Friday, April 08, 2005


Art Art Art again!

So I'm taking these pain pills for the knee injury and they're vaguely opiated, and I don't know about you but opiates always make noisy music sound great to me. For the past two days I've been obsessively listening to Rat At Rat R again, and I thought it might be nice to repost my piece on their first album. Went to look it up in my archives, and it turns out that it originally ran just about exactly one year ago. Wow. Weird. April showers apparently bring thoughts of dread, decay, noise and doom.

I'm adding one more song this time round and I'm more convinced now than ever that this is a great lost noise rock album (it's not all that lost, but it's still not on CD). It's got all the power that Sonic Youth never had, but manages to be songs instead of Swans dirges. I said it before a year ago, but feel the need to repeat that this album is seriously the missing link between, say, Greed and Kill Your Idols. Here's the original piece, with very minor alterations:

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 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.
[A year later I'm not sure how much I feel this way...maybe I've gotten used to them.] 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.
[Adding one more track today. This is Rape which has a pretty jaw-droppingly fantastic second half, and I'm sorry that there aren't more songs on the album with names like "Pretty Flowers" and "Fluffy Bunny" but there you go.]

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.

[A friend wrote me after this ran to tell me that she'd seen them and they stunk. Still awaiting other opinions.]

By the way, assuming that the mailman does his job, I have a couple of really neat things for next week, including a Mystical Beast exclusive for the noise-rock contingent.

Asshole by Rat At Rat R
Assassin by Rat At Rat R
Rape by Rat At Rat R

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