Members: Stephen Pearcy ~ vocals
Erick Ferentinos ~ guitar/b. vocals
Frank Wilsey ~ guitar
Matt Thorr ~ bass
Greg D'Angelo ~ drums
I love Ratt today, but once upon a time I found so much of what they did a bit repetitive. It didn't help that I read both Stephen Pearcy & Bobby Blotzer's autobiographies, & found I liked the band less after getting to know them better. All I'll say is one left a bitter taste in my mouth & the other needed a better co-writer/editor. Yet, I'm one of these folks who likes to investigate something thoroughly before drawing the line. I started re-listening to Ratt & found that I was wrong. On first listen they might sound like another glossy 80's band, but on deeper listens they had some stellar riffs that were far from repetitive & the songs absolutely stick with you. While when you start listing out the hits & headbangers they suddenly appear as a phenomenal band with more highs than lows. I also discovered that guitarist Warren DeMartini had a style & technique different than his peers. I got to see Ratt live with Warren, Carlos Cavazo & Jimmy DeGrasso in 2019 & watching Warren was a lesson in how to throw subtle things into the riff. You may not hear the difference, & I didn't, but you feel it & it haunts you. Yet, what got me to become a hardcore Ratt fan was Pearcy's solo work, including Arcade, Vicious Delite & Vertex. Listening that was what got me to re-evaluate Ratt. His solo stuff has never had that slick 80's commercial gloss & even with the same voice, his solo work is, more often than not, not Ratt. V.D. is grungy & riff heavy in a way Ratt never could or can be, Vertex is a fascinating though alienating concept album around religion that gets little notice, while Arcade rocks dirty & bluesy. While his solo work has gone in all sorts of directions, full of lots of surprises. Part of the solo era equation is that the hits are over for Ratt & Pearcy, even if they did get a moment back in the sun on a GEICO commercial on TV, but MTV isn't really interested in them anymore, while the music scene & industry has radically changed since they debuted. Yet, because they know they're not going to be landing on the charts or cover of Rolling Stone its like they can just let loose. They can explore more & incorporate new sounds that they likely were pressured not to do back in the early days. In those days the idea was to do the music that got the hits, which often meant duplicating what came before. Now the goal is just to make a good album that old fans will like & may attract some new fans. This freedom allows the now middle aged Pearcy & his peers to make what are some stellar albums, maybe some of the best of their career. They have found a beautiful place to groove that has a modern feel yet also is retro. Its the best of the past fused with all the trends that have come after, without having to be all of one thing or another. Pearcy's 2017 solo album Smash is an example of that place. I've listened to this album over & over since its release & its never grown stale. I turn to it just as much as any Ratt album. Its so good that I decided to blog about it, though this blog was put to bed years ago. To put it bluntly: if you want to know Pearcy solo this might be the album to check out. Its got just enough classic Ratt-esque feel to please fans, but also shows a musical diversity he doesn't get enough credit for. His voice is a rougher & raspier, which might be a shock if you haven't heard anything since Ratt's heyday, but he naturally has that rock'n'roll snarl musicians do their best to fake. Actually, he might be one of the creators of the snarl, come to think of it, & it just sounds better with age. It gives the music an extra emotional push. Though, even with the rasp of older vocal chords, he's not lost his ability to sing like so many peers have, even if fans are hesitate to confess such for many of their icons. Yet, for a vocalist's album this is a guitar album through & through. Each song is thick with big juicy riffs & equally big solos are peppered throughout. Some of the songs sound so much like Ratt it makes one wonder where one band starts & the solo career ends. Maybe the songs are old, or maybe Pearcy is done running from his past like he sorta did in his early solo years. Other songs, like the opener "I Know I'm Crazy" are heavy & proggy in a way more reflective of his solo efforts. Here the guitar moves between a typical metal approach of a thick rhythm with thin soaring leads in the background, to a heavily processed underwater sound somewhat like Nirvana's "Come As You Are." Its a mix of a Ratt-esque guitar solo, stomping heavy metal rhythms & grunge influences that might be the perfect opener for the album. It sends the immediate message: you aren't going to see what's coming next. My description of the song doesn't really do it justice, but that might be the key to what follows. This album just deserves a listen. Where I once saw Ratt all glossy & imitative, Peacy's Smash is anything but. Its a rollercoaster with every song a new experience & a ton of potential chart hits. "Ten Miles Wide" could be a Ratt song on their next album. You can almost imagine bassist Juan Croucier prancing on stage to it & you rocking along with him. If this is what the next Ratt album might sound like, the wait will be worth it. The other songs span the spectrum from Ratt nostalgia sleaze, to gritty blues more reminiscent of the under-rated Arcade, to moments that feel like Sunset Strip before G'N'R re-molded the sound, with even the obligatory power metal ballad with group vocals in "Rain". Also, to be noted, drummer D'Angelo played in White Lion at their peak early '80's Anthrax, Pride & Glory with Zakk Wylde. Bassist Thorr was in an early Ratt & co-wrote their hit "Back For More". Guitarist Wilsey was in Arcade, and Ferentinos has been a musical co-creater with Pearcy on many albums for what has been a productive & exciting musical partnership. A seriously magical combination that can be proud of their work. Its a .... smash.