I’ve often been frustrated as a music fan with how many record labels just let so many artists or groups fall to the wayside because they let trends dictate how well an album does. In my opinion, it should be the content of the album that should do the talking, and not musical trends.
Let’s face it, that’s exactly what happened in the 90’s and all it took were these 4 words “Smells Like Teen Spirit”. Suddenly all the rock “glam” or “hair” bands that ruled the charts and video channels were literally thrown “under the bus” by most record labels because they were looking for the next Nirvana, Pearl Jam or Soundgarden.
Now don’t get me wrong, I love grunge and rock. Personally I felt that there was more than enough room for everyone. Come on, why limit yourself, there’s so much out there. Unfortunately, most record labels saw grunge as the next musical outlet to be exploited so, gone were most of the rock bands in favour of the new Seattle saviours.
Now I know a lot of people really hated the 80’s rock or “glam” bands that were prevalent during that time, but I thought some were pretty good and were just fun to listen too. Heck, some of them played their own instruments and wrote their own songs!!! What a novel idea.
One casualty in particular of the grunge movement was Warrant. The guys that sang Heaven and Cherry Pie? Yes, Warrant! The band showed some potential with their song Uncle Tom’s Cabin, demonstrating a more mature or experimental side to their music. Warrant knew that that they weren’t going to survive this new musical climate by continuing to write songs like Cherry Pie, so… the band decided to take their new musical style to the next level for their 3rd studio album.
The band knew it was time to toughen up their sound in order to escape the pitfalls associated with the glam/hair metal label and decided to replace Beau Hill (who produced their platinum albums Dirty, Rotten, Filthy, Stinking Rich and Cherry Pie) with Michael Wagener. Wagener had successfully tweaked Skid Row's sound and gave them a #1 album: Slave to the Grind.
In 1992, Warrant released, Dog Eat Dog, their third full length studio album; it consisted of 12 tracks all written by lead singer, Jani Lane. The album was darker, diverse, and more experimental than their first two studio albums but it never strayed too far off the band’s core sound. This was still Warrant, and not some 80’s band trying to mimic the sounds of the grunge scene. Jani Lane truly rose to the challenge of bringing the band into the 90’s with this album. It showcased a song writer’s growth by literally putting his heart on his sleeve throughout this overlooked gem of an album.
Dog Eat Dog starts with a bang with the riff heavy first single Machine Gun. The catchiest rock track on the album. Hole In My Wall is next and it’s a sexually super-charged track that sounds exactly what we expect from Warrant yet so far removed from them at the same time. Think of it as a darker more perverted take on Cherry Pie. Then, just as you think you got the album figured out, there comes April 2031 a dark song about a possible apocalyptic future, followed by Andy Warhol Was Right, a disturbing examination about a “average person’s” obsession with the rich and famous that eventually leads to murder.
Then there’s, in my opinion, Dog Eat Dog’s pièce de resistance, track 6: The Bitter Pill. The song features an impressive dual vocal that really captures the internal struggle of the protagonist. What really sets The Bitter Pill apart from your standard power ballade is the inclusion of a “Bohemian Rhapsody” style German opera interlude right in the middle of the song. Sounds crazy, but it works!!!
Other highlights from Dog Eat are Quicksand, the heartfelt ballade Let It Rain, the hardest rocking song on the album Inside Out and the beautiful album closer Sad Theresa.
Regardless of how great the Dog Eat Dog album was however, by 1992 grunge had taken over and there was no place for a band like Warrant ,even though the record showcased the incredible leap forward as a band. It seemed like no record label would back up a glam or hair band at this time. And, because of the label’s reluctance, that album never stood chance to be heard by the masses.
If you can get past your pre-conceived notions of Warrant, I urge to seek out this underrated album. It’s truly a great rock album that really deserves a second chance to be discovered. I sure hope the record company decides one day to release a remastered version of Dog Eat Dog sometime in the not so distant future.