Review Summary: “Rats” is an excellent EP from an excellent band. Although possibly not the best place for someone to get into the Subhumans (what with only 4 songs and such), it is definitely quality punk music for people already interested in the genre and the band
There isn’t really a lot to say about the Subhumans. They were a British anarchy-based punk band from the 80s but really, who wasn’t?
Oh wait I forgot to mention that most of those other cliché punk bands from the 80s have long since died figuratively or literally (Sid Vicious, I’m looking at you). I also forgot to mention that unlike those awful, awful bands like the Sex Pistols, Subhumans were a very creative group of punks. Relying very little (if at all) on pure shock value and the whole punk fashion craze, they put out records full of sweet riffs, thought provoking lyrics and otherwise ass-kicking music.
For most of the early 80s they were constantly pushing out a steady stream of new material. In fact from 1980-1984 alone they released 7 EPs and 2 LPs. Talk about productivity. Out of those 7 EPs most people will agree that the best were either 1983’s “Time Flies But Aeroplanes Crash” or “Rats”. Rats was a much shorter EP (only 10 minutes long) but contained 4 amazing piece of music that undoubtedly influenced a huge number of punk bands and other musicians. Not to mention the fact that it had some of the best album art ever seen on a punk record.
Rats opens up immediately with pure aggression as “Joe Public” shows vocalist Dick Lucas’ view on the typical Mr. Average middle class man going about his normal routine and blind patriotism. “A smile on his face and his fingers down your throat, Making you sick with his victory salute “V’s up for england”- or does he mean *** YOU!” This is by far the strongest song on the record after all, not every song rips off part of a Jimi Hendrix tune as the third verse goes “Hey Joe! Where you goin with that census in your hand? To make us feel important? I don’t think you understand” while the guitar plays the main riff from Hendrix’s “Hey Joe”.
But then next thing you know, they turn the speed knob up to 11! “Labels” blasts in with just that, a bunch of labels. “Call me a punk cos I wear a leather jacket, Call me a hippy cos I believe in love and peace, Call me an idealist because of songs like these” It really shows the Dick knows what he’s talking about, instead of just yelling oh say…..”Anarchy In The UK”. Also, the instruments in this song sound a lot less like the typical british 3 chord punk sound, and closer to later LA bands such as Minor Threat and Black Flag.
And then, they turn the aggression down to about a –1. That’s right, it’s ska/reggae time with “When The Bomb Drops”. The weakest song on the EP but it’s still a decent song. With lyrics about the effects of Hiroshima on Japan and the rest of the world, especially the general lack of interest from middle/upper class citizens about such a world changing event. It alternates quite a bit between slower ska/reggae and slightly faster dragging punk rock. Also, for the first time on the album the drummer actually does some neat fill and you can hear there is actually a very nice bassline behind the song until it ends with a bang (literally).
And for the finishing number, “Rats” goes back to the tried and true method of the first two songs. That method being the knowledge that “Speed + Instruments = Good Listening” but instead of pure speed you can tell that they want to convey the mood with the instruments as well as the vocals, with slower grinding parts, and eventually ending with what sounds like an organ or something paired with drums and some random lead guitar in the back ground until it fades out.
-Great Fast Music
-Thought provoking lyrics
-Too damn short
-“When The Bomb Drops” ruins the mood of the record, but is a good song on it’s own.
3.5/5 It’s generally a very good record, but not as good as their LPs