Rats on Rafts – Control – Heidegger, Rotterdam 18/3/11

I lean over to my long suffering colleagues and say “this is the best fusion of 1979 and 1989 you’ll hear” I still believe it. The set can be seen as a confirmation and a revelation, depending on how often you’d seen them.
So here we are, on the Erasmusplein in Rotterdam, going to a new club run by real nice old 80s mobsters who have done the place up a bit like the Hacienda in 1987; (cavernous set up, long bar pillars, nobody there apart from some people moping about to Primal Scream & Cocteau Twins singles – all they miss are the yellow & black stripes)… We’re here to see our latest crush, Rats on Rafts who are playing two sets - both at ungodly hours - their mates and some interested older scene types. A further word about the club. It’s really massive, and with three hundred people in it would look empty. As it is, there are about a hundred in, so the feelings we encounter on mooching around are very much akin to those felt on a parent’s evening or a first day at work after the holidays. Still, the will and idea is definitely there and any club that plays Garlands-era Cocteau Twins, XMAL Deutschland and the Teardrop Explodes is always going down well with me. Between sets it’s very noticeable that everyone congregates in the small smoking area (for reasons of body warmth or conviviality? Who knows?).


Onto Rats: the two sets differ for a number of reasons, but mainly - we think - due to alcohol. Still, they’re both blistering performances, showing sides of the band that we’d not really noticed before.  The first set is all control and determination with some definite highlights: the masterful Plastic Plaster is a sublime pop song. Built on a Dinky toy beat, it twinkles and sparkles like a gem; Patience is all muscle and sinew and attitude, and older tracks Can’t Be Bothered and God is Dead lend the set a few breathing points and some light and shade, which is needed at times, because Rats can belt through their numbers if they get a second wind. As for the set closer, Jazz, this is the moment where overexcitedly I lean over to my long suffering colleagues and say “this is the best fusion of 1979 and 1989 you’ll hear” I still believe it. The set can be seen as a confirmation and a revelation, depending on how often you’d seen them.


The second gig (played after a further hour’s moping about listening to Sons and Fascination-era Simple Minds) is funny for a variety of reasons: Money Man is treated like an old jumper, chucked off. Notes are missed but somehow the whole thing works aided by a formidable impressionist sweep that the band give to the song. There’s a song about a baby niece which is actually brilliant, because it’s so cheeky, and then we get a total free-fall into D.A.F.’s Der Mussolini (after David has decided to slag off Ian Curtis for being dead, which I suppose is fair enough). At this point the audience jump onto the stage and start yelling in the mikes and it’s all a whirl of noise fun and gilded Youth doing their thing.  A few more beers and we stagger exultantly home through the primary assault that is Rotterdam on a Saturday evening.  Marvellous.