Music Review: Rat Soup, Hot and Brassy, Cool and Sassy

If I have to stand at another bar and listen to one more insipid conversation about ‘Who’s gonna carry on the tradition of Rock and Roll?’ or ‘Who’s gonna replace ______________ (fill in whatever band name the annoying loud mouth next to you is using)?’,  I’m going to leave a tip for the bartender (’cause even consumed by insolent derision I’m NOT an asshole), walk out the door, cross the sidewalk and just step straight into traffic.

If you happened to get sucked in by the hype and the hope to shelling out $12.50 to watch Prometheus, Ridley Scott’s desecratory devolution of the Alien franchise this last summer, I can give you a suitable analogy. You know the alien at the start of the film that opens the little snuff box and consumes what is inside, then begins decomposing, his DNA falling into some primordial Icelandic looking version of Victoria Falls and spreading out to inseminate the planet? THAT was Rock and Roll. It came, it spread it’s seed, it absorbed the genetic material of other musical and non-musical art forms and then it got on down the line. Or the road. Or maybe it was the river . . . and as Heraclitus said “You can’t step in the same river twice”.

I recently stuck my toe in the water and happened across a new group with a 5 song release that made me want to jump all the way in and get born again in the soul and the swagger. Coming (scurrying??) straight out of Long Beach, and building a following faster than a pied piper with a bag of cheese sticks, Rat Soup is one hot little band (including a 3 piece horn section)  that doesn’t seem to spend too much time worrying about anything other than getting on stage and making music. Rough and tough, smooth and cool; whispering soft to get you to lean in and then serving you up a ‘knuckle-sammich’. You never know what’s coming next – except that it’s gonna pack a punch. 

Their first EP For The Record (2012) produced for their own label, Milford Street Records, is a confident display of talented players, who love music and have come to teach us how to put some heat into whatever it is we might be feeling in any particular moment. Jaco Pastorius might have had Three Views of a Secret, but there is no running into a dark, safe corner of secrecy for this 7 man furnace. They come to play. And in case case you think Rat Soup is just a name (I mean, what could be in a name . . . right?) and once the music starts it won’t matter what they’re called, you’ll think again when you find yourself tapping your feet and washing your whiskers to ‘Rat Strut’ a sweet, solid and sassy Meters homage that I predict will one day become the perfect retort to any clown dimwitted enough to ask ‘Where did the music go?’

‘Rat Strut, baby. Rat Strut.’

The original song ‘Climbing’ is my favorite from a new local band this year. Perfectly melded beat, melody lyrics and soul, it is both a terrific beginning and a solid promise of more great music to come. You don’t just accidentally fall into writing a tune like that.

Composing and playing across the board is exceptionally strong; no ‘First time out we’ll just play some backing parts so they’ll get used to us’, from the horn players here. I’ve never understood why some bands with brass and woodwinds choose to keep the horns tucked in the background. These guys (JB Vasquez on baritone sax and trombone, Shane Baird playing tenor and alto and Tim Wickham – trumpet and vocals)  swing, they punch, they duck and they move.  Then they come right back at you again.  And like any good funk/jazz funk band, Rat Soup’s rhythm section’s got plenty of it. Drummer/vocalist Damion Meadows and bassist Jamie Flores keep the bottom end of things both solid and interesting. Which gives keyboard player Al Marotta  and guitarist Aaron Gitnick plenty of spots to feint and hook, thrust and parry.

I’m thinking Heraclitus may not have been able to get his feet wet in the same river twice, but I’m pretty sure if he had fallen into the baptismal font of funk that is Rat Soup he would have wrapped his toga tight and gone for a swim.

If you haven’t already made plans for this December’s end the world and want to go out struttin’  you can see Rat Soup live at Pelican Isle in Sunset Beach on 12/21/2012.

Available through their website or from cdbaby, check out For the Record.





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2 Responses to Music Review: Rat Soup, Hot and Brassy, Cool and Sassy

  1. john says:

    Stinky stanky chunky funky monkey. Rat soup freakin rocks! Do yourself a favor and check them out now!!!

  2. Harvey C. says:

    I have been a rock and roll fan for most of my musical listening life and never got into funk or jazz. The first time I saw Rat Soup, I figured it was going to be a long boring night. I was surprised and glad to find out I was wrong and have since seen them a number of times and they always sound great. I hope they release another CD soon.

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