Mene Mene Tekel Upharsin

Say what you will about Warrant: this is a band of survivors. Not only have they survived drugs, alcohol, infidelity, sunburns and the early '90s grungequake that rocked Seattle, they have also survived unemployment. And now they're back to prove they can survive without their singer, Jani Lane.

Don't worry about Jani. He's doing fine—just check his MySpace page, where Jani opens up to prospective fans, interviewers, booking agents, A&R men and sex partners by answering a personal questionnaire. The erstwhile Warrant front man, long adored by members of both sexes for the vulnerability he showcased on power ballads like “I Saw Red,” reveals that he likes thunderstorms (“Their beautiful. .God's FX!” [sic]) and that when it comes to instruments, he can play them all, with one exception—”Everything but the skinflute!”

His worthy successor at Warrant's helm, Jaime St. James, may not be as prolific as Lane when it comes to songwriting, instrumental mastery or impregnating models with his sex organs, but he proves no stranger to the skinflute. Warrant, the band that once enraged feminists with the controversial, provocative, outrageous cover of 1990's Cherry Pie, showing a roller-skating waitress with an airborne slice of cherry pie where her vagina ought to be; Warrant, the band that followed that album, as only they could, with the outrageous, provocative, controversial video for “Cherry Pie,” in which the Warrant boys douse model (and future ex-Mrs. Lane) Bobbie Brown (“You have to have a Ph.D. in physics to figure out every position I've had that woman in,” Jani told Metal Sludgein an exclusive interview, adding a few breaths later, “But we did make a wonderful child”) with a fire hose where their single, collective, massive penis ought to be, has unfurled a new flag for a new millennium.

Well, no, they haven't. This is still the same terrible band of morons you have loved to hate and hated to love ever since you realized that mediocrity was the perfect hedge in American commodity capitalism, where today's hairdo is tomorrow's hair-don't and yesterday's grunge feminism has been swept aside in favor of the perennially popular carefree pop sexism Warrant rode to the top of the charts. They do not ask for your loyalty, your thoughts, your vote or even your ears. They ask only for your money, in exchange for which they promise to assuage your nostalgia for an idealized past by allowing you to feel superior to that past. Look forward to a similar Limp Bizkit tour in 2016.

In an interview with last year, Jani Lane recited the story of a visit to the record company in the early '90s, not long after the almost incredible penury of Warrant's music had been shown up by “Smells Like Teen Spirit”: “Yeah, it was like there were posters for whatever new album we had out, and it was like Warrant was sort of the flagship, so to speak. Then one day, the dcor changed and all of that was gone. Even the office girl that we knew had been replaced. The gigantic picture behind the president's desk had changed too—it was Alice in Chains. The writing at that point was literally on the wall.”

But don't be led astray by mere rhetoric. Despite his learned reference to the story of Belshazzar in the book of Daniel, where a disembodied hand wrote “MENE MENE TEKEL UPHARSIN” in blood on the wall of the king's court, Jani Lane is a straight-up dunce. Why, he is several points dumber than a brain-damaged mule. Could he actually have believed, in the year of our Lord 1993, that record companies were run by honorable men whose tastes and loyalties were not prejudiced by the vacillations of the market? To interpret his remarks as evidence of his childlike simplicity is, in fact, charitable when ulterior motives are considered.

And intellectual dishonesty aside, the question of '80s nostalgia must be addressed. Far from being a musical genre, the 1980s were a historical period during which the whole of this country was transformed into an enormous JCPenney. Hilarious though the foolish prancing, attire, songs and lyrics of hair metal bands were, we would do well to remember that Sebastian Bach, of fellow travelers Skid Row, once wore a shirt that read “AIDS KILLS FAGS DEAD.” And contrary to popular opinion, sharing the suffering of people like Jani Lane and indulging his grief over the well-earned demise of his terrible band is in no way therapeutic.

But I will give the band this. Even with a new idiot singer, Warrant is one move ahead of today's popular '80s-retro acts (She Wants Revenge, Franz Ferdinand, Interpol) in the public relations chess game. Where those bands merely cater to a market that is nostalgic for a world still facing totalitarianism, Warrant's music looks forward to the triumphant return of totalitarianism itself. In the United States of America in 2006, it's a sure bet.


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