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It's easy to sneer and make fun of much that came from the Sunset Strip in the late 1980's but it often has more to do with the image than the music. My friend Jethro denied he ever liked the band when music styles shifted in the 1990s. I've largely judged music by my ears, not my eyes. Jani Lane had the capacity to write his testosterone anthems yet could write such unadorned reflections of faith like "April 2031", "Stronger Now" and even "6 Feet Under". This man was more than someone who adorned (both male and female) bedroom walls but an artist. Yes, I said it…the "A" word…artist. To Lane's credit, he was able to achieve much without the tools the more prominent hard rock bands of his era did. Lane wrote all of the band's songs and they achieved platinum success without Mutt Lange, Bob Rock or Bruce Fairburn producing, unlike the other Big Four pop-metal bands (Bon Jovi, Motley Crue, Def Leppard and Poison). Warrant didn't have Desmond Child to come in and polish their singles, they didn't have Wayne Isham or Marty Callner come in to direct their videos nor have an A&R guru like John Kalodner to guide them (who helped resurrect Aerosmith and make Whitesnake more than a cult act). That is not to discredit the people who worked with Warrant (notably producers Beau Hill and Michael Wagener) but it's also a credit to Lane's divergent songwriting talent because Warrant lived and died on his talent.
While the 1992 release Dog Eat Dog was viewed as a commercial disappointment (it only went Gold -500,000 copies sold), it's the band's most mature and full-bodied work. It covers many of the same catchy melodic riffs that made them popular on the tracks "Bonfire", "Hollywood", "All My Bridges Are Burning" and the ballad "Let It Rain". Yet it also illustrated the band venturing into much heavier waters on their muscular lead single "Machine Gun", the push and pull distortion of "Hole In My Wall" and the aforementioned "Inside Out" which was even faster and more manic that the 1991 live version. The record's eye-opening cuts were "April 2031" and "Andy Warhol Was Right". "April 2031" is an apocalyptic vision of the world forty years after the birth of his daughter. In reading an interview with Lane around the time of its release, he was inspired by the birth of his daughter because having children makes you less self-centered. Here is Lane pondering the how the horrors of the modern world would leave their mark on her generation, "As far back as Veitnam/ We should have learned our lesson/ But we closed our eyes". Lane's intelligence and awareness grew with each release. "April 2031" is ultimately a love song for his daughter written in the hope it would cause his fans to reflect on their life path. Back in 1992, the internet did not exist so our relationship with albums was much more intimate and we would spend hours dissecting lyrics and trying to understand their meaning. When the world turned on us, we found our liberation in songs. Dog Eat Dog was one of those albums I returned to time and time again for years as it was a tightly wound with intricate societal mysteries. While sexual tension was evident on a few cuts, it was not as in your face as their previous records and they felt more at home here housed along with a collection of tunes that told a larger story capturing a heightened sense of emotional consciousness. "Andy Warhol Was Right" is a disquieting first person narrative of a very delusional soul wanting to bask in the glow of celebrity and their way of attaining it is by killing someone. The production is serene and bare with children's voice, a xylophone and a whispered vocal that is radiates melancholy. Then there was the wonderfully power pop "Sad Theresa", a song the band originally wrote and demoed in 1987 but resurrected in 1992.
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Anthony Kuzminski is a Chicago based writer and Special Features Editor for the antiMusic Network. His daily writings can be read at The Screen Door. He can be contacted at tonyk AT antiMUSIC DOT com and can be followed on Twitter