WHITE LION – Mane Attraction (1991 Atlantic)
I was expecting a lot more out of Mane Attraction. Most fans are of a mind that Big Game was not as good as Pride (to varying degrees) and the band seemed to agree with them. In a guitar magazine interview, Bratta and Tramp proclaimed that they had toned it down on Big Game, and the next album would be much heavier, and more epic.
In many respects, that was true. Mane Attraction has an 8-minute epic and two more songs clocking in at 7 minutes apiece. There are heavy moments here that are equal to the heaviest on Fight to Survive. Producer Richie Zito captured the heavier sounds with polish and clarity. Where Mane Attraction stumbles is not on the heavy songs, it’s on the sappy, pathetic, limp, impotent ballads. Side one has two in a row!
Things get off to a solid start. “Lights and Thunder” is everything the band promised it would be. This is the kind of uncompromising heavy rock that the band had been trying to do. It has a trippy quality as it navigates different moods and sections. It is quite probably the best song on the album. Notably, Bratta’s style has become less fluttery and displays more balls. “Leave Me Alone” too is adventurous, sort of a heavy metal funk hybrid. It has a great heavy guitar groove, but Mike Tramp’s lyrics are absolute shit. “Can’t touch this”? Jesus Murphy. It’s a shame because “Leave Me Alone” is pretty great musically. You could headbang to it just fine; trust me, I know.
From Fight to Survive (the band’s indi debut) comes a re-recording of “Broken Heart”. It is a commercial hard rocker, and it reminds me of early Europe. New keyboard parts made it more pop and radio friendly, but it didn’t get the radio play the band needed. Plenty of keyboards can also be heard on the other single, “Love Don’t Come Easy”. Releasing a song this soft as the first single was commercial suicide; people were craving heavier sounds. “Love Don’t Come Easy” (originally titled “There Comes A Time”) is a good song, but it did not make a strong first impression for a single.
On album, the band chose to chase this lukewarm single with a sappy ballad called “You’re All I Need”.
I know that she’s waiting,
For me to say forever,
I know that I sometimes,
Just don’t know how to tell her.
I want to hold and kiss her,
Give her my love,
Make her believe,
‘Cause she doesn’t know,
She doesn’t know.
And then…wait for it…
There is least some cool organ and bluesy guitar on “It’s Over”, but why the hell would you put so many soft songs in a row? I’m sure back in the day the band were trying call this a blues, but that would be stretching the matter greatly. “It’s Over” closes side one, and I need to go and get some air, because these stuffy ballads are making me feel ill.
Alright, I’m back, I’ve cleared my head. Side two begins with a bang; literally. “Warsong” was written by Tramp and Bratta as a response to the record company asking them to write “another single”. Musically, this is a fantastic song, propelled by Greg D’Angelo’s relentless beat. It too exhibits multiple sections and a couple killer Bratta solos (the second drastically different from the first). Where it loses once again is in the lyrical department. I know Mike Tramp has written many songs condemning war, and I know that the Gulf War was going on when he wrote this. What I took issue with was the line, “I know there’s nothing good in war, I know ’cause I’ve been there before.” I don’t think it’s cool to say you’ve “been there before” unless you actually have. I think it’s inappropriate.
“She’s Got Everything” is a cool groove. The lyrics suck again, but that’s expected now. My advice is just to sing your own lyrics over Mike Tramp’s. For example, where Mike sings this:
“So we left the party, and drove to her place,
You could see excitement written on my face.
So she took me upstairs, laid me on her bed,
When she got undressed I just lost my head.”
Try singing this:
“Sheeba dabba dobby, n’ log in fireplace,
Soo loo ba dooby doo, pooping in the place.
Shooba dooba dabba, the man in the shed,
La dee da da dee da, eating loaf of bread.”
“Till Death Do Us Part” is a fucking wedding song, except nobody in the entire world ever used it as such. It has a cool, atmospheric bass intro, but then it’s off to the honeymoon in downtown Shit City. The only good thing is Bratta’s solo, the icing over a very rotten cake.
It’s too late to save the ship from sinking now. “Out With the Boys” is another stupid lyric, but at least framed in a good rock song. Once again White Lion lay the groove on hard. Then Vito Bratta takes a solo slot with “Blue Monday”. This electric blues was written and recorded for Stevie Ray Vaughan who had recently died. Too little too late, and rendered pointless by yet another ballad. Mane Attraction closes on “Farewell to You”, and I say good luck, don’t let the door hit you on the way out, etc.
Mane Attraction is over an hour long. If it had been 30-35 minutes long, like rock albums from a past era, this would have been a very different review.