The Beat Rats are Now!
The Beat Rats are Today!
Actually they’re neither of those things and that’s precisely why they are both of those things.
Like my beloved Electric Mess, the Beat Rats are historical purists, fanatically devoted to a style that enjoyed the acme of its commercial success back when granddad was riding a surfboard.The mainstream market isn’t remotely on the Beat Rats’ agenda; they are in pursuit of a vision. And when they go there, the audience signs on for the fantasy as well. This is why they are so very “now”, you see. (“Now” being a very good place to escape from, if you’ve been paying any attention).
Their sound is a mix of Cavern-era Beatles (“Merseybeat”) and harder edged surf groups of the early 60s. In terms of material, their songs trend towards the latter style, a succession of near throw-away original three-chord dance tunes with lyrics like “Aw, baby, let’s go!” My favorite among their home-grown compositions is “I Can’t Wait”, built around a swinging blues riff reminiscent of the 1964 Don Covay tune “Mercy Mercy”. And of course there’s the Beat Rats theme song, always a show stopper at their live appearances.
Anyway, it’s at the level of musicianship that the group most distinguishes itself. Their live act is incredible, redolent of the pep-pill fueled hyperbolics of the Fab Four’s Hamburg days with some of the showmanship of the early Who mixed in (lots of surf influence in the early Who). The flashiest is the drummer, Bluto Mongo, who suspiciously resembles my frequent collaborator Robert Pinnock. That unfortunate resemblance aside, I have no qualms about recommending him as the most entertaining drummer you will ever see and the most exciting drummer you will ever hear. Every second of playing is filled with some surprising burst of self-expression, all done while simultaneously keeping the beat and driving the song forward. In the rare m0ments of silence, he twirls his drumsticks overhead and even tosses them into the air like batons, much like the only drummer (and comedian) he resembles, Keith Moon. The rest of the band is hot, too — the three guitar parts lock together like gears in an out-of-control candy-making machine. Front man and lead guitarist Frank Max again evokes the Who by singing like much more like Roger Daltry than he does any Beatle, a hoarse shout without much range or nuance but plenty of volume. Visually, he is an arresting marriage of Charles Manson and….Bobby Beausoileil. That’s what I love about California! You meet so many different types of people! And he plays with that meticulous, tight, clean sound you associate with early George Harrison. It’s more than an homage, you might almost call it a George Harrison impression, except he has so many more tricks up his sleeve.
At any rate, their eponymous cd does a brilliant job of capturing the spirit of their live act, as much as can be done without the kinetic visuals. It’s music to get the blood pumping in both the quick and the dead. And if you’re a good little boy and girl, that green Santa rat you see in that picture will come scurrying across your roof while you sleep and stuff it down your chimney! For more dope on the Beat Rats go here.