Diane Warren

REVIEW: Ratt – Detonator (Part Five of The Atlantic Years series)

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!

3.5/5 stars

The Atlantic Years 1984-1990:

#427: I Do Want to Miss This Thing

“Michael Bay is the Nickelback of movies.” — Mrs. LeBrain

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RECORD STORE TALES MkII: Getting More Tale
#427: I Do Want to Miss This Thing

Blame Michael Bay.

Quite possibly the worst movie director of all time may be responsible for the downfall of Aerosmith.  I’m not talking about the “Falling in Love (Is Hard on the Knees)” music video, which he directed.  No, that was not the downfall.  In fact quality-wise, Nine Lives was a bit of an up-tick from Get A Grip.  It’s too bad that sales didn’t match (2 million sold U.S. vs. 7 million U.S.), but that’s the fickle finger of fate.  The tastes of the public seldom make a perfect match with hard rock quality.

Since Nine Lives would have been considered a bit of a sales disappointment in some camps, it probably didn’t take Steven Tyler much coercing to do a Diane Warren ballad for a movie soundtrack.  Of course, Tyler’s daughter Liv was the headline actress in the flick, so from that standpoint it was a once in a lifetime opportunity for them to work on the same project.  Unfortunately for the world, that project was Armageddon.  Not quite as bad as a real meteor heading to Earth, this Michael Bay stinker made so much money, that some reports suggest that Bay wallpapered his 43 bedroom mansion entirely in Benjamin Franklins.  There’s that problem with the tastes of the masses, again.

So Bay, aided and abetted by Bruce Willis, Billy Bob Thorton, and Steve fucking Buscemi, laid this turd of a movie and all it needed was a turd soundtrack.  As for what happened next, Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader 2015 desktop calendar* has the answer:

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For many fans, this was the beginning of the end of Aerosmith.  Some truly dreadful music followed “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing”, such as Just Push Play and (ewww) “(It) Feels So Good”.  Can Aerosmith be redeemed?  I don’t know the answer to that.

What I do know this is, and it’s quite simple.

If Michael Bay didn’t make this damned movie, Aerosmith wouldn’t have had this damned million selling single!

Message to Michael Bay:  Stay away from things I like!

* These things are brilliant and I recommend them to anyone who does not have a stunted sense of humour!