Ratt's "Infestation" and the Aftermath
The Ratt Pack Returned With a Vengeance in 2010!
Ratt’s 2010 comeback album, Infestation, still ranks as one of the most pleasant surprises in a long time for this jaded reporter -- because when it was first announced back in 2009, I didn't have very high hopes for it at all.
I had been a fan of the first several records by the L.A. rodents during my high school days, particularly 1983's debut EP and their 1984 breakthrough album Out of the Cellar, but it became pretty obvious that the band was phoning it in by the time 1988’s disappointing Reach for the Sky album came around. My hard-rock tastes had also moved towards heavier fare by then anyway, so I watched from a distance over the next decade as Ratt went through the inevitable cycle of breakup and eventual reunion, mourned the tragic 2002 death of guitarist Robbin Crosby (R.I.P.), and had a falling out with vocalist Stephen Pearcy that led to his being replaced by journeyman Jizzy Pearl (Love/Hate, L.A. Guns) for a number of years. However, it seems that time (and, apparently, lack of record company interest) really does heal all wounds, because eventually Ratt patched up their differences with Pearcy and announced that they were starting work on their first studio album since 1999 for their new label Loud & Proud, a division of Roadrunner Records.
Ratt: "Best of Me" From Infestation
When the first previews of Infestation hit the Net a few weeks prior to the album's release, fan reaction was absolutely ecstatic. Even though my interest in Ratt had been near zero up to this point, the raves sounded too good to ignore... so I gave a couple of the new tracks a curious listen on the band’s web site and unexpectedly heard myself saying, “Wow. This is GOOD.” Thus, I ended up buying a copy of the CD (my first new Ratt release in over 20 years!) as soon as it became available and it pretty much ruled my CD player for several weeks afterwards. Infestation is still a pretty damn solid collection of classic-style Ratt rockers, kicking off with the positively slammin’ “Eat Me Up Alive” (best song on the CD, bar none – this should’ve been the first single, not the middling “Best of Me”) and cruising through ten more tracks that sound fresher and rock harder than anything Ratt had released since Invasion Of Your Privacy back in ’85. Guitarist Carlos Cavazo (ex-Quiet Riot) filled the late Robbin Crosby’s shoes admirably, meshing nicely with longtime Ratt axeman Warren DeMartini to successfully re-create the band’s classc, trademark wall-of-shred sound. Pearcy’s voice, which had become something of a hit-or-miss proposition over the years, also aged better than I'd expected. He sounded a little less whiny than the old days (which is a good thing) and added a bit more of a gritty snarl, but lost none of his swagger. In short, the Ratts were in great musical shape from the first note of Infestation to the last. Standout tracks like “A Little Too Much,” “Last Call,” “Look Out Below” (strippers across America should've been gyrating up and down poles to this one!) and the killer “Lost Weekend” (which rides atop a rumbling riff straight out of Out of the Cellar’s “Lack of Communication”) are all killer slabs of vintage sleaze rock, bringing back fond memories of the band’s early records when they’d first perfected their blend of David Lee Roth-era Van Halen crunch and Aerosmith’s booze-soaked boogie. The album doesn’t stumble till the next to last track, the ballad “Take Me Home” – Ratt was never much of a “ballad band” and this song shows why. Fortunately “Don’t Let Go” followed that misfire and finished off the album on a high note. All in all, Infestation was a surprisingly awesome return to form by a band I’d written off decades earlier, and it showed that Ratt still had fire in their bellies and fuel left in their tank.
"Eat Me Up Alive"
Infestation performed impressively on the charts for a band that had been out of the loop for so many years, debuting at #30 on Billboard and reportedly racking up sales of 14,000 copies in its first week of release. However, it didn't signal the full-time comeback that many longtime Ratt fans had hoped for. By the time the band finished touring to support the album in late 2010, tensions between the members had reared their ugly heads again, causing Pearcy to announce that Ratt was going on "hiatus for a while."
In early 2014 Stephen Pearcy announced that he had left Ratt once again, this time for good, citing the "constant turmoil" and "unresolved business" between band members as reasons for his departure. Pearcy resumed touring as a solo artist and was quoted as saying that "the door is shut" for another reunion with Ratt, and that "there will probably never be another Ratt album."
Meanwhile, drummer Bobby Blotzer formed a new band in 2015 and began touring under the name "Bobby Blotzer's RATT Experience." This group celebrated the 30th anniversary of 1985's Invasion of Your Privacy album by playing it in its entirety, as well as a selection of Ratt's greatest hits.
Things Get Weird....
In late 2015, Bobby Blotzer re-branded his "Ratt Experience" tribute band and began playing gigs under the actual Ratt name. This "new" Ratt - which included vocalist Josh Alan, guitarists Doc Ellis and Nicholas "Blaze" Baum, and bassist Robbie Crane - announced extensive dates for a so-called "Re-Invasion Tour" in 2016. This led to an immediate legal challenge from guitarist Warren DeMartini, who shares the copyright to the band's name with Blotzer and did not give him permission to use it for his new band. Blotzer maintained that if the original Ratt members no longer want to tour together, he had every right to "take control" of the legacy and keep the band's name and music alive.
To confuse the issue even further, former bassist Juan Croucier hit the road as a solo act in 2015, billing himself as "The Other Voice of Ratt," while vocalist Stephen Pearcy was constantly playing solo gigs on his own as well. So for a brief period, it might have been possible to see three different versions of Ratt playing gigs in the same area on the same night!
There Can Be Only One!
In spite of near-constant lineup troubles, Bobby Blotzer's "Ratt" toured the U.S. throughout 2016. Behind the scenes, however, the other three founding Ratt members - Pearcy, DeMartini, and Croucier - were plotting their return. The trio performed a surprise, unannounced set of Ratt songs on the 2016 Monsters of Rock Cruise in October with guitarist Carlos Cavazo and drummer Jimmy DeGrasso filling out the lineup. Radio personality Eddie Trunk tweeted about their set and commented dryly, "They have no name yet, but I'm sure (they're) open to suggestions..."
In late November 2016, Pearcy, DeMartini and Croucier announced that they had won back the rights to the Ratt name in a California court. Blotzer was found to have violated the band's official trademark when he attempted to pass his cover band off as the real "Ratt," and as a result he has been ousted from the band's corporate partnership. Blotzer no longer has the right to use the Ratt name and has no further stake in the band or any of its business endeavors.
The reconstituted Ratt - Pearcy, Croucier, and DeMartini - made their return to the concert stage in 2017, starting with a headlining slot at the annual M3 retro-rock festival in Columbia, Maryland in late April. Warren DeMartini bowed out in March of 2018 (some sources say he was "fired") and Carlos Cavazo followed soon after
As of late 2019, Ratt's lineup consists of Pearcy and Croucier, drummer Pete Holmes (ex Black-N-Blue) and guitarist Jordan Ziff.
Ratt's public profile received an unexpected boost in early 2020 thanks to a tongue-in-cheek cameo in a TV commercial for GEICO Insurance, in which a homeowner complains that his new house "has a Ratt problem," then cuts to shots of the band performing "Round and Round" in the basement, kitchen, and bathroom. The commercial has racked up nearly 9 million views on YouTube and its popularity helped push "Round & Round" back into the Billboard singles charts for the first time since 1984!
As for the future of Ratt... who knows? Their history has always been volatile and unpredictable, so for now let's simply enjoy the ride while it lasts.
"Ratt problem" -- GEICO commercial
© 2011 Keith Abt