Simon Day


Ratcat prove their worth with a Smiling come-back EP
By Bertis Gambon, Aug 95

Take or leave the sight of Prik Harness live and naked onstage, or the hallucinogenic vision of Fur encoringlastweek at Feedback with "99 Red Balloons", then one of the more memorable musical moments to be had recently was watch- ing Ratcat open for the Cruel Sea a month or so ago at Selinas. Starting up with a 15 minute take on the quite low-slung, menacing instrumental "Sleep" (off the new "Smiler" EP), the band was truly mesmerising. All determined, focussed and intense, Ratcat had our reviewer heading for the thesaurus, and the band certainly turned the heads of an audience that may have been expecting a polite run-through of the old hits. What's more, when they hit into a slowed-down version of "Don't Go Now" one realised all over again the absolute, throw yourself out the bed- room window, kind of joy that got you into this band in the first place.

Indeed, succumbing to the journalistic itch, one might have been tempted to bring forth words like "Rejuvenated" and "recharged". On the other hand, one may just be looking too hard for an angle here. And certainly, Simon Day is not having a bar of the rags-to-riches-to-rags- and-back-again narrative. "Nah ... this is all we've ever been," says Day. "Um, we just got unfortunately - how do I put it - labelled and categorised as something that we weren't."

And how! Let's face it - Ratcat were huge. We're talking Daryl Eastlake proportions here. Every time a flash bulb went off, it seemed Sirnon Day was around somewhere. Award ceremonies, TV appearances, underpants flying from all over the country to land on their faces. And then the much-awaited follow-up Inside Out took the old commercial belly flop such that, after all those gold records presented to them by Daryl Somerswere counted, Ratcatwere about as sought-after as Beta video recorders.

Still, ask Mr Day about the idea of having to recapture an audience or what Ratcat might mean after the fame trip, and he demurs once more: "It's just a matter of sticking to my guns and doing what I enjoy, and not taking crap from anybody."

Certainly, the man is not all wrought up trying to come to terms with the experience. "That's history, really. It's very hard to describe what you go through in a situation like that. You just have to experience, and suffer it I guess," curtailing this rumination with a rather ingenious analogy: "Like a cat, Ratcat has nine lives. And it's probably used up about seven."

If anything, what Day seems to have taken from his brush with middle Australia is a keen sense of musical priority. What one may glean from this then, is that we're going to be spared a triple album dealing with the tortures of public life - nope, no "Accidentally Cool" type-thing here folks, no summer break in detox or surprise marriages in Hawaii with any one or both of the Minogues. Asked for a summation of the forth- coming album's views and concerns, Day offers up the trusty old rock & roll trilogy: "Oh, sex, death and madness."

And so it goes that while one's attention may be more than pleasantly diverted by the darkened tones of the like of "Sleep" (written by bass-player and ex-Reptile Mark Scully), we still have the out-and out pop gem like "May You Ever".

"The songs reflect the things I was feeling on the day I wrote them. You feel different things every day; it doesn't necessarily have to hold a core. You can experience extreme situations or extreme emotions in a short space of time."

So that's the end of our tired old "come- back" thesis, the only evidence of some major past experience here being Day's repeated allusions to Ratcat in the third person - a kind of omnipresent musical Other. "Ratcat has its own life, its own personality, its own boundaries. I play within that."

Quite apart from that however, Day's chatter is punctuated with the usual dispersion of pop culture reference points, mention made at varying points of X-Files and ghosts. But of the new record he adds, "Ratcat's simple all the time, really - noisy, distortion drenched. 'Sleep' and "May You Ever" are both on the album and I guess they're more reflective of what the album is than the single. Still, there's a lot of stuff that's like what Ratcat is and has been - but there's also other tracks which are more reflective of other styles of music we wanted to look into."

So without any overriding emotion other than to lay down some good tunes, and without the record company execs breathing down their neck waiting on that difficult third album, Ratcat took their time. While "May You Ever" was recorded in August of last year with the omnipresent Tony Cohen, the three other tracks that make up the EP were done with Paul McKercher only recently at Paradise. As for the rest of the album, Day loosely promises a September release, dependent upon completion of the art work.

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