In 1985, Ratt were a big band. Huge even. Fusing a dirty, street-smart delivery to some of the biggest, most radio-friendly hooks ever heard, they bestrode the American airwaves like the proverbial colossus; but, as these things are wont to do, some form of reverse-Midas syndrome set in and the band was left, by the end of that storied decade, in tatters.
The most painful setback was the loss of guitarist Robbin Crosby to AIDS (or at least the shadowy ‘related illnesses’ so beloved of PR companies the world over), but an inability by the rest of the band to come up with the goods again and again (or indeed manage a civil word to one another) didn’t help.
Come the end of the next decade, Ratt was something of a joke. Vocalist Stephen Pearcy toured using the name, but so did a separate band, featuring drummer Bobby Blotzer and a host of identikit sidekicks (including throats for hire John Corabi (Motley Crue) and Jizzy Pearl (Love/Hate, LA Guns etc) and occasionally other founding members; impasse had seemingly been reached, and each party busied itself shitting on the legacy of such titanic albums as Out of the Cellar and Invasion of Your Privacy.
Well, come the end of the next decade, the defecation has stopped. Ratt is back – and burning.
Put simply, Infestation is an amazing record.
Album opener Eat Me up Alive is genuinely exciting, riding in on a classic Ratt n’roll riff that’ll bring a tear to the eye of the faithful whilst managing to snare the unsuspecting newbie at the same time. Best of Me is pure eighties nostalgia – a bit of Van Halen here, a little Autograph there, a chorus to die for – whilst A Little Too Much heaps the agony on ears that’ll be screaming in for mercy already under the sheer weight of class that’s evident here – and that’s just the first three tracks.
They can’t keep this pace up of course – the raunch of Look Out Below just fails in its mission to recreate the glory of names like the Bullet Boys – but the pace, and the quality, picks up again for the speedy Last Call, which again leads the listener to thoughts of 1984-era VH, before the album’s show stopping centrepiece one-two explodes out of the speakers...
Lost Weekend snakes in on yet another killer riff, courtesy of the twin axes of Warren de Martini and (former Quiet Riot six stringer) Carlos Cavazo, before hitting the sweet spot again thanks to a big chorus/solo combo and some marvellously raspy vocalisin’ from Pearcy. But it’s the frankly staggering As Good as it Gets that takes Infestation’s songwriting crown – the best of a very, very good bunch- with it’s perfect mix of sleaze rockin’ blues and – and here’s the thing – primetime Motorhead gonzoid charm that really sets the pulse racing and the hairs standing priapically on the back of the neck. Its a near-faultless melange of hard rock panache, oil-encrusted filth and pure, pure sleaze that’ll be difficult to beat this year in the ‘best song’ stakes.
After that the straightahead heavy metal of Garden of Eden seems a little workaday, and your finger will be hovering over the repeat button to get back to its predecessor, but it ain't a bad little number in its own right, especially instrumentally. Indeed a big hail looks like it should go to Senor Cavazo, who has given the band back its metal edge, evident again on the heavily GNR influenced Take a Big Bite.
The only big glitch here is the syrupy ballad Take Me Home- unnecessary given the hard rocking majesty on show everywhere else on the disc and unlikely, in 2010 to become a staple of US radio, however much the band would like to think it’s still 1986- but the band picks itself and gets over the line in fine style with closer Don’t Let Go, a fitting end to an utterly compelling (and, it has to be said, astonishing and surprising) comeback album. If this is nostalgia, I think I’ll have some more, please...
Ratt's Infestation is out on 19 April on Roadrunner Records.