The first time I saw the Rats they looked like some refugees from a trashed-out, drug-fueled biker bar that would just as soon kick your ass as shake your hand. They played punk rock that was fast and furious, including mega-speed versions of Rose Tattoo, Faces and Stones tunes. They were stripped down about as far as you could go – guitar, bass, vocals and a drummer whose entire set consisted of a bass drum, snare, high-hat and a cowbell (he says he was too lazy to carry any more than that)!
But man, they could all play and they created a huge sound – Rick could hit those 4 pieces of his drum kit with a fullness and a mania had to be seen to be believed. Curt & Bill, on guitar & bass, were monster players with great tone and Derek was a real surprise in that period of the LA scene – a punk rock singer who would really sing!
Upon meeting these cats, you were in for another surprise – they were some of the nicest guys on the scene! Friendly, supportive and they all have open minds about good music and have a variety of tastes. We all ended up being pals and are still in touch to this day.
“Killer Woman” was their first album and it is a pure blast of high-energy punk rock! They had already been honing their chops with numerous shows, including ones with bands like Nashville Pussy and the Pleasure Fuckers. Songs like “Dirty Dog”, “Looking For a Fast One’, “Don’t Run Away”, etc, showed that they could write catchy tunes that rocked with a razor’s edge. This record was a pretty accurate representation of their sound at the time.
It took a couple of years before the next major release – a split CD called “Distilled” (because it was recorded at a studio called the Distillery) with the like-minded Hellbenders – another wild aggregation who they played with regularly. This was still savage punk, but with a (dare-I-say) maturity, a little more “rock” and improved production and playing throughout. Super powerful stuff, with a fantastic cover of the Runaways “American Nights” and amazing originals like “Visual” (that will stick in your head for days after hearing it), “Breakdown”, “New Orleans” (a town they loved to play in), and the massive “Saturday Night Bloodbath”. As good as the Hellbenders were I felt sorry for them having to follow the Rats on this release! Few bands could measure up after this rock attack!
The follow up was another full-length and a rock’n’roll classic titled “Bad For You” (on Junk Records in America) or “Make You Bleed” for the European version. This opens with one of their best songs – “Revolution” (about a “rock and roll revolution” – what else?) – and immediately you are struck by the quality of the production as much as the unadulterated ROCK! Everyone who heard this record was blown away that this was an independent release and not a major label record – the sound is just so damn good – the guitars are gargantuan, no one would ever guess that Rick was only playing a couple of pieces, the bass is heavy (and Bill is definitely an under-rated player – he was excellent on the bass!) and Derek sounds better than ever! Just a terrific record all around!
There are still bursts of punk insanity, such as “Smoke”, “1000 Miles”, and “On the Rocks” (which has a great “I can think of a word that rhymes” moment in it) but more songs show a growth such as “Living on the Outside”, “Runaway” and “Invisible Man”. They’ve also included their take on the Faces “Borstal Boys” (they recorded “Stay With Me”, as well, at some point), showing their indebtedness to great classic rock. The other cover on the record is the fantastic soul-rock of the BellRays’ “Have a Little Faith”, once again showing their versatility. Overall, a mind-boggling record and something that everyone who loves wild r’n’r should own!
Unfortunately, the band went through a few personal changes after this CD which kept them from the studio for too long and this is the last recording that has so far been released. The band members have all gone their separate ways now, but before they did, they played as a 5 piece with the phenomenal Andy Baker on drums and Matt Lake on second guitar and did record a final album that is still due to be released. This lineup was very different from the earlier band and had a much more 70’s-rock style to it. They did longer and slower (though still ultra-powerful) songs along with the crazed punk rock and had a lot more guitar interplay between Curt & Matt. These tunes are some of my faves that these guys have ever done, though. Some people were turned off by their growth, but I think the songs are incredible and will blow peoples’ minds! “Radio Suicide”, “Bad Rain”, “Renegade” are just amazing r’n’r anthems and in a just world they would be considered classics by everyone who cares about real music! You can hear some of these at iSounds at: http://www.isound.com/b_movie_rats
With luck, Radio Suicide should be released this year. More than highly-recommended – I would say that it is a must-buy!
The guys talk about doing some reunion shows, so keep you eyes open – they are super live!