(Ratcat) Ain’t That Bad

You may notice a pattern appearing: the last two posts have mentioned the seminal influence of a particular EP – namely Ride’s Play and MBV’s Glider on my musical tastes and palette. Well, here we go again.

I cannot emphasise enough the impact of Ratcat’s Tingles EP on both myself and the Australian musical landscape. Put simply, Ratcat were Australia’s Nirvana. I say that only because there were three guys in Ratcat originally, and Tingles came out a full six months before Smells Like … so have a think about that for a second.

Forget those Ride boys and their fey haircuts, Ratcat were the real deal. In fact I’ll go out on a limb (because I don’t care) and say that Ratcat were better than Nirvana. They’d already released one full length album (This Nightmare) and a pile of indie 7-inch singles but no one was prepared for what happened in 1990 when Tingles came out.

As an EP, Tingles was nothing short of a blueprint for the past, present and future of fuzzpop. “That Ain’t Bad”, with its explosive guitar line and Joey Ramone vocals, was one of the smash hits of the year and I’m not talking Kerry Packer. Doubtless, lead singer Simon Day’s stunning good looks won over a lot of fans but it was the sheer relief of the music – power chords, straight ahead drumming (not quite spartan) – in short, three minutes of perfection, that sealed Ratcat’s fate as homegrown rock stars.

The other five songs on the EP were no less impressive, and constituted a huge quantum leap from their previous material. “(Getting Away) From This World”, “Tingles” (a Jane’s Addiction tune if ever I’ve heard one) and the astonishing “My Bloody Valentine” provide me with a neater segue into shoegazing than even I could have hoped for.

The fact that the subsequent second album, Blind Love (containing both “That Ain’t Bad” and their other Number 1 hit “Don’t Go Now”) went to Number 1 on the national charts is simply a testament to how freaking brilliant Tingles was. Another factor in its success was its availability in (cheap – was it $3.99?) cassette/ cassingle format. One must also mention the appalling cover artwork (derived from the lyrics to the title track: “It’s in the cards, the future’s in the cards”.

Alas, if Simon Day had only foreseen that just a few years later he would be resorting to a duet with John Paul Young, he might have thrown his cards in earlier. Still, ask anyone who was around in 1990 and inevitably the genius of Tingles will be brought up.

It’s funny, I actually met Simon Day in the mid 1990s, when I was working for the Electoral Commission, going from door to door checking if people were enrolled to vote. Not only was he enrolled, he was also probably the politest resident I met, and totally enthusiastic about my role as a defender of democracy. Enough said.

6 Replies to “(Ratcat) Ain’t That Bad”

  1. I was in the States in the early 1990s when the local alt station began playing “That Ain’t Bad” – the first time I heard it, I practically fell out of the car, then nearly ran babies and old people over to get to the record store as fast as I could to find a copy! A great, great band!

  2. Excellent post! ‘Tingles’ was a staple of my musical diet for 12 months and Ratcat getting their dues 20+ years later (in this blog and others) is great. It is an acknowledgement of sorts that the ’90’s thing’ would have happened independent (literally) of Nevermind. In 1991 I was discovering the back catalogue of international bands, eg. Madness and Violent Femmes. Ratcat changed that. Ratcat was short, fast, loud and melodic. All but the last element was needed for a 80’s/90’s skater kid like me. So when ‘Smells Like…’ came out in late 1991, there was something too familiar. I had already heard this urgency. ‘Nevermind’ Nirvana were to me, somewhat of a hybrid. They were Ratcat with Sting on vocal duties. But more than 6 months prior – even then, months after the 1990 release of Tingles – Ratcat had opened my ears. Ratcat made allowances for Metallica’s ‘Black album’ and both the GnR albums. But, importantly Ratcat taught me that not all great artists were on major labels or were from outside our sunburnt country. In the following 12 months, I developed a fascination with the twee of Frente! and the Sex Pistols meets Pet Shop Boys sounds of Carter USM. 1993 came around and I heard ‘Holiday’ by Ratcat and thought it was a departure, but not one I could appreciate. Irony has it that 1993 was when I was turned on to Nirvana by ‘In Utero’. Yet, in a way, 1993 was just like 1991 again as Ratcat came back with a new sound and Nirvana brought back an album that sounded like the ‘Black Album’. The rest is history, regardless of who rewrites it, but as Paul Simon says “Every generation throws a hero up the pop charts”. Yet, Simon Day taught me you don’t need pop charts.

  3. Hi Anthony,

    thanks for reading, and for your wonderful comment. This made me chuckle:

    ‘They were Ratcat with Sting on vocal duties …’

    BRILLIANT! đŸ™‚

  4. i meet the band a few time, best time i think was playing pool with them at the new patch at coolagata on gold coast coast.

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