Rats on Rafts – WORM, Rotterdam 25/09/10

An admission must be made before we get on with the review proper. Previous to this gig, Incendiary had never been to WORM HQ at Delftshaven near Rotterdam. And in a way this is inadmissible for us, because WORM is possibly the most important creative hub of leftfield, independent/underground culture in Holland. Walking into the complex we realised just what we had been missing. The building is a stylish and understated mix of underground record shop, bookshop and gallery, bar, theatre and gig space. Basically it has everything sensitive independent thinkers need. Mentally making a note to return as soon as possible (i.e. next week), Incendiary grabbed a beer in the nice bar and waited for Rats on Rafts.

Now I think this lot are pretty great, we saw them support Pony Pack about a year ago at Exit, and were stunned by their assurance and wit. They are also one of those bands whose recordings to date bear no relation to how earth shatteringly brilliant they are live. (The difference between the live and recorded versions of, say, a track like Can’t Be Bothered can’t be overstated enough). Still, there’s movement on this front, as their new single a cover of ’80s Rotterdam favourites Kiem: Here Comes the Moneyman, is a fine slice of garagey post punk, drawing on the Sonics, Syd, MES & the Teardrops in equal measure. They also look the part too, a classic guitar band playing in a line with a singer whose Syd Barrett fixation, (always a good thing as long as you keep away from Mandies), is balanced against an obvious love of entertaining people and having a laugh in a loose-limbed way. A mix of Syd & a young McCulloch: heady stuff indeed.

The opener – fuck knows what it’s called – was a spine tingling moment, as the splintered, screeching guitar runs shredded the atmosphere and kicked off a fabulous set. The band have a rumbling, bubbling beat to them too; a quality which gives the walls of reverb and delay something to play against, and a canny knack of balancing space and tempo. I think there’s a bit of Stone Roses/Manchester love in the band, because at times the work outs took on a distinctly loose and fluid aspect. One track was a dead ringer for the kind of noise New Fast Automatic Daffodils used to make. But this is all good. The singer played with two mics to good effect: doing all those Piper at the Gates of Dawn/Mark E Smith vocal clicks, squawks and whispers.

The end of the gig was pretty darned fine too: a gentleman of mature years (though not someone you’d care to argue the toss with – aparently a member of Kiem) took the stage with a sax, and added a tremendous set of solo runs, wails, parps and squeaks to a brace of tracks; one of which was the new single. The audience – enthusiastic throughout – went mental. An encore, a stage invasion and a proud mother grabbing a mic and singing happy birthday to her daughter (in typical brazen Rotterdam fashion) ended a fine night.

Checking Rats on Rafts out on Myspace (single aside) won’t prepare you for what will be unleashed live. Right now, you have to go and see them, they are a revelation. This lot could be something really special.