Wednesday, 25 May 2011

WARRANT - Rockaholic

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For a lot of people, glam metal band Warrant peaked with their third album, the 1992 release ‘Dog Eat Dog’. It took Warrant’s trademark sound and toughened the edges resulting in a near perfect mix of glam and hard rock. Then frontman Jani Lane said at the time it was the first Warrant album he’d been completely happy with and as a result, he wanted “to burn their first album and re-record the second”. In many ways, those who hold up that album as the band’s peak are correct to do so, although it’s successor, 1994’s ‘Ultraphobic’ has some interesting moments - most notably the King’s X inspired ‘Followed’. From that point, Warrant’s career certainly came off the rails... ‘Belly To Belly Part 1’ attempted to recapture some of the magic delivered by ‘Ultaphobic’ but had none of the memorable hooks or charm and Warrant followed that with a re-recorded greatest hits package which is best avoided. Vocalist Jani Lane subsequently quit and Warrant were never really Warrant again.

Longtime members Jerry Dixon (bass), Steven Sweet (drums), Joey Allen (lead guitar) and Erik Turner later teamed up with Black ‘n’ Blue vocalist Jaime St James on the appropriately titled ‘Born Again’ in 2006. ‘Born Again’ was a workmanlike hard rock record, certainly not terrible, but not worthy of the Warrant name either. St James subsequently returned to Black ‘n’ Blue, while the core of Warrant enlisted the help of ex-Lynch Mob/Cry of Love vocalist Robert Mason.

The resulting album, 2011’s ‘Rockaholic’ (released in the same week as the 2011 release from Black ‘n’ Blue, possibly not coincidentally), is a decent hard rock record, much better than ‘Born Again’. The opening numbers offer solid hard rock thrills, with heavy slide guitar powering ‘Sex Ain’t Love’ and guitar tapping and classic 80s riffing making up the core of ‘Innocence Gone’, which also features a great, pumping bassline from Jerry Dixon. On the rousing ‘Show Must Go On’ and ‘Cocaine Freight Train’ Warrant get in touch with their heavier side and on the latter, particularly, they appear very spiky indeed. The riffs are big; but more impressively, on the verses, Steven Sweet’s drumming occasionally resembles something more than a little Motörhead inspired. By the time the chorus rolls around, though, things settle in to more traditional glam/hard rock, with plenty of gang vocals; on an instrumental break, a harmonica line gives things a much needed blues-rock touch.

Elsewhere, there are a couple of outstanding mid-paced rockers: ‘Life’s a Song’ showcases Robert Mason’s less squealy vocal talents (and here it becomes obvious why he’s clearly the right man for the job) and a really classy guitar solo from Joey Allen. Throw in a bunch of harmony vocals and the track is a definite winner - near classic Warrant. ‘What Love Can Do’ has a great rhythmic punch on its verses, but as always, it’s on another harmony filled chorus Warrant really shine.

No matter who’s in the line-up, a Warrant release wouldn’t be complete without a couple of huge ballads, and on ‘Rockaholic’s soft numbers, lots of Warrant’s old magic can still be heard. ‘Found Forever’ is the kind of rock ballad Warrant excelled at in the late 80s, and even in 2011 - sans Jani Lane - they prove rock balladry is possibly their greatest strength. Robert Mason’s softer vocal style appears sympathetic to the arrangement, which comes full of understated guitar chords (courstesy of Erik Turner and Joey Allen) and a nice bass line. The keyboard fleshes everything out and makes it sound bigger than it actually is, while Joey Allen’s lead solo is brief but well placed. Despite lots of decent elements, it’s the huge chorus vocals and harmonies which make it really stand out. Similarly, ‘Home’ is an archetypal Warrant ballad. With an upfront bass line and clean guitar work underpinned by a keyboard string section, this sounds like a distant cousin of the excellent ‘Heaven’ from the band’s 1989 debut ‘Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich’. This track has the spirit of Jani Lane all over it, but then, It’s written in such an old Warrant style, it’s almost impossible not to hark back when listening to it.

Throughout most of ‘Rockaholic’, the band really delivers the goods. Robert Mason fits in very well and Warrant sound like a cohesive unit once again. It may suffer from a couple of weaker tracks and a horrible album title (“-aholic” is NOT an acceptable English language suffix), but this is about as good as you’re going to get from a Lane-less Warrant.


May 2011

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