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Gag me with a spoon

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[Publicity photo]
Ratt performs 7 tonight at Jannus Landing in St. Petersburg.

By GINA VIVINETTO, Times Pop Music Critic

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 8, 2001


Teen pop? '80s nostalgia? Enough already. When will the Tampa Bay area rate some A-list shows?

WARNING: The following is what you'd call a rant.

Like my idols, critics Lester Bangs, Dorothy Parker and Pauline Kael, I realize that sometimes this job requires you to be mean. The music world is not all sunshine, Sunshine. I'd be failing you if every day I put on a happy face.

Consider the musical lineup at the Florida State Fair. Aaron Carter. Pat Benatar. Does that make you smile? Consider that Ratt and Loverboy are the big acts coming to the Tampa Bay area this week. Happy?

Of course not.

Why are we accepting this cavalcade of yucky music in our hamlets? Remember when a frustrated Peter Finch screams in Network, "I'm mad as hell and I'm not gonna take it anymore!"?

I feel like that.

Friends, we gotta talk. But, this requires a bit of tough love and some honesty. So, if you're sensitive or if you're a big Ratt fan, then do us both a favor and turn the page. To the lady who sent me the dumbfounded letter because I cracked on Styx -- Styx! -- in my pre-Super Bowl column, stop reading.

But, if you're like most of us, accepting the universal truth that Ratt, Loverboy and even little Aaron Carter don't matter at the end of the day, that classic rock and teen pop need to go, read on, and remember: There is strength in numbers.

Let's start with the Florida State Fair. It's no shocker that this mullet fest has always attracted country performers. Last year's Loretta Lynn show was a rare treat. This year finds new talent Clay Davidson, a Southern rocker like Hank Williams Jr., opening for Mark Chesnutt. Fine.

Lorrie Morgan is performing, too. Fine again, if you're into sappy, formulaic "country," and judging by her sales, many people are. Ditto for the Doublemint duo the Kinleys, a twin country act.

But my stomach gets queasy when I see the rest of the fair's offerings: pre-pubescent pop star Aaron Carter with his cloying covers of I Want Candy and Iko, Iko. It makes you almost appreciate his older brother Nick of the Backstreet Boys, who seems, in comparison, sophisticated.

This is Pokemon pop. Am I the only one sick of it? I'M SICK OF TEEN POP! I would scream it from the mountaintops, except we're in Florida. Where we breed teen pop. And there are no mountains.

Then there's Pat Benatar. Maybe once upon a time, like 20 years ago, Benatar was a force to be reckoned with. Benatar was, as she so delicately put it, a "real tough cookie." She opened doors for chick rockers, her tough-girl grimace daring brutes to hit her with their best shots.

But jeepers, that was decades ago. I'm not saying she's not talented; I'm just asking for fresher talent.

I'm all for comebacks, but so many, in one week?

Which brings us to Ratt.

Ratt is playing tonight at Jannus Landing. Yes, Ratt. It had that one hit, Round and Round, in 1984, which I liked because Milton Berle was in the video. The rumor was ol' Milt was the uncle of lead singer Stephen Pearcy. But this may be one of those cultural myths, like Mr. Greenjeans is Frank Zappa's dad.

Anyway, Ratt stinks. It is one of pop metal's most critically bashed bands. But Ratt must have gotten the memo to cash in now on 1980s nostalgia, at least in Tampa Bay. But I worry: What will Ratt wear? Can you even buy spandex anymore? I guess so, since David Lee Roth, another 1980s has-been, sported the stuff at last year's packed Jannus Landing gig.

But know this: Flamboyant Pearcy isn't even in the band anymore, so without that intriguing Milton Berle connection, I'm not interested.

Think Ratt is as bad as it gets? Nope. Can you say Loverboy? Yes, that bunch is playing Friday at Jannus. Promoter Rob Douglas is no fool. He knows these nostalgia acts bring the crowds. Why?

Can you blame folks for wanting to swill a beer and sing along to anthems such as Working for the Weekend? Yes! This is anonymous arena pop at its "litest." Remember lead singer Mike Reno? Remember his goofy headbands? His attire that was always a Halloweeny combination of orange and black?

Why are you now letting Loverboy off the hook? Remember, it was lite rock crud like this that made 1980s alternative music necessary.

I give up. Go. Go to these shows and hoot and holler. Pretend it's all in good fun. Make believe teen pop is harmless. Say that classic rock is kitschy. I understand. Hey, I'm all for it, when the act warrants it.

Warrant! Hey, suppose those guys are coming our way?

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