratt”.

08  Garden Of Eden

This may be the least Ratt-sounding song on the record (though, let’s be frank, it still sounds like Ratt).  A nice, heavy, rock song.

09  Take A Big Bite

Another one that’s sort of formulaic, but it has a fast tempo and it rocks fairly hard.  Just not all that memorable.

10  Take Me Home

The closest thing to a power ballad on the record, and it’s really not that close.

11  Don’t Let Go

Ratt usually saves one of their best songs for last.  This time out, I’m not so sure that’s the case.  It’s pretty good, though.  Screaming guitars, pounding drums, and a catchy tune.  It’s pretty good.  Full disclosure:  I’ve only heard the last four songs on this record once.

And that’s that.  All in a all a very strong entry for Ratt.  If this record had come out in 1988 instead of Reach For The Sky, who knows?  It’s possible Ratt might still be at the top of their game.  But given the 20+ years between Ratt’s heyday and the release of this impressive record, it’s doubtful.  So much has happened in music since hair metal dominated the charts.  Is there still a place for it in 2010?  Will anyone under the age of 40 give a shit?  I like to think so.  Hair metal isn’t going to change the world.  But in a world dominated by the strained karaoke stylings of the latest American Idol fucktard and the oh-so-earnest warbling of bands like Coldplay, maybe it’s not such a bad thing to put a little fun back into music.  In that, at least, Ratt has definitely succeeded.

Bottom line:  If you liked Ratt before, you’ll probably enjoy this album.  If you’ve always hated Ratt, this album isn’t for you.


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