Friday, July 12, 2013
Ratt - Infestation (2010)
After 1992's "Detonator" album, I suspect most of the music industry left Ratt for dead. I consider that a shame, because while most decry "Detonator" as an also-ran album of faceless hard rock, I still feel 20 years later like it was a good record, and one of the stronger releases in the band's catalog. I still get songs from that stuck in my head all these years later, and that's a testament to the quality of the material. The band has been very "on again, off again" since then, releasing a b-sides compilation and just 2 albums in the years that followed. I can't comment on the 1999 self-titled release, since I don't yet own a copy and haven't heard it, but for a band that was generally thought of as irrelevant 20 years prior, this is a good effort.
It seems that the group has somehow been able to put aside some of the past grievances and legal wrangling, and record a good album. Granted, this is only 3/5 of the original line-up, with late guitarist Robbin Crosby being replaced by Carlos Cavazo (also of Quiet Riot) and bass duties handled by Robbie Crane (Vince Neil Band, among others) rather than original bassist Juan Croucier. Having said that, this still feels like a Ratt record, at least in the context of a post-Nirvana rock world, and in some ways feeling like a logical follow-up to what they did 20 years prior with "Detonator". While the band may have stated in interviews that they were going for something vaguely in the neighborhood of "Out of the Cellar" and "Invasion Of Your Privacy" in sound, what they ended up with is a muscular, bluesy rock record that sounds like "Detonator" with more muscle and less filler. I'd consider that a success on any front.
The guitar sound here is good, with DeMartini and Cavazo getting a crunchy tone that has some emphasis behind it, but without so much overdrive that it makes you think this is going to be a heavier affair than it is. This is a rock record, make no mistake about that. Listeners should have no illusions that this is "glam metal" or anything of the sort, because the band hasn't truly worn that mantle for quite some time. Guitar solos sound great too, with nice tone and with enough power behind them that they come across as genuine, not just tacked on as fan service. There is some dual-solo work similar to what the band did early on, which is a nice treat. Bass by Crane is good, with a nice heavy bass sound rumbling underneath it all, following the melody lines and keeping the music sounding more "full". Drum work by Bobby Blotzer is always quality, and this is no exception. Granted, much of his time is spent keeping a beat, but he's rock solid as usual, and when he does do fills and little bits here and there, his tasteful playing never overshadowing the rest of the band, but acting as a perfect compliment. Overall, the instrumentation on the record sounds great, and has a modern edge to it without sounding like they're trying to be modern.
Vocally, Stephen Pearcy sounds pretty good. I had seen Ratt live sometime in 1999 while they were touring on the self-titled record, and I thought he sounded pretty decent, considering his raspy style can easily wreck a person's vocal chords. He has had vocal issues over the years, though nowhere near as severe as Cinderella's Tom Keifer, so hearing him in good form is nice at this stage of the game. Of course, Stephen's vocal shortcomings are pretty obvious, and he's definitely a one-trick pony. But he sounds like he's in shape on the album, with some nice screams where he reaches for the sky without the vocal acrobatics that typified the band's earliest material. Stephen manages to be as melodic as he can and that comes across well here. Lyrically, if you've heard a Ratt record before, you know what you're getting. This is "sleaze rock" through and through, so don't expect any political commentary, poetic musings on life and living, or anything too deep.
There are a couple tracks that could be considered filler, but when the songs are as strong as they are here with performances that both reek of professionalism and smack of enthusiasm, it's hard to fault a band on their first effort back in over 10 years. Ratt has never been a "ballad" band, and "Take Me Home" shows that they never perfected the craft, but it's still quite listenable and enjoyable enough for what it is. Sure, it's no "One Step Away", but it's a good tune for what it is. Overall, this is a solid set of songs with enough hooks and quality performance to keep Ratt fans coming back. And at the end of the day, isn't that all Stephen and the boys can hope for? Recommended for Ratt fans who enjoy the bluesier, more hard rock end of the spectrum, and classic hard rock fans in general.