By JAY ROBERTS
The Cassette Chronicles is a continuing series of mini reviews and reflections on albums from the 1980’s and 1990’s. The aim of this series is to highlight both known and underappreciated albums from rock, pop and metal genres from this time period through the cassette editions of their releases. Some of the albums I have known about and loved for years, while others are new to me and were music I’ve always wanted to hear. There will be some review analysis and my own personal stories about my connection with various albums. These opinions are strictly my own and do not reflect the views of anyone else at Limelight Magazine.
RATT – DETONATOR (1990)
As with the previous four articles I’ve written in The Cassette Chronicles series about various Ratt albums, Detonator is an album that I had heard a couple songs from but never purchased or listened to the full album before now.
Also like those other articles, once I listened to the album I discovered that I have done myself a grave disservice to have paid so little attention to Ratt back in the day.
While previous albums may have played with the band’s sound a bit here and there, there is no doubt that Detonator is from the full-on glam / pop metal musical vein.
The album opens with the two songs I remember hearing when it was first released. You have “Shame Shame Shame” which has a down and dirty sensibility to it. Uptempo with a bit of a sleaze rock vibe in the performance, it also has quite the catchy sound to the song as well.
I’ve listened to “Lovin’ You’s A Dirty Job” on the radio a lot over the years but as I listened to it for this article I really dug myself into the lyrical component of the song. While the lyrics are pretty straight forward in terms of being sex-drenched, I came away with a renewed appreciation of just how they were crafted with a fluidity that made the entire vocal performance flow so smoothly. I came away thinking that despite the song being one of the best known songs on the album, it is actually a bit underrated.
After those two songs, the rest of Side One is all album tracks and I have to say I was pretty impressed with the songs “Scratch That Itch” and “One Step Away”. The former cut had the requisite rock and roll tempo and it just kind of immediately attaches itself to your ears. But it was “One Step Away” that really drew me in. There’s a hook to the music that got me humming along to it. The song just has a great overall sound and I found myself hooked to the storyline of the lyrical content. Stephen Pearcy did a really exemplary job with the vocal on this one.
I will say that I wasn’t overly taken with the side closing “Hard Time”. It’s a rocking track but it feels a bit one-note to me. Still, that’s a pretty damn good first side of an album.
The second side of Detonator is a pretty good companion to Side One. It opens with “Heads I Win, Tails You Lose” and I really liked the vibe the band created with the track. In fact, by the time the album winds up with “Top Secret”, the entirety of Side Two had me seriously regretting waiting over 30 years to hear the full Detonator album.
“Top Secret” rocks pretty fiercely and draws you in, much like “Can’t Wait On Love”. That song title may have you thinking it is a ballad, but instead it is a lively rocker that I enjoyed so much that I think it could’ve been a damn fine single for the band.
There’s a rhythmic swing to the musical performance on “All Or Nothing” and this is another track where (during the main lyrical verses) where vocalist Stephen Pearcy steps up to another level with his performance.
According to the album’s Wikipedia entry, the song “Givin’ Yourself Away” is the band’s only “power ballad”. It was weird to think they’d never done an out and out ballad in that style before. But I guess the fact it turned out so well means it was just the right time to do a ballad. The song moves a lot slower than the album’s rocker tracks, but it doesn’t get bogged down and become a musical drag. I thought there was a real sense of sincerity to the performance and the song ended up being a pretty cool track that I do want to hear again.
To the best of my knowledge, Detonator is the last Ratt album that was released on cassette. (Yes, I might be wrong.) So this article would be the end of the series within a series. And that ending brings me to the conclusion that despite my general dismissiveness of the band other than their radio singles did an injustice to Ratt and to myself. The band, as it turns out, has a wealth of great material beyond the singles and I’m glad to have found my way to a fuller appreciation of Ratt’s catalog all these years later.
Detonator is a fabulous album with nary a mis-step that captures the band in fine form. There’s a continually renewed energetic rocking vibe throughout the album that will capture your ear and make you long for the days when metal still ruled the music world.
NOTES OF INTEREST – The Detonator album was certified gold.
Detonator was the last album bassist Juan Croucier appeared on before he left the band in 1992. He returned to the band in 2012 and has been part of the lineup in full since 2016. This was also the last album to feature guitarist Robbin Crosby before his death in 2002.
Jon Bon Jovi sang backing vocals on the “Heads I Win, Tails You Lose” track.
The only Ratt album I haven’t written about it their full length debut Out Of The Cellar. I might put an epilogue on this series of Ratt articles by writing about it at some point but given how much I’ve enjoyed the rest of the albums, I’m almost afraid that my opinion of it may change and then where will I be?