“You can get the girls and the videomachine but the fuel you asked for, you cannot have” – D.A.D., “Jihad”
I was listening to Out of the Cellar the other day when it struck me that Ratt – much like their animal namesake – does not have wings. There is no lift-off with these dudes and their chintzy pop-metal tunes, no moment of transcendence that unlooses them from their place in time and history. As much as I love the simple goofy pleasures of She Wants Money or Back For More, they always sound like the muffled backdrop to a strip-club murder scene in 1985. Round and Round is not going to set some young kid’s head on fire decades from now the way, say, Kick Out the Jams or God Save the Queen or Smells Like Teen Spirit will. Ratt, like most flash metal bands, weren’t about revolution or legacy, they were about capturing lightning in a bottle. And also banging chicks. That’s part of the charm of the genre, of course, but also why most of it is resigned to nostalgia. Very few albums made by glammy hard-rockers in the 80’s still sound fresh, new, timeless. No Fuel Left For The Pilgrims is one of them. Maybe it’s because they were Danish and therefore not as prone to Hollywood bullshit, but Disneyland After Dark managed to craft an album that is clearly part of the same genre that spawned Trixter but, thankfully, sounds nothing like Trixter. It’s almost like, Christ, adults made it or something.
Pilgrims, as far as I know, was the only D.A.D. album widely distributed in the US. We had no idea where they came from or where they went afterward. There is a possibility that D.A.D. is famous in other parts of the world, I could not say for certain. A few years back I was interviewing one-time next-big-things The Answer at some arena in New Jersey when they were touring with AC/DC. Brian Johnson comes sauntering into the dressing room to schmooze with the fellas and starts talking about his house in Florida and other sundry rich rock dude topics. Johnson has a remarkable knack for ignoring the hoi polloi, so I was lost in the shuffle. That’s cool, I was always a Bon Scott guy anyway. I zone out for a while and when I tune back in, I swear everybody is talking enthusiastically about what a great band Disneyland After Dark is. It seemed really bizarre, given that they were total unknowns here. Looking back, there is a chance that they were literally talking about nocturnal hijinks in the amusement park, but it was my first inkling that D.A.D. might be more than just no-hit-wonders. And it certainly makes sense that Johnson would like the band, since they are, essentially, AC/DC with better hair. Or maybe Accept with better hair and bigger hooks. Or Whitesnake with worse hair.
There are clap-along party songs on here too, but they’re just as weird. Rim of Hell is literally about drinking and cavorting with Satan at the gates of Hades (“Grab his horns like you just don’t care/we’ll eat his fire and drink what’s there”) while Jihad is an uptempo fist-raiser that re-imagines the band as bomb-hurling terrorists in the desert – who also like to party. ZCMI is, as far as I can tell, about how awesome it would be to have a jet pack, Girl Nation is a post-apocalyptic fem-dom fantasy, and Siamese Twin is…well, it’s exactly what you think it’s about (“She’s a six-hole golf course”). All of this surreal madness is bashed out in hook-heavy melodic rock tunes that sound as much like they came from ’79 as ’89 and still sound remarkably contemporary today. Pilgrims is easily one of the funniest, catchiest, and most accomplished sounding albums of the era. Plus, as previously mentioned, they had good hair. Naturally, Warner Brothers signed them to a million dollar contract. I probably would’ve, as well. Hell, Gaye Bykers on Acid got a seven-album deal with Virgin around the same time and that made sense in the moment, too. The eighties were bananas.
You know what happens next, right? Nobody bought Pilgrims, at least not in the US, and by the time D.A.D.’s expected ’91 follow-up, the ill-starred and unfortunately named Risking It All was released, the band was back to being Denmark’s problem. Although they gave up on the US, they never gave up on rock n’ roll, and the band is still together and releasing albums. There was even a documentary on ‘em released in 2008. I’ve never listened to anything else they’ve ever done, but I still listen to Pilgrims all the time. And as I get older, Sleeping My Day Away makes more and more sense.
**Next: Frankly, Rhett Forrester doesn’t give a damn. **