Arguably the most highly anticipated release of the last two years, SCUM, from Rat Boy is finally here. The 21 year old Chelmsford Wetherspoons reject and his band of merry men have exceeded expectations with their impressive and experimentally varied 25 track record that walks along the lines of hip-hop, punk and ska. The album comes hot on the heels of Cardy’s lines from ‘Knock Knock Knock’ (my personal album highlight) being sampled on hip hop giant Kendrick Lamar’s album, ‘DAMN’. Rat Boy have been pioneering a new wave of indie for the last few years: playing countless amounts of festivals all over the world, selling out tours prior to an album release, pissing off security guards and riding motorbikes on stage. His lyrics that often tell stories of nights out and being skint have clearly resonated strongly with millennials, accompanied by prominent themes of political rage (see ‘Revolution’, a track fuelled by post-Brexit frustration).
(image taken from @RATBOY on Twitter)
Many people are rather wary when it comes to Rat Boy, who has quite the bad name and is too frequently likened to Jamie T and labelled nothing but a wannabe or try-hard. However, SCUM and it’s whopping 25 tracks are set to send the Essex boys to the skies, away from all comparisons as Cardy shows us how unique an artist he is and the widespread array of talent and creative genius he possesses. His attention to detail here is impeccable, with the album set out like a radio station, voiced by the exact guy we all know and love from GTA. Cardy is creating a whole world, that unfolds more and more as each song rolls into the next. For me, SCUM is one of the most refreshing and exciting albums of the year so far and after sitting with it for a good few days now and listening to it in its entirety many a time, I can say that it is a really, really good debut effort.
The album begins boldy, with ‘Welcome To My World’ a warm introduction, juxtaposed by a smooth, old school hip hop beat that’ll make you bop your head. Next up is ‘Turn Round M8’, a track Cardy and co have been playing different variations of live for the best part of two years. The track is carried by bouncing synths, pounding bass and reggae-esque sound effects you’d find on an early Gorillaz record. “Turn around, walk away, come back another day” rings the chorus, memorably.
‘Revolution’ is a fiery, post-Brexit anthem that is dripping with confidence and riddled with angst. It’s video sadly sees the trademark Burberry car from the ‘Sign On’ video getting smashed to bits, real shame that. It’s the little details like this that really exemplify the world Cardy is creating, and the progression of the tale that can be seen in his music videos.
Rat Boy wears his Britpop influences on his sleeves with both ‘Laidback’ and ‘I’ll Be Waiting’. Both are massive love-songs made to be sung at the top of your lungs. Cardy’s capability to write a slow, heartfelt song are really on the pedestal here. A pleasant surprise to many, I am sure. It can’t be argued that Cardy knows how to write an infectiously catchy song, especially so with ‘Laidback’, the chorus will stick in your head for weeks: “Cus i’m laidback about your love, laid-back about your love, pretty crazy without your love”. ‘I’ll Be Waiting’ wouldn’t seem out of place back in the days of Oasis and Blur, with it’s atmospheric chorus that takes several pages from the book of Madchester.
‘Get Over It’ is quickly becoming a classic, coming close to the million mark on Youtube (after featuring on FIFA17) with it’s Tarantino-esque music video that sees Cardy and the gang breaking the character of Scum out of jail and running riot in a desert. The immaculate production of this track is what makes it such an incredible song, one that Cardy will for sure be remembered for. There’s clear Gorillaz influences here, working in Damon’s Studio 13 at the time Gorillaz were recording ‘Humanz’ clearly paid off.
‘Boiling Point’ is a Beastie Boys-esque track with furious instrumentation and an almost punk vocal delivery from Cardy: “We had our dreams, when we were young, but now we’re loaded, just like a gun”. Cardy then takes the time to show us he is a talented rapper, what can’t he do?????? This is Rat Boy at their biggest, most confident and angriest. This is bound to be hell of a song to see live, with plenty of potential for crowd participation, mosh pits and frantic jumping.
The Jamie T likenesses do come to mind briefly with previously released tracks ‘Fake ID’ and ‘Sign On’. Both absolute bangers in my opinion and songs that got Rat Boy where he is now. Rat Boy does however brings his own unique twist to the table, with that strong Essex accent and cheeky, relatable charm in his lyricism.
It is on ‘Knock Knock Knock’ that Cardy is at perhaps, his most experimental. The track is a chaotic and fuzzy blend of trashy hip-hop/drum n bass beats coinciding with heavy guitar work and pulsating percussion. The track that featured on Rat Boy’s very first SoundCloud release ‘Neighbourhood Watch’ (the one that got him picked up by Parlaphone Records) has received a revamp and sounds even bigger and better than ever, coming close to the band’s live sound. Turn this one up.
Fan favourite and unbeatable in my opinion, ‘Sportswear’ is hell of a song. It’s catchy, it makes you want to dance, and it’s exactly what Rat Boy are all about. This is yet another old song that received the re-record treatment and again sounds HUGE. The track however, still upholds the DIY ethos that made me fall in love with it back in 2015 with its glitches and samples. ‘Left 4 Dead’ another golden Rat Boy oldie, much to my liking, also made the album. The production makes this track sound even more insane than it did originally with additional guitar licks and glitchy beats – bringing early Arctic Monkeys to mind. Sadly the absolutely batshit crazy outro they play live didn’t make the cut but you can check it out below:
Cardy’s political frustrations are again highlighted on ‘Trump Towers Interlude’, a Donald Trump sampled parody that sees the US President talk of brainwashing and taking the piss out of himself.
‘Everyday’ is a funky, reggae/ska driven track that sees Cardy spit bars over a almost aboriginal beat. Huge summer vibes from this one. “We work work every single day, making money, just don’t lose it again” chants Cardy on the chorus and then going on to talk about “watching repeats of Jeremy Kyle” and “scratching his ass all day”. Typical British night, I see you, don’t act like you haven’t.
The titular track is a frantic number, with ferocious punk guitar, and is a definite wall of death evoker (as we are pre-warned previously by our GTA man on the interlude). Cardy uses this song as his platform to make the crowd go nuts, and trust me – they do. The track climaxes with a brief pause (allowing the pits to open) that pulsates with adrenaline right back into the chorus, ensuing chaos.
The tone is brought down a notch with sultry and silky smooth effort ‘Sad Sad’ featuring New York’s Mallory Merk. This track is elegant, and is very reminiscent of Tyler, The Creator’s latest work on both ‘Cherry Bomb’ and ‘Flower Boy’. It’s no secret that Cardy is a huge Tyler fan and draws a lot of inspiration from the hip-hop and creative giant. “My teenage sweetheart is already fading away” chimes Rat Boy drearily. Someone give him a hug. The pair compliment each other blissfully, coming together to harmonise as the song reaches it’s peak.
The album closes aptly with a little “thank you and goodnight” jingle, reminiscent of childhood TV shows, ending the album with a smile.
As a whole (and that is how I recommend you take this record) SCUM is an amazing album, as Rat Boy show they’re a unique force who wont hesitate to take risks. For me, this is absolutely in my top 5 releases of the year thus far and it’s only the beginning for the band who are destined to make it to the top, and they know it. 25 tracks and I’m still left wanting more. Can’t wait to see what’s next for the band, and with the vast spread of different styles and merge of genres on their debut, who knows where they’ll go next.
Words by Ben Davies.
(featured image courtesy of Dork magazine)
all featured videos are courtesy of RAT BOY and VEVO UK