Album and Single Reviews

By Steve Gardner NKVD Records

I Think I Love You/Depression (Waterfront)

They'll be damned in some quarters as a Buzzcocks copy band, but to my way of thinking, if you're gonna copy somebody, why not pick one of the best? The A-side here is slower than most Buzzcocks songs, and has a much fuzzier guitar sound, but the tortured-love lyrics and Shelley-esque vocal delivery are dead giveaways. It also is a song that sounds pretty routine at first and then grows on you. For me, the song is now totally irresistible, and originality can be damned as far as I'm concerned. "Depression" is not so obvious in its influences, and features a great upscale chord progression leading into each verse. Supposedly they've had some lineup shuffling in the past year; it doesn't seem to have hurt a bit, and hopefully they'll settle down to putting out some greater quantity now.

Baby's Got A Gun/Purple Room (Waterfront)

Nothing to do with the Only One's track of the same name, this one is typical snotty Ratcat stuff. Singer Simon Day sounds like he's going to start going "nyah, nyah, nyah!" any minute and turns some of the most ridiculous phrases, like "My baby's got a gun/And I am in love/Even though she looks so mean/She is my turtledove". There's no particular change from the Buzzcocks-like sound of the last few records on the A-side here. The flip is a re-recording of a track from a Waterfront show giveaway record; it's a slow spoof of psychedelia with the classic line "Oh my god, flowers are talking to me/Saying the most repulsive things". Weird but also very good.

Saying Goodbye/Tura Satana/Overdrive (Waterfront)

This is Ratcat's farewell single, and it's kind of a shame, because this is a band that I always thought had the potential to make some really great records. They never did...in fact the only one I would say was even very good was their debut mini-lp. But they always wrote some pretty nice melodies that usually rocked well enough and had some interesting quirks as well. The blend of the singer's slightly nasal voice with the maximally fuzzed guitar is a treat, too. But they never managed to write the sort of simple pop love songs that their obvious heroes the Buzzcocks did; more often their lyrics became embarrassingly silly rather than funny. That said, the A side of this one is one of their best tracks yet; maybe because they had something to sing about that they really meant. Both flips are good too, the first because the lyrics aren't obvious and the second because it's an instrumental and thus promotes the band's strength...punchy fuzzy power pop.

Ratcat (Waterfront)

Somewhat screechy production here on this 6 track ep, but there are at least 3 good tunes underneath. The overall sound reminds a lot of the Buzzcocks as far as guitar and bass goes, but the drumming style doesn't fit the mold. The vocals get annoying at times as they sound like they are played through a 1920 vintage Victorola. But there's no denying the hotshit quality of all three songs on side one: "Time Bomb Of Hate", "Daughter Darling" and "Car Crash" are all first rate. The lyrics for "Timebomb" are particularly Shelley-esque: "Did you check the wires to the time bomb in my heart/It's all set to go into a brand new start". "Car Crash" is also a riot, except, of course, for the victim, who is left with a bashed up car and faced with the unrepentant Ratcat, who blandly state that they are uninsured and can't afford to pay for anything. Funnier than hell, and a damned good tune. Put this on a tape along with Buzzcock's "Fast Cars" (from which it cops a guitar lick) and you'll have it nailed great. Unfortunately, side two doesn't do quite so well: the cover of "I Think We're Alone" is nowhere near as good as Ratcat's own stuff, and when they slow the pace for "She's Gone", things don't click too well, either. And if the reviewer had any doubts that the band was drawing on the Buzzcocks, the closing "Radio One" will finish them all off; its a Ratcat version of the Buzzcocks snippet "Radio Nine" that closed off the "Different Kind Of Tension" lp. Overall, I'm surprised I like this as well as I do based on my appraisal of the band at their live show, which I saw before hearing this. They would do well to develop their own style more, but there are certainly worse bands to imitate than the one they've chosen.

This Nightmare (Waterfront)

This record is such a livid purple that when I first pulled it out of the jacket I wasn't sure whether to play it or eat it. So I played it, and while that was pleasant enough, it wasn't as good as I'd hoped given their previous track record for Buzzcocks flavored pop. Part of this is the opening "Go Go", which sounds an awful lot like their last single, "Baby's Got A Gun". There's a couple others that have a similar problem...it appears that Ratcat are in a bit of a songwriting rut. There's a couple songs as good as in the past, like "Everything's Happening Again", or "The Killing Joke", which changes the vocal approach to more of a 60s pop sound. Ratcat are meant to be a goofy fluffy band, but there's a point where you get too fluffy, and there isn't enough substance here...they've gone from being sort of a parody of a teen bubblegum band to actually being one. Grape flavor, from the looks of it. I'll eat it now.

Tingles Ep (rooArt)

Chris Dunn (Waterfront Records co-mogul) tells me that Ratcat are now big pop stars in Australia, charting in the major label charts with this record and packing out houses. Based on this, I was expecting a big let down with this mini lp, their first record for rooArt. Their charmingly simple pop songs built around basic, fuzzy guitar parts had started well but had been getting progressively weaker since they first began to record for Waterfront, and I figured if they were charting they must have taken the big plunge into the sewer. What a surprise then when I find that I probably like this better than any of their other records with the exception of the first Waterfront mini-lp. I'm really surprised they could chart with a guitar sound this gnarly; the songs are obvious radio pop stuff, but songs made for radio don't have guitars mixed as loud as the vocals and they certainly don't have the distortion set to 10. All of the first side is excellent, and "Skin" from the second side is equally good. "Away From This World" sounds cool on first listen as the music is married with the soundtrack from the Challenger space shuttle explosion, but it doesn't hold up to repeated play, and "My Bloody Valentine" is a throwaway experiment that fizzled out. Still, a pleasant surprise and show of potential for good things still to come.

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