Monday, 23 May 2011

100 LPs Shortlist #9: Ratcat - "Blind Love/Tingles"

Quiz question: Who was the band who kick-started the 90's alternative rock revolution in Australia?

If you were thinking Nirvana or Silverchair, you'd be wrong.

In 1990, a small, start-up indie label with major label backing sprung up and started signing small bands from around the country - The Screaming Jets from Newcastle, The Hummingbirds, the Trilobites and Tall Tales And True from Sydney, Martha's Vineyard from Perth, all scored hits of various magnitudes, but there was one band from their initial crop of signings that went stratospheric...Ratcat.

Ratcat were instrumental in bringing the alternative/underground into the mainstream. They were an inner-city Sydney band, playing small venues and releasing independent singles and albums, and had done for about 4 years before they unleashed the "Tingles" EP in 1990, on the rooART label. It went gold in no time at all. The lead track "That Ain't Bad" was a noisy yet simple scuzz-pop gem that starts off quietly with just bass, drums and vocals, but when the chorus hits, the wall of guitars is so thick and heavy it's like a smack in the face. The rest of the record comes through with plenty of great cracking tunes, heavy on the noisy guitars with plenty of melody.

Noise-pop/shoe-gaze - or whatever the buzzword of the time was - bands didn't sell massive amounts of records, because critical acclaim doesn't often translate over into record sales. Ratcat's nearest contemporaries at the time would have been bands like Ride, My Bloody Valentine, Neds Atomic Dustbin, Dinosaur Jr, Inspiral Carpets and The Jesus and Mary Chain.

What's more, for any indie record to hit the mainstream charts and get airplay on mainstream radio in 1990/1, let alone an AUSTRALIAN one, was no mean feat. The only other local bands at the time to come close were The Hummingbirds and The Screaming Jets. And then, in 1991, things went nuts.

The biggest locally produced record of 1991 was their single "Don't Go Now" which hit number 1. In May the accompanying album "Blind Love" sold over 100,000 copies and the band was hot property, with their gigs filled by screaming girls everywhere. They quickly issued a live mini-LP by the end of the year and a rush-released follow-up in 1992 called "Insideout" but by the close of the year they star had faded.

Early in 1992, Nirvana and the Seattle grunge scene became the biggest thing since the last big thing and Ratcat were quickly forgotten. Their massive impact in those early months B.N. ("Before Nevermind") has been played down by rock historians of the last decade or so and the band, while they have continued to gig and release records, have not scaled their once dizzy heights again.

The band are doing some shows to celebrate the 20th anniversary of their landmark "Blind Love" LP. Take a listen below to both the Tingles EP (the first 6 tracks) and the Blind Love LP (the rest) to remember how great they were.

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