RatTail – S/T

Review by Andrew Patterson

There is an incredible surety at play in Rattail’s music. Far from cocksure or showy, they are a band whose confidence seeps into their playing and fills their straightforward compositions with an elusive, almost droll quality. Their debut LP emits a vibe akin to those moments when you feel as though you’re in proper motion: heading to the exact place you wanna be, where all your friends are, at exactly the right pace, wearing something tried and true, hopping over debris in a back alley and then crossing through the park at sunset.

Listening to this nine-song set, the first thing that jumps out is lead singer Jasmyn Burke’s vocals. In some ways, Burke’s curious and playful deliver is reminiscent of Sue Tompkins’ work in the short-lived, much-celebrated Glasgow band Life Without Buildings. However, where Tompkins’ vocals were frenzied and scrambled, Burke delivers her words purely; with certainty and without duress. Initially, her lyrics wash over and remain somewhat elusive (largely due to the twisting of certain key syllables and the inclusion of onomatopoeic elements), but over time the simplicity of her words, coupled with the compelling delivery, allow the meaning to settle and turn her phrases into unique mantras. Running through different affectations and accents as suit the song, she sounds in turn consumed by their meaning or absently exploring the meaning herself.

To draw another comparison, the texture of the songs and the playing on this record is not a far cry from Sebadoh’s unsung 1994 masterpiece, Bakesale. The decision to abstain almost entirely from heavy guitar distortion must be commended as it gives the songs a humbleness and approachability. Rather than knocking you over the head with their garage-rock influences or pummelling you with their punk sensibilities, Rattail give their songs room to breathe and by doing so, up the re-playability.

Drummer Jesse Matthews and bassist Tim Fagan anchor the whole production with effortless cool. Matthews plays confidently, yet there are plenty of nice touches that suggest he is listening carefully to his bandmates and ultimately serving the songs. Fagan, on the other hand, tends to chug stoically through much of the terrain, acting as a heroic bushwhacker, playing perfectly the part of the healthy pulse.

This is a record that refuses to reinvent the wheel, insisting that rolling as we are is totally fine. The songs have their share of loose ends (including plenty of hovering spectres of feedback and crashes of found sounds), but they also have a great sense of internal energy. Rattail don’t seem interested in leaping to any great conclusions or particularly eager to please. The beauty of their music lay in it’s basic approach, appealing most often to the guts and the head-nod-bone. ‘Yes, yes. This is the ticket’ you’ll say, as a great sense of satisfaction rolls over you.