Saturday, 16 November 2019

Cherry Pie - Warrant

Provenance: I like hair metal, so what? The purchase of this album was preceded by a 'best of' collection, which I enjoyed very much. Couldn't wait to hear some Warrant deep cuts.

Review: It was a sad day when Warrant frontman Jani Lane departed prematurely from this world. Addiction to alcohol and drugs caught up with him in 2011, by which time he was living in rather straitened circumstances. Thanks to this particular album, he also had to live with the ignominy of being referred to as 'the Cherry Pie Guy' for much of the latter part of his career.

It's massively unfair, as although he did write the addictive, double-entendre laden smash hit Lane had much more in his locker. Cherry Pie is testament to this - so alongside the usual hair farmer preoccupation with sex there are finely honed, sensitive tracks about loneliness and betrayal. Whilst not quite in the same calibre as Bruce Springsteen, it's fairly indisputable that Lane wrote the greatest butt-rock song about witnessing a murder within a rural community (the track in question is the riotous 'Uncle Tom's Cabin', which has about as much resemblance to the Harriet Beecher Stowe novel as I do to Desert Orchid).

I would go so far as to say that Jani Lane was the best songwriter of the whole glam metal movement. Some of his peers have moved into writing and producing for contemporary artists, and I can't shake the feeling that a sober, focused Lane would have made a mint doing this.

It is sad, too, that 'Cherry Pie' became an albatross for Lane and Warrant. On the one hand, it was emblematic of the big, dumb, sexist rawk scene that was flourishing on the Sunset Strip. It almost acted as a semi-colon to the scene before the giant full stop that was grunge and alt-metal. Given the bleak thematic concerns of what would succeed glam, 'Cherry Pie' sounds almost impossibly airheaded and inconsequential. If I could reach back through time, I'd urge Warrant to enjoy every second about doing silly songs about sex, because you're about to get pounded by lads doing bits about school shootings and blokes getting snuffed in Vietnam.

As with every band of this ilk, Warrant always stowed one or two cigarette lighter moments onto each album. 'Blind Faith' is fairly so-so, but 'I Saw Red' - about walking in on a partner's moment of infidelity - is as good as it gets. Especially considering that it's set up, in the first verse, to sound like a panegyric. It's clever, and it packs a wallop, although I have to confess that the acoustic version on my 'best of' is even better. 'Bed of Roses' is another track that benefits from Lane's shrewdness; here, he plays the part of a lovelorn tenant of a dingy motel, dreaming of a better life for the object of his affections two doors down. Beneath the gated drums, gang vocals and squealing guitars is a very human heartbeat.

I'm also a fan of 'Song and Dance Man', which could be either a celebration of life on the road or a cry of desperation. Maybe it's both; but it possesses a brooding quality to it missing in much other glam metal (the only other hair band that does this convincingly is Ratt; Invasion of Your Privacy might well be the only properly existential album from the spandex brigade). Nonetheless, it's a welcome note of ambivalence in a genre that is generally averse to notions such as introspection and equivocation. Imagine Bread's 'Guitar Man', except it's for people who say 'dude' a lot.

What more is there to say? It's well sung, well played, the hooks are chunky and it sounds exactly like a glossy MTV metal release from 1990 should do. Cherry Pie does feature a banjo on one track, I grant you that, and a version of Blackfoot's 'Train Train', bringing my personal 'Train Train' collection up to two (I've got the Blackfoot joint it where it first appeared). As a sting in the tail, Cherry Pie rounds off with a cheeky little spice called 'Ode To Tipper Gore', essentially a supercut of profanity uttered by Lane in live settings. Completely puerile, but it must've seemed a tad daring given the political climate of the time (and the outrageous actions of Tipper Gore and her troupe of self-appointed moral arbiters, the Parents Music Resource Center). Inside the liner notes, 'Ode To Tipper Gore' sports the caption "Freedom of Speech...What a concept!", making Warrant one of the unlikelier upholders of the First Amendment flame.

The bottom line is this - if you don't like glam metal you won't dig Cherry Pie. However, if you've got any regard for the genre, i.e. you're an individual of refined sensibilities, not only will this hit all the usual marks, but it'll give you just a bit more juice than usual in the songwriting department.

Now, just for the record let's get this story straight; me and Uncle Tom were fishing, it was gettin' pretty late...

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