"They keep stuff movin’ forward like a big wad o’ hair rollin’ up Second Ave…"
Welcome to Fuckin’ Record Reviews 2.0. Here’s a clip from…
FORCED EXPOSURE #10 1986 (page 93 ), JIMMY JOHNSON, Editor
Review of RAT AT RAT R Amer$ide/Rock & Roll Is Dead/Long Live Rat At Rat R lp (Neutral - 1985) by BYRON COLEY
- RAT AT RAT R were NYC dark mark underachievers in existence between 1981-1991 via the I-95 corridor that still serves as a noisenik conduit between Gotham and the City of Brotherly Love to the south. Underachieving, not because they weren’t great - they were - but because in those 10+ years, they only had one solid opportunity to rattle our cages during their time of flaming youth, and Amer$ide was it. Compare their output to that of Sonic Youth or Swans or Live Skull and it’s clearly a bummer they did not get to release more during their potency. Those later rex on Purge/Sound League are good, but Amer$ide’s paranoid reek is something else.
- Anyone looking to delve deep into the history of RAT AT RAT R should read two worthy online items, including The Oral History of Rat At Rat R by Brad Cohan in The Village Voice (11/9/12), which is an interview with RARR founders Ron Anderson, Victor Poison-Tete and John Myers. Sez Ron, "In my way of thinking, first there is Sonic Youth then comes Rat At Rat R, then after that comes Swans — that order was kind of their appearance in the New York scene. But Rat At Rat R just stumbled - there was just a lot of bad luck. They’d get going and something would happen."
- Another exceptional online perspective is provided courtesy daggerzine's 2012 interview with RARR drummer David Rat. It’s a synopsis of his time before, during and after the band and a prelude to the publication of his memoir Happy Ending (Open Books - 2012).
- Sez David, “The prequel to Rat At Rat R was a band called XZV-9…like RARR the name was a mathematical equation.. (3x3x3)..Sonda was our manager at the time…we had 40 original songs.. which was unheard of in central Pennsylvania.. Victor, Sonda and John then moved to Philadelphia and formed an early version of RARR with PAK guitarist Ron Anderson around 1980, and I stayed behind and worked for my Dad, married the girl next door etc… disenchanted with the city of “brotherly love”…they packed up and headed for NYC…and I left my wife and joined them there…We started playing the S.I.N. club on East 3rd St (the name stood for “Safety in Numbers”) because honestly at that time, you just didn’t venture below Ave A alone…it was there we fell in with Sonic Youth and Swans starting the unholy triumvirate of savage art rock…our three bands pretty much ruled New York in the early eighties…until the fateful day Village Voice critic Robert Christgrau sent his flunkie John Picarella down to CBGB’s to write about Sonic Youth… we were opening…unfortunately Picarella slammed SY and raved RARR…causing a rift between us and the other two bands..we hadn’t been around that long and were proud of the blurb…and put it in our press kit…Thurston, Kim, Gira etc. I guess took offense to that…and we were kinda excommunicated…also a fatal flaw was turning down Gerard Cosloy when he offered us a deal with Homestead, going with Branca’s Neutral records instead…later Gerard and I became roomates on Ave C and it became obvious what a genius the guy was…ahhh regret…it’s what ultimately gets you in the end…still, we made our mark in music history and we were and still are a family…our first album has just been re-issued and is available from Ektro records out of Finland…John is in Shanghai composing music to heal diseases, Sonda is an art director and redesigned the Voice and the L.A. Weekly…Victor is still making Art on Long Island and I am Teaching in Brazil…Tomorrow never knows…”
- David Rat’s Happy Ending has received some very positive customer reviews over at
MordorAmazon, Inc. After reading them, consider buying the book direct from Open Books.
- Sonda Andersson is presently Art Director Extraordinaire at Virginia Monthly and probably doesn’t want to be bothered. However, there’s an infrequently active wordpress blog called eyesplinters and she was listed in a cool 1/31/12 post by debrislide titled, People who play interesting bass who are women. This is true (obviously), but more relevant to our concerns here is that Sonda responded to the post with this: "Thanks for including me in this great line-up. The fact that you wrote about our musicality was refreshing. To update my profile, I play mostly Leo Fender/ Forrest White basses (Telecaster, jazz and my fave Music Master Sabre). I also played a Les Paul Signature gold-top bass and although a less balanced instrument, it has an incredible sound. Amp: a Kustom 250 roll and tuck with three 15’s. Update on bands…rat at rat r..we got together awhile ago and recorded three new songs, will be re-issuing Amer$ide, our first album. Live Skull also has things in the works. Outside of music, I’ve been an art director and designer for many years…SPY, Rolling Stone, GQ, 10 years as Design Director for New Times/Village Voice publications and now live in Richmond VA. Thanks again for the nice read!”
- Speaking of which, part 1: LIVE SKULL! Fuckin’ Record Reviews posted a lengthy celebratory overview way back on 9/3/13, during FRR’s Chapter 1.0.
- Ron Anderson was apparently out of RARR by the time Amer$ide was recorded, but the arc of his gristle is beyond noteworthy: the Molecules ( a great cd of which - Down Under the Black Light [Megaphone, UK - 1993] - I borrowed from a guy named Jim Scottie in 1994 and never returned), PAK and plenty of collaborative work with the likes of Tatsuya Yoshida, Jason Willett , Jac Berrocal and most recently, SIGHTINGS’ Richard Hoffman and Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ Brian Chase. If New Music Distribution Service still existed, Ron Anderson would have a four page spread, at least.
- Ektro Records is a totally fuckin’ berserker Finnish label that’s had a nearly 20 year run. Any reader of the indispensible Aquarius Records lists will recognize the label name and probably be able to tell you that they reissued Rat At Rat R’s Amer$ide on compact disc to great fanfare in 2012.
- Buy Amer$ide here: http://ektrorecords.com/shop/product_info.php?products_id=2722
- Byron Coley, in addition to being a noteworthy ice hockey renegade in the 1960s, exhibited a reliable disdain for gothy inclinations during his first 40 years as a writer, as evidenced by the review above. FE Editor Jimmy Johnson, however, seemed to display a more catholic appreciation for dark eyeliner and associated gormandizing, even pimping Virgin Prunes records during FE’s heyday. He eventually liberated the rock underground from its goony thud (thankfully!), profferring essential Derrick May, Kirlian and Octave One 12”s in the late 90’s. [Currently NOT IN STOCK]
- Speaking of which, part 2: FE #10 is still available at Forced Exposure for a mere $15.