God Help Us All...
There is a simple rule that pop cultural tastes follow: Hot musical trends will cycle regularly, quickly lose their luster, then miraculously experience a nostalgic rebirth years later. What was once accepted, then dismissed is certain to be embraced anew after a suitable amount of time has elapsed. Have any doubts? Do swing, rockabilly and disco ring a bell?
The genre that has experienced the greatest degree of love to loathing sentiment is of course hair metal. Born of the image conscious MTV generation, spandex clad, pearly toothed poseurs dominated ‘80s video and radio airwaves with their syrupy brand of misogynistic tomfoolery and nauseating power ballads. The music was harmless and lame, as were the perpetrators of the moment, yet numerous bands rode the wave to platinum album sales. While the undisputed king of “hair today gone tomorrow” acts was the Barbie dollish Poison, a close second was Barbie’s little sister, Warrant.
The musical embodiment of the adage “better to be lucky than good”, Warrant experienced significant commercial success with its first two recorded efforts. Both albums stuck to a proven formulaic blueprint by incorporating equal amounts of slick guitar hooks, forced lyrical sensitivities and self indulgent bombast. The recipe was exactly what the market wanted, and Warrant exploited the moment brilliantly. The problem with the band’s output, and hair metal in general, was that no substance lay beneath the style. Jani Lane and Company may have looked the part with teased locks and neon colored instruments, but their music was generally ridiculous and sophomoric. The reissue of Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich and Cherry Pie presents an opportunity to revisit the past and pose the question: Does Warrant warrant re-evaluation?
Hailed in some critical circles as two of the best recordings from the hair metal age, (which is tantamount to being the world’s tallest pygmy), Warrant’s first and second albums resonate with vintage shredding and inane lyrical content. The title tracks to both discs exemplify this best, showcasing ample amounts of preening and guitar gymnastics. That is not problematic, as hair metal groups were never viewed as bastions of creative integrity. The difficulties arise however, when Warrant exits the realm of rock fantasy and begins to take itself too seriously. The tracks “Sometimes She Cries” and “Heaven”, from Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich, as well as “I Saw Red”, “Blind Faith”, and “Song and Dance Man”, from Cherry Pie, attempt to tell saccharin drenched emotional stories where there is nothing much to croon about. When originally released, these weep fests may have elicited pangs of heartache amongst dedicated Warrant fans, but now the songs sound embarrassingly contrived.
Interestingly, on the occasions where Warrant decided to simply turn up and play, the band succeeded in crafting a few decent pop metal songs. “Ridin’ High”, “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”, and “Sure Feels Good To Me” are hard driving rockers; all extremely serviceable when compared with the remaining filler material from both albums. Unfortunately, these tracks are the exception rather than the norm, and the albums remain wholly unimpressive. Additionally, the inclusion of a pair of bonus tracks on each re-issued disc does not compensate for the overriding weakness of the original material.
As Warrant was a product of its environment, it is no surprise that the band’s legacy will be defined by the video footage for “Cherry Pie”. Tame by today’s cinematic standards, the MTV classic is a four-minute degradation of transient rocker blow-up doll Bobbi Brown, and a gratuitous chance for the band to mug and pose for the cameras. It is hilarious in a “laugh and cringe” sort of way, and serves as the personification of hair metal’s shallowness and superficiality.
So then, what of Warrant in the twenty-first century? It appears that the hair metal age has been demonized long enough, and is now being looked back upon with a bit of whimsy. The re-release of these two albums is predicated on original Warrant fans’ inclination to pay up to relive the band’s glory days. Anything is possible in the fickle business of record sales, but one fact remains: Warrant sold a ton of records in its hay day, despite being unoriginal and predominantly devoid of talent. Give credit where credit is due though, but don’t think that the music is any better now than is was over a decade ago.