Friday, April 09, 2004
Art Art Art!
For the next few Fridays (my slowest day, hence the day that it'll irritate the fewest people) I'm going to post songs by Sonic Youth/no-wave related bands that didn't quite make it. I'm doing my favorite one first, so it's all downhill after this!
It's really too bad that there hasn't been a CD reissue of Rat At Rat R's output. To my ears, they sound like the missing link between pre-Evol Sonic Youth and pre-Children of God Swans. They have the guitar chimes and noises of the former and a lot of the power of the latter. Lyrically they're much closer to Swans, with a lot of repetitive lyrics about power and such, delivered in a kind of "arty" vocal style that's aged less well than the rest of the band's sound. On the plus side, they have pretty decent production and a good rhythm section, which are two things that early Sonic Youth didn't have. At their worst they remind me of Live Skull (I haven't quite given up on Live Skull, but to date they're probably my least favorite band of this type) and, in fact, at least one of them wound up in Live Skull. The Trouser Press info on Rat At Rat R is here.
When I first got their 1985 debut, Rock & Roll Is Dead, Long Live Rat At Rat R (on the Neutral label which also hosted Sonic Youth and Glenn Branca) I liked the sound but didn't find the songs themselves that interesting. Over time, though, a few have really grown on me. Here's Asshole (the lyrics are a little bit on the serious side, but actually don't sound too stupid) and here's Assassin, which seems at times to be a distant relative of the Gang of Four's Damaged Goods. I especially like the former, which builds to a pretty visceral climax before breaking down into a section of clicks and noises that actually reminds me of some Kronos Quartet pieces that I've heard. These songs sound much, much, much better at high volume: I really can't emphasize this enough.
One good thing: Rat At Rat R are sufficiently unknown that you can buy their albums fairly cheaply, and the records seem to turn up in stores and on eBay reasonably often. Nonetheless, I'd love to hear a good remaster, since the main appeal is the impact of the sound. I'd guess that they were great live, but I was busy idolizing Beat Happening during Rat At Rat R's heyday, so I never did see them.