Disclaimer: All album reviews that I present are based solely on my likes and dislikes and are not those of any other employee of Center Stage Magazine. Music is a very subjective medium. I may not give a particular song or album a high rating, however, that only means that I was not partial to that piece or work; whereas others may thoroughly enjoy that same piece of work and/or if reviewing it may give it a different rating based on their personal likes and dislikes.
Stephen Pearcy – SMASH
Release Date: January 27, 2017, Frontier Records
In the mid to late 80’s, one of my favorite bands was RATT. Their music was second to none and their live concerts were over the top. I saw them four tours in a row beginning with the Invasion of Your Privacy tour in 1985. Stephen Pearcy, RATT’s lead vocalist, knew how to command a stage and captivate audiences. Vocally, Pearcy was never one of the best, but his voice fits the RATT persona and music as no other could. Unfortunately, the inevitable happened when the era of grunge music broke onto the scene and turned the arena rock world upside down. Music changed almost overnight, and not for the better in my personal opinion. As so many 80’s rock bands tried to do, RATT attempted to make the music conversion in order to stay relevant in the new grunge rock market. It just was not the same and sadly, RATT fizzled out like so many other bands did.
Fast forward to 2017, and we have a brand new solo album from Pearcy titled SMASH. It is the perfect title for this body of work. I was honestly expecting an album full of lame, thrown together songs that may have hit the cutting room floor from previous Pearcy solo albums or even RATT albums, but I was 100% completely wrong. SMASH is hands down one of my favorite albums of 2017 so far.
SMASH Band Lineup:
Stephen Pearcy – Lead and Back-Up Vocals
Eric Ferentinos (Co-Writer) – Lead Guitars and Back-Up Vocals
Greg D’Angelo – Drums and Percussion
Matt Thorne – Bass Guitar
Chris Hager – Rhythm Guitar
Let’s take a track by track journey through SMASH and see what we come up with.
1. I Know I’m Crazy has a neat intro for an opening track but for me, that is all that this song has. Just about any other song on this album would have been a better choice for an opening track. An opening track should be up tempo, hit you hard and really get your attention but this song does not do any of that, for me anyways!
2. Ten Miles Wide was the second release from SMASH along with accompanying video and is a grooving’ tune that would have been perfect for the opening track. The song is about as perfect as you can get in terms of writing a good song. It grooves hard, has a huge hook for a chorus, great vocals all around and it is one of those songs that causes you to force your volume knob to eleven even though it only goes to ten.
3. Shut Down Baby has that essential Led Zeppelin sound happening with that signature John Bonham drum groove throughout coupled with that famous John Paul Jones walking bass line and the Jimmy Page sounding guitar riffs really give this track a much different flavor than the rest, yet it is just too good not to have included it on the album.
4. Dead Roses opens with Pearcy shouting the obligatory "Mother-F*#ker" before kicking into a groove very reminiscent of "Piece of Me" from Skid Row. This is by far one of the heavier tracks on the album. If you dig heavy and dig "Piece of Me", you will dig this tune for sure.
5. Lollipop is just a cool tune. It is definitely a head bobbing, toe tapping jam that would be great to crank up while cruising down the road in a convertible on your way to the beach. Simply put, it is a fun song.
6. Hit Me With Your Bullet is a song that I picture as being a song that sounds really good live and would also include a ton of opportunities for crowd participation. It also reminds me of a song that would have fit perfectly on the RATT EP, as it just has that sound.
7. Rain has a very cool guitar riff happening that really sets this song apart and puts it in a league of its own. Of the two releases from this album, I personally would have chosen this song to be one of them; maybe it will be the next release. It has the most commercial, radio friendly, mass appeal to it, yet it does not lack heaviness or balls. It is probably the best overall written song on the album.
8. Want Too Much kicks it out heavy and is definitely my favorite track on the album, at this point. The chorus’ on this track really remind me of RATT back in the 80’s, however, the verses put me in mind of Megadeth. Pearcy’s vocals have somewhat of a Dave Mustaine feel about them. You want a heavy, in your face, bang your head song, then this is the song for you.
9. What Do Ya Think is not one of my favorite songs. This one reminds me of a cross between Led Zeppelin and Tesla, with its groove and acoustic flavor. It certainly has a neat groove and slide guitar and would be cool as part of an unplugged show or album. In that setting, I may end up liking it better than as part of a hard-driving rock album.
10. Jamie I would say is the heaviest track on the album and is reminiscent of Kiss of Death from Dokken in the verses and lead break. The chorus takes a different direction musically and is extremely catchy lyrically, yet very simplistic. Jamie encompasses all the great aspects of what 80’s rock and metal was all about.
11. I Can’t Take It was the first track released off SMASH along with an accompanying video showing Pearcy and the band performing live at the famous Whiskey A Go-Go. This is a catchy tune that will have you singing along on the chorus before you even realize it. This song is definitely radio friendly.
12: Passion Infinity is a unique song with its low key, laid back approach in the verses and then all out, balls to the wall approach in the chorus’. The bridge has a really cool arpeggiated guitar thing happening and then again, it is off to the races for an all-out assault for the guitar lead. This tune would have been a great choice for the album's opening track.
13. Summers End is somewhat of a slower number layered with acoustic and clean guitars in the verses with a heavier approach to the chorus’ having somewhat of a Zeppelin feel once again. I do believe this is one of those songs that will grow on me the more I listen to it and it is by far the best track to close out the album.
With thirteen tracks, SMASH is surprisingly a relatively short album clocking in at just 47:11. Had I been in charge of producing the album, I would not have included track one and track nine. They just do not fit. The overall production is solid from start to finish, and as a drummer, I must say the production on the drum tracks is brutal. I love the big fat snare sound, the overall tone of the toms as well as the perfect amount of click and tone on the bass drum. I am also impressed with Pearcy’s approach to this album. As far as I can tell, the band is tuned down and Pearcy structured his vocal lines in such a way that he should be able to nail them in live settings without running out of breath or stamina. To me, he still sounds like the Pearcy of the early RATT days, but singing as such that he is not going beyond his range and blowing his voice out. Pearcy is sober these days, which I believe is a key factor, as well, as to why he sounds so good on this album. Congrats on the sobriety.
Well it is time to rate this baby, and if it were not for the two tracks I mentioned above that I would have left off the album had I produced it, I would have given SMASH a perfect score of 10. With the inclusion of those two tracks on the album, I have to drop my rating to a 9 out of 10, which is still a darn good rating if you ask me.
If you are a RATT fan or a Stephen Pearcy fan, make sure to grab the album SMASH now. Get out and support live music. Go see RATT live this summer and go see Pearcy live this summer as well.