Monday, October 13, 2008


WHITE BOY AND THE AVERAGE RAT BAND – “White Boy And The Average Rat Band” LP ’80 (Tradewind, US) – Ok, I know the first thing you’re going to say: “What the hell kind of a stupid name is that for a band?!” Hold your tongue, honcho, because this innocuous-looking record with the weird-ass name is probably a dang-side heavier than just about any in your collection. Doubt it? Read on. WHITE BOY AND THE AVERAGE RAT BAND’s only album was recorded at Magnum Studios in Richland Virginia (a state spawning great stuff right up till today, with Valkyrie & RPG among others). It was released in 1980 and features the following line-up: Mike Matney – lead guitar, vocals; Seth Kelly – rhythm guitar; Tommy Altizer – bass; Tim Gilbert – drums. It’s housed in a simple black & white cover showing 4 pretty un-threatening-looking dudes and a back displaying rather spare info. Hell, 1980, and you’re thinking “This could be a Cars album” were it not for the quote near the bottom: “This album goes out to all the heavy metal rats everywhere with all hopes of an alternate acceptance.” Even that, combined with the year in question, speaks of what might be a “British Steel” clone. Put this mutha on the turntable and find out just what a pansy-ass record “British Steel” is in comparison.

Side One opens with “Prelude” and as the minute & a half of shimmering synths plays, you’re still not sure what’s on offer. Tell me you’re not sure, though, when the 5 minute chunk called “Neon Warriors” comes blasting out of the speakers. Frankly, I’m not sure exactly what you call Mike Matney’s guitar tone here except to say that it is as corrosive and caustic as a 10 year old car battery, pried open, set on fire and poured into your auditory canal. The vocals are mid-ranged & throaty, fitting the garage recording perfectly and the lead guitarwork reminds you of Poobah’s Jim Gustafson sitting behind the controls of a car crusher at the junk yard. And then, what’s this to follow, “Sector 387.” Mounted with rusty screws to an off-time, neck-aching rhythm, the jagged guitars are this time laced with weird stabs of synth and vocals that could be straight from a Sci-Fi channel B-movie. The first side comes lurching to an end with the pumping metallic text of “Maybe I’m A Fool.” Why is it that the words “buzz saw” keep coming to my mind?

I know, I know. You keep looking at the cover, shaking your head, asking how guys this human-looking can create this kind of unholy racket. But you still go ahead and flip it over to Side Two, only to have your head removed by “Prophet Song.” This is 4 ½ minutes of super-fuzzed-out proto-NWOBHM hell that features one of the catchiest vocal lines available and would easily be the best song on most albums. But that honor for “White Boy And The Average Rat Band” is yet to come. In the meantime, the carnage continues with the shorter, albeit nearly-as-lethal “Leaving Tonight On Vacation,” in which Matney gives a prelude of his lead guitar tour d’force coming shortly. The best records often contain surprises that still fit like a glove and it’s here that this one unveils it’s unexpected turn, “Blue Moon.” A 4 ½ minute detour down into some twisted, dark Louisiana bayou, this track shows a whole different side of Mike Matney’s guitar playing. It’s a brilliant, dynamic-raising piece similar to Iommi’s inclusions of things like “Embryo” and “Don’t Start (Too Late).” And then, finally, the stakes get raised in a way that only happens on the best albums. WHITE BOY AND THE AVERAGE RAT BAND finish off their masterpiece with a gem-within-a-gem, the violently heavy skull-crusher, some 6 ½ minutes of molten lava called “Oriental Doctors.” Truly one of my favourite songs of all-time, this mid-paced monster is deceptively simple yet so goddamn heavy that you’d need a tow motor to lift it an inch off the ground. Between a few verses and readings of the super catchy chorus in which Matney laments a woman who “Needed a doctor, and there wasn’t a damn thing I could say,” he peppers the listener with seemingly endless lead runs volatile enough to cause internal bleeding. Seriously, my friends, this is one of the rare paths an artist takes where they make it to the top of the mountain. There they stand, holding a growling Flying V over their head, it’s cord running through a series of Big Muffs and plugged into a bank of Marshalls as far as they eye can see. This is simply the goods. Rare as hell, quirky as I don’t know what and worth every penny you’d have to pay to get a copy. Awesome! 10.0

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