In 1989, I bought this album as soon as it came out, based on hype alone — never heard a note. Put it on, and felt immediately that this was a middle-of-the-road hard rock album with little of their own to bring to the genre. That didn’t stop me from becoming a big fan, of course. I haven’t played Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich in about a decade. I wonder what it sounds like today?
I hate to speak ill of the dead, but I think one of the reasons my love of Warrant didn’t last was Jani Lane. I’m sorry, Warrant fans. I don’t think Jani’s voice was anything special. He had an ability to deliver pop hooks, but he always seemed to live in the shadow of other singers who had more character to their voices. I mean no disrespect to Jani, but that is the way my ears have always heard it.
Things sure started on a great note. “32 Pennies” is just fun hard rock, with loads of hook and that glam rock riff that Motley Crue mastered a few years prior. Beau Hill’s production is bland but not bad. There is a vague Aerosmith vibe, crossed with Motley and Poison — 1989 in a nutshell (or should I say a Ragu jar?). “32 Pennies” is still good for rocking out to, and I have to admit that the guitar solos smoke. Similar is “Down Boys”, the first single and video. Even today, this is probably the catchiest thing Warrant have ever done. It’s pure nonsense, of course:
Where the down boys go? Go!
Where the down boys go? Go-oh-oh-oh!
Where the down boys go? Ya,
I wanna go where the down boys go, baby!
“Big Talk” was a single too, and I had forgotten all about this one. It boasts some fun lite-Lizzy guitar harmonies and a great chorus. Count this as another good Warrant tune. None of these songs will challenge the listener in any way, but they have enough guitar and hooks to keep you engaged. But what happens when you throw a ballad into the mix?
Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich had two ballads, the first of which was the electric “Sometimes She Cries”. A solid chorus made this one a hit, although you’d be hard pressed to tell the difference between this and a Bon Jovi song. There are a few cheesy key changes and some absolutely ball-busting notes that Jani hits, and it’s all not too bad. Side one ended on a speedy rocker: “So Damn Pretty (Should Be Against the Law)”. It could be a Motley Crue outtake from Theater of Pain, but it’s not. Faceless, with turgid sounding drums, all it really had going for it is velocity. Fun, but derivative. The guitar solos are the best part.
The title track “D.R.F.S.R.” is pure crap. Lyrically, musically, and production-wise, this sucks. I really can’t believe how bad the drums sound. This was once considered acceptable! “In the Sticks” isn’t bad. It sounds vaguely like another song that I can’t quite think of right now. But that goes for the whole album! It’s still a very enjoyable song, with that late-80’s good time slow riding vibe. Cruisin’ with the windows down.
The big hit, the one everybody remembers today, was the acoustic ballad “Heaven”. It’s really hard to be objective about this song, because I used to be so into it, but it makes me cringe today! Let’s just move on.
“Ridin’ High” brings the thrills back. Sounding a heck of a lot like their future tourmates Poison, Warrant found the gas pedal again. The closing track “Cold Sweat” is much in the same vein. You gotta give Warrant credit for one thing, they wore their influences on their sleeves. The only problem was, it was the same bunch of bands that influenced every other band on the Sunset Strip in 1989. When you buy this Warrant album, you are at least getting what you think you’re getting.
Sony threw on two bonus tracks for this edition. Both are 1988 demos that failed to make the cut. Ironically, for demos, the drums actually sound better! They don’t sound like samples on these demos. “Only A Man”, an acoustic ballad, sounds entirely more sincere and classic than “Heaven” does. It’s harder edged and resembles Skid Row, who had yet to release their first album. “All Night Long” is a slow rocker, but it’s no better or worse than the rest of the album. Both songs could have been on the album originally had it not been limited to just 10 tracks.
Conclusion: What stood out in 1989 fades into the woodwork today.