Warrant

Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich

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Other bands were bigger, other bands were better, but no other group embodied the spirit of late-'80s hair metal as much as Warrant. They were slick and tuneful, cheerfully shallow and gussied up to look prettier than they actually are. It was the era in a nutshell -- proud to be all surface and no depth. That aesthetic is what drives their debut, Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich, an album where they shake and shimmy like rock stars because that's what they desperately want to be. To achieve that, they distilled the sounds of L.A. at the time, where everybody used Van Halen and Kiss as a template, balancing the former's guitar hero antics and flamboyant sex-god frontman with the latter's big dumb riffs and pop hooks. Warrant surely weren't the first to do it -- Ratt and Poison brought it into the mainstream a few years earlier -- but the glossy package of Dirty Rotten makes it emblematic of its time. It's sleek and clean, built on processed guitars and cavernous drums, never taking more time than it needs, pushing the hooks front and center, along with a mile-wide sentimental streak best heard on the power ballads "Sometimes She Cries" and "Heaven," which sold this album to a wider, largely female audience that was also enamored with frontman Jani Lane's pretty looks. But don't be mistaken -- those are two slow moments on an album that's a party record, the time when the lights dim and the kids sway in a slow dance. The rest of this is good-time pop-metal, all professionally done but leaving little lasting impression, outside of the tremendous "Down Boys," which sounds exactly the same as the rest of the record but has an indelible chorus and is the one time when the band actually sounds powerful instead of preening. But it's hard to criticize an album for not making a lasting impression when it was designed to be in the moment, something to blast at keggers and when cruising through town. It served its purpose in 1989, and years later, it sounds exactly like that year, both for better and worse.

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