The Rats


The Rats In a Desperate Red LP reissue

The decades-long DIY rock ‘n’ roll love story of Fred and Toody Cole is by now well worn. I’d be surprised if most readers of Maximum Rocknroll don’t have at least a cursory knowledge of DEAD MOON, Fred and Toody’s most widely-known and long-running band. But before DEAD MOON and PIERCED ARROWS, Fred and Toody were part of Portland punk’s first wave in the form of a band called the RATS. (For those not in the know, Fred’s roots go way back into the ’60s, but that’s a story for another day and another reissue.)  In a Desperate Red is the third (and to my mind best) RATS LP, bringing together the rawness and desperation of early punk with the wistful lo-fi tunefulness of Fred and Toody at their best. The Coles had a knack for bringing real human emotion into simple and urgent rock ’n’ roll songs, and In a Desperate Red features that tendency at its finest. Incredible songs about feeling antisocial (“Leave Me Alone”) sit side-by-side with songs about finding solace with a long-time love (“It’s Still You”) and songs about the drudgery of working life (“Working Class”). This long-awaited reissue spares no expense; the gorgeous 40-page booklet is a real treat for long-time fans, and the vinyl sounds fantastic. Completely mandatory.

The Rats In a Desperate Red LP

The third album from Portland’s RATS is slicker and better-produced than the first two, but it also suffers from inconsistent material. Their earlier semi-punk sound has almost been completely eradicated by a more rockish approach. Some of the songs are real good—”Deterioration” has lots of unsubtle drive, “Leave Me Alone” reminds me a bit of LOVE, “Broken Wire Telephone” is a catchy post-punkish track with a super guitar riff, “My Tragedy Behind” has a heavier ’60s punkadelic feel, etc.—but others are unbelievably atrocious. I like about 40% of it, but everyone should listen before buying.