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You don't usually think of poison and a rat as things that go together, but, now, that's sort of the case. "This first leg," explains Pearcy, "the co-headlining thing with Poison, only lasts like 35 shows. Then we take a break — and then we start our own tour. We continue on, doing, like Japan, Australia, South America, Canada and Europe." Yes, Ratt are big in Japan. "We've had eight consecutive gold records there," Pearcy says, audibly beaming.

With punk, swing and disco having made their respective comebacks, is metal due for another solo flight? As usual, Pearcy riffs on an optimistic note: "There are many flavors, you know, and if you keep something out of the eye and ear, it becomes the alternative to the alternative. That's probably what's happening now, because the crowds we're playing for are from anywhere between 9,000-14,000 people every night. That's where Ratt feels comfortable. That's what we've worked up to." And it's worked without a change in the original lineup. This is a plus, according to Pearcy. As a fan of his metallic brethren, he admits that some aren't up to par without their main men. "I don't think Mötley (Crüe)'s the same without Tommy," he says. "I don't think Priest is the same without Halford." But the head Ratt senses that hard rock's playing power can equal staying power. "There is a resurgence," he agrees when queried about a hard-rock comeback. "And I gotta tell you: Even a band like Great White, who's been around since we started, is still around and doing their thing." As are the shades of gray, like Ratt.

Their new self-titled album is hard-rock-pop at its hold-up-your-lighter best. Ratt sounds kind of like a cheaper Cheap Trick (a band Pearcy adores), and that's somehow meant as a compliment. The choruses instantly demand (and deserve) attention, and the nasally lead vocals are free of the shrieking lousiness that can kill a great tune. "I think it's real good," says Pearcy of the album. But does he consider Ratt the best of their nine releases? "It's the intensity of Cellar and the experience of Detonator," he says with both spirited ambiguity and cryptic articulation. Maybe a Ratt has nine lives, too.

Ratt performs at Riverport Amphitheatre on Thursday, June 24. Also on the bill are Poison, Great White and L.A. Guns. RattCOGENT RODENT

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