Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich

#596: Arrest Warrant

GETTING MORE TALE #596: Arrest Warrant

In a spring/summer 1989 edition of the Columbia House catalogue, a brand new band appeared.  It was the first I had heard of them.  Inside, my Selection of the Month was the debut album by a glam band called Warrant.  The hype machine was soon in full force.  Warrant were the latest group out of California with the look and the hooks.

I got the debut on cassette, Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich.  The deciding factor in buying the album was a little throw-away bit of information, which was that lead singer Jani Lane played guitar (albeit acoustic).  With a three guitar lineup, I thought Warrant might be new and different so I gave them a try.

Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich arrived at the house, but there were only a few good tunes on it.  Maybe about half:  “32 Pennies”, “Down Boys”, “Heaven”, “Sometimes She Cries” and “Big Talk”.  Most of these were crammed onto the first side, leaving the second a fairly barren wasteland.

I liked the singles, but more importantly, the girl I liked also liked Warrant!  This inspired me to prematurely proclaim Warrant as my “favourite new band” of 1989.

I will always own up to my mistakes, especially musical ones.  A few months later I acquired the debut albums by Mr. Big and Badlands.  Both were better than Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich.  Suddenly Warrant had competition in the “favourite new band” stakes.  I continued to spin Warrant, and as I did, a few more songs began to appeal.  “In the Sticks” was decent enough, but my God the title track was awful no matter how many times I played it.

Warrant had a hit album and began work on a followup.  Vertical Smile was the tentative title, a name ripped off from Blackfoot.  Soon they renamed it the equally unimaginative Cherry Pie, and even covered a Blackfoot song called “Train, Train”.

Although 1990’s Cherry Pie was undoubtedly a better album than Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich, after a few months I began to turn sour on the band.  The new album was very commercial, more so than the debut, with lots of ballads.  There was an uncredited vocal by Dee Snider from Twisted Sister in the very intro of the record.  That rubbed me the wrong way, because it was so obvious to me, and the lack of credits would make people think it was Jani Lane.  The only song that really had legs was “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”, which was unlike Warrant’s other singles.

By the summer, Warrant were feuding with their tourmates Poison.  What really killed it for me was Warrant’s admission in a guitar magazine interview that they had two tutors who taught them how to play their own solos.  That was the last straw.  I was getting into heavier music anyway, but I had enough of Warrant.  Uncredited vocalists, feuds, guys writing solos for them…this wasn’t a band for me.  I let them go.

I never bought any studio album after Cherry Pie, which means I missed 1992’s heavy comeback, Dog Eat Dog.  When singer Jani Lane quit the band and proclaimed he wasn’t into that heavy sound at all, I felt justified.  Lane said his heart was in rootsy acoustic rock music, like John Mellencamp.  Dog Eat Dog was what the rest of the band wanted to do, and Lane went with it until he quit.  He did rejoin the following year for another heavy album called Ultraphobic, but I had long gotten off the “Train Train”.

Warrant were one band who, for this listener, failed to live up to the hype.  Have I missed out?  Is it too late to catch this train, or should I leave the station completely?


REVIEW: Warrant – Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich (Remaster)

Scan_20150915WARRANT – Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich (1989, 2004 Sony remaster)

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.

2/5 stars