Ratt: Infestation

RIYL: ’80s rock, cold beer, hot women

The ’90s were dark days for the hard rock bands that made their bones in the previous decade. Some of them may have achieved their greatest chart success between 1990 and 1993, but that owes more to the dawning of the Soundscan era than the band’s Q factor. There is a story about A&R reps calling their bands on the road when Nirvana’s Nevermind went supernova, telling them, “Come on home, boys. It’s over.” There was simply no room for hair metal in the new grunge order.

And who should come to hair metal’s rescue but…Mickey Rourke. As former wrestling superstar Randy “The Ram” Robinson in Darren Aronofsky’s “The Wrestler,” Rourke gave voice to the frustrations of more than a few disgruntled rock hounds when he dismissively observed how “that Cobain pussy had to come along and ruin it all.” Of course, this rallying cry came about a decade too late, as most of the bands from the era had either burned out (Motley Crue), gone the reality TV route (Poison), or morphed into bitter codgers, like Warrant’s Jani “I’m the ‘Cherry Pie’ guy” Lane.

Which brings us to Ratt, a band 20 years removed from their last gold album and a good 25 years removed from their last really good album. (“Way Cool Jr.” was fun, but let’s be honest here, people.) Infighting and drugs have dominated the band’s existence since 1992 – guitarist Robbin Crosby died of an overdose in 2006 – but Stephen Pearcy, Warren DiMartini and Bobby Blotzer have circled the wagons with two new members to make Infestation, the band’s first album in 11 years and a no-nonsense throwback to the band’s early ’80s glory days. Randy the Ram would have loved this record.

With nary a power ballad in sight, Ratt tears through these 11 songs like they’re running from the Devil himself. Similarities to earlier Ratt songs are unavoidable, as “Look Out Below” bears resemblance to “Slip of the Lip,” and “Best of Me” is this album’s “I Want a Woman.” Yes, the song titles (“Last Call,” “Garden of Eden,” “Take a Big Bite”) would empty the Rock Cliche Police’s ticket book, and Pearcy’s voice is a little worse for wear. (Great understatement, that.) Still, weathered or not, Pearcy has one of the most unique voices of the ’80s hard rock scene, even if he’s lost an octave off the top, and the songwriting here is surprisingly good. Anyone who misses sure-as-shit guitar solos and rock bands who just want to have a good time will consider Infestation a sight for sore ears. In truth, it’s a three-star album, but they get an extra half-star for exceeding our expectations so greatly. (Roadrunner 2010)

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