The Rats come from Norfolk, Virginia, which is a medium-sized city on the Atlantic Coast. But ultimately, they’re in their own world. Believe you me. He**, they have to be.
Over and over, the lyrical themes on this concise, Clash/Rancid influenced punk album are lurid, rearing their ugly heads in the form of prostitution, violence and good ol’ fashioned relationship ennui and disaffection, perhaps the scariest of all. To its credit, this allows it to play as “punk” in every sense, giving the music the necessary backdrop of calamity before which the band should express its guitar-crunch frustration, which usually runs the punk gamut between The Stooges and The Hives and Chicago’s Negative Scanner. Also, I have a feeling an education in Motorhead and the New York Dolls would help me really have a semantic grasp on this music, neither of which band I can particularly stand.
Anyway, I’ve got pretty definitive evidence that these guys are Clash fans (cheers to that), as “Norfolk City Rockers” ends with a one-time run-through of the inimitable chord progression from “Clash City Rockers.” As with all the fuzz-lite cuts on this LP, this song is generally entertaining enough, although too long, though not as culpable in this regard as the track four title track, which spends what seems like forever listing things that annoy, or pi** off, the singer, about some unnamed chick. Sure, this is a “punk” thing to do, I suppose, but in a way it’s sort of depressing that this band is still using punk rock as a platform to showcase its machismo in 2019, when even though you could name The Hives as a viable influence on this band, every douche bag nerd on the planet will still think that’s “played out” since The Hives are a famous band that got covered by Rolling Stone (though amazingly still are very album-oriented and radio-unfriendly, which arguably makes them occult, at that).
Rat’s A** is generally saved by a curiously and precociously strong and listenable side b, preluded by the deliberate, grunge-spiked “Devil Don’t Dig” and buoyed further by the Cramps-like romantic crooning of “Just My Kind.” “Just My Kind” finds the band playing with an infectious tightness, hitting those same grittily simple chords all for a beautifully Dionysian chorus: “A dirty face / And a dirty mind / I swear to God / You’re just my kind”. I think it’s safe to say that this band’s live shows would make for some deliciously crazy times, no parties bearing the brunt worse than the singer’s vocal chords… let’s hope he has a prescription for Codeine cough syrup, which should help with all the bruises he’ll land, too.