You know, I could start this with the story about how much the band hates the song “Cherry Pie” and why you should give Warrant a chance, but I guess I can save that for when I touch on that album. That said, Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinkin’ Rich should be a good enough reason on its own, as I can bet almost everyone who pretends that this band is the worst thing they’ve ever heard have not actually given this disc a listen. As a matter of fact, there are really only two ballads here, and the ones that aren’t slap pretty damn hard. Are they full on, ball-crushing heavy metal tunes? Nah, but I assure you that more people could get into this album if they could get past the image that’s stuck on the band’s forehead. And what better time than now? Because today this record turns thirty years old!
Yes, you can easily find your typical L.A. glam themes of sex and heartbreak on here, but the underlying theme is actually a little more centered around consumerism and greedy corporate assholes. The record sleeve should kind of give that away, but I guess I can’t expect everyone to look beyond the surface. There was definitely some true heartbreak going on during the making of Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinkin’ Rich because it was delayed due to some of it. Frontman Jani Lane suffered a panic attack after walking in on his best friend in bed with his lady, ultimately leading to the smash ballad on the follow-up record known as “I Saw Red.” But for the most part, there isn’t as much of that here.
Why not start with the main ingredients, shall we? The disdain for large corporations, greed, consumerism, and the struggle of achieving happiness through superficial crap would make for a large amount of the fuel that feeds the music. If this were a thrash metal album, it’d easily be packed with shredding anger and Overkill-like attitudes. But it’s not, and instead Warrant almost brings it into a lighter form and pokes fun at it. Although the riffs are somewhat heavy at times, it’s mostly played in major keys and uses higher notes to resonate a warmer feeling. The title track is a really easy one to use as an example, although the solo on this has a bit more bite to it. Plus, the little breakdown at the end is quite humorous. “32 Pennies” is another pretty straightforward one, but one of the more hidden gems that I think also reflects this is “In The Sticks.” It may not attack consumerism per se, but it stresses the idea of achieving peace (with his baby, of course) by isolating oneself from the city life (which usually goes hand in hand with corporate bullshit) and residing off the grid. Or maybe I’m completely wrong and it’s more about wanting to nail some girl that hates the city (most likely the case). I also find the fact that Jani has to clarify in the lyrics “but I ain’t no country hick” to be extremely amusing. Again, hard riffs, catchy chorus, and overall good writing. Not overly heavy though.
Speaking of which, there are some fine examples of deeper, chugging builds combed with catchiness, and this method topped with Jani Lane’s ability to hit high notes clearly is pretty grand. Let’s look at “Down Boys,” one of the more typical songs charged by sexual desire. The intro and main rhythm patterns are heavy when you strip everything else away, and the transitions are beautiful. I truly don’t see how the poppier vibes could drive someone not to admit that this song is a total jam. For newcomers, I recommend this track. Following that is “Big Talk,” which does just the opposite. It’s stronger in the melodic department, using a higher guitar lick as the definitive hook. Not to mention, this one also attacks egos and those who fall into the fake traps of society. Again, getting the theme here?
Lastly, it’s worth touching on the softer ditties. By now I’m sure everyone has heard “Heaven,” one of Warrant’s biggest singles. This has an acoustic backbone with vocal harmonies bleeding into a lot of this and a glittery chorus. I get that may not be for everyone, but perhaps give “Sometimes She Cries” a closer look. Yeah, it’s soft and obviously a ballad, but this one has beefier guitar work and better transitions. The little noodle used behind the pre-chorus is one of the best parts on the album. Overall, this goes to show that for the most part, this disc has an identity of its own, even though it may get inconsistent at times.
Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinkin’ Rich would hit the scene at the end of the glam train, much like Skid Row did. The difference is, this one didn’t push the limits quite as much as that one did, thus it didn’t have a terribly huge impact at the time. However, its existence gave way for the follow-up Cherry Pie, and even though this brand of rock was all but obsolete when it hit the scene, it still soared with interest. So at a minimum, this did have a small impact on what would happen outside of grunge in the nineties.
As for today, sadly, it virtually holds no value other than the fact that old copies of the CD are cool to come by. Metal goers don’t have much interest in this, and it doesn’t do a lot for the currently evolving music industry. There are the occasional rare young fans such as myself who can’t get enough of this rare slab of glam, but besides that, it doesn’t hold up. I saw some leftover version of Warrant last year at M3 opening the festival with six acoustic songs, but as far as I’m concerned, they died when Jani Lane died, and the band is just making throwback appearances now. At least they could still play well.
Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinkin’ Rich was released on January 31st, 1989 by Columbia records. For those that are like me and don’t care about any of that depressing shit that I just hashed out in the last paragraph, there were plenty of CDs put out back in the day, as well as cassettes and the more rare vinyl copies. As you should assume, there are currently no vinyl re-pressings, and very few CD remasters, but the old copies are all that matter, really. All are available at my favorite online music source!