Part Five of Five
RATT – Detonator (Originally 1990, 2020 reissue — The Atlantic Years 1984-1990 box set)
Hit the emergency breaks! If Ratt were spinning their tires commercially, then Atlantic sought to change course. Producer Beau Hill was given the deep six, and new stewardship was sought. Desmond Child was one of the most successful writers of the 80s, and so Child was hired to co-wrote every song on Detonator. From his stable of talent came co-producer Sir Arthur Payson. Even Jon Bon Jovi showed up for a backing vocal. (Returning the favour, Ratt’s Robbin Crosby played on Jon’s own Blaze of Glory.)
Needless to say, the fifth and final Ratt album on Atlantic was a change in direction. The album split fans, with some balking at the new commercial sound of the band. Others appreciated the slicker, tighter songwriting.
Opener “Shame Shame Shame” (and its “Intro to Shame”) is a gleaming example of the new collaboration, bearing sweet fruit. The bite of the old rodent remains, and the song is trimmed of any fat the old Ratt was carrying around. Warren’s guitar tone is buttery beauty. While DeMartini shines, Robbin Crosby was noticeably less involved with this album. He was suffering from addiction and only has two credits on Detonator. He had six on Reach for the Sky.
“Lovin’ You’s A Dirty Job” was the lead single, and indicates even the squeaky clean Desmond Child couldn’t scrub Ratt free of sleaze. He helped make them more effective at it, and the result is a song reminiscent of “Lay It Down”, but without the menace. The next track “Scratch That Itch” has a hint of the heavy Ratt from Dancing Undercover. The guitar smokes even if the melody does not. But then, “One Step Away” is virtually all melody! It is nothing like the Ratt N’ Roll of the past, but is an undeniably catchy summer rock tune. It sounds more like a Poison single, but with more bite. It could even be the album highlight.
The album has some surprisingly tough deep cuts. “Hard Time” is simple and effective. Pearcy shows his fangs and Desmond keeps it melodic. “Heads I Win, Tails You Lose” is…less effective. You can definitely hear Jon on it, and at least Warren’s lead guitar tone is brilliant. Otherwise it is filler. “All Or Nothing” and “Can’t Wait On Love” are the two Robbin co-writes. These are some of the most Ratt-like tracks. Quite a lot stronger than the usual Ratt album cuts.
“Givin’ Yourself Away” is quite un-Ratt. This is not a band known for their ballads. Pearcy isn’t that kind of singer. “Givin’ Yourself Away” only works in its context: a song written for radio in the last dying days of the hard rock era, right down to the contrived key change at the end. It is thick with backing keyboards. Diane Warren and Desmond Child co-wrote it with Pearcy, so you can use your imagination. The people it was written for (Bon Jovi fans) will love it.
Closer “Top Secret” is closest in sound to old-school Ratt. It could have been on Out of the Cellar for the vibe it exudes.
This CD, more than the others in the series, is packed with bonus tracks. Two tepid remixes of “Lovin’ You’s A Dirty Job” are here for the collector. But what some people forget is that before they split, Ratt released one more amazing tune: “Nobody Rides For Free”. This stripped-back gem was from the Point Break soundtrack in 1991 — the opening track on it, in fact. It was the first music video to feature Ratt as a four-piece without Robbin Crosby. Yet it remains a tough, mean Ratt track with great lyrics and chorus. Maybe better than anything on Detonator itself.
Detonator, like most Ratt albums, is a bumpy ride. This time the valleys are deeper, but there is also less pure filler. The result is a Ratt album that is a more consistently entertaining listen. The slicker production isn’t an impediment to enjoyment. But it didn’t save Ratt’s fortunes. Crosby was out, and the band was put on ice shortly after. But like most rodents, Ratt was hard to get rid of!
The Atlantic Years 1984-1990: