Published Jan 22, 2019Indie music often lends itself to the ironic quirks of cool kid culture. If you're not in on the joke, it all seems a little hard to follow. What's intentional? What's not? For a brief moment, Rat Boy's latest, Internationally Unknown, took me for a ride and that's exactly how I felt.
Right from the get-go, I couldn't help but visualize a messy bedroom where empty bags of crisps and two-litre bottles of Mountain Dew covered the floor. When Jordan Cardy spits "Educated from the school of hard knocks / Snitches get stitches when you come from the block," on "Don't Hesitate," I couldn't help but nod in agreement, despite it being the corniest line on the record, and despite having zero affiliation with the "block."
As the rambunctious "I Wanna Skate" started blaring, I could practically feel the DC shoes forming on my feet. And by the time the title track carried out its anthemic choruses, I wondered if the headphone cord from my beat up walkman would get tangled up with my wallet chain.
The record pulls from a wide range of sonically combative influences, primarily skate-punk and hip-hop. For example, "My Name Is Rat Boy" is just as easy to chill out and vibe with as it is to headbang to. "Don't Hesitate" is reminiscent of that '90s Beck sound — guitar music that flirts with an appropriated urban undertone — though I'm sure no one minds. And "Flies" starts with a new wave intro before exploding into what sounds like the punk love child of "Tainted Love" and "Rock Lobster."
To me, guest features usually end of being a misstep, but I found myself smiling during verses from both Aimée Allen (of the Interrupters), and Tim Timebomb (of Rancid and Transplants fame).
With every moment on Internationally Unknown I find odd, I ask myself "was that intentional?" Because I usually have no idea. I mean, the buzzsaw guitars and e-kit drums — intentional? Who knows? What about the stock 808s and amateur sounding trap-hats? Maybe. The goofy sound effects and cliché one-liners? Probably. Am I overthinking it way too much? I'm sure Rat Boy would tell me, "Yes, definitely."
Internationally Unknown is fun and probably not intended to be examined too far past the surface. If anything, it has me remembering the summer nights of my dumb teenage years, full of roman-candle fights and sloppy kickflips. And because of this record, I'm now looking back at my sheltered adolescence, confidently reminding myself to "never forget the hustle, never forget the streets." Who the hell am I trying to kid? (Hellcat)