Album Review: China Rats – Don’t Play with Fire EP

By on Wednesday, 25th September 2013 at 12:00 pm
 

Perhaps it’s just too much thinking on my part – and too many years spent on this side of the Atlantic considering the impact of what us Yanks call from the ’60s the British Invasion – but a war, however cosmetically portrayed by NME or other music magazines, may be waged between two bands very soon in the North East. Reading over the press release for the upcoming EP from China Rats, it seemed to me a mighty fine coincidence that this new release of five songs to be collectively known later this month as ‘Don’t Play with Fire’ was produced in the band’s hometown of Leeds by none other than Matt Peel of Cottage Road Studios.

Peel happens to be the same man whose golden production touch is on both of the Crookes‘ albums ‘Chasing After Ghosts’ and ‘Hold Fast’, and my guess is he’ll also be working on their third later this year. Clearly, Peel lets the bands do what they do best and helps them sound their best, because despite sharing a producer, the bands both sound monumentally good. But different. And the way I see it, the Crookes are the Beatles and China Rats are the Stones in this made-up battle in my head. For those of you Fab Four / Stones scholars, you will recall that the Stones took a bit longer to get rolling on releases and popularity, but rather quickly they found themselves caught up to the Beatles and developed a massive fan base of their own.

China Rats’ most high profile performance at this year’s SXSW was on the Friday night, playing the British Music Embassy’s evening showcase being sponsored by PRS and Kilimanjaro Live, a major UK event promoter. Curiously, they appeared on the bill just before the Crookes. I know, because I was there and I have the promotional poster. I knew a couple of the band’s songs and to be honest, wasn’t all that impressed by them on record. Live, I thought they were good, but not great: they seemed a little tentative, which I suppose should be expected for a bunch of English lads on their first trip to Austin. Fast forward 2 months to Brighton and the Great Escape 2013, where the band played to a rammed Old Ship Paginini Ballroom on Saturday night: the more jaded journalists might say that they were playing to a captive audience who arrived early for the 1975 later, but there was no denying the crush of bodies down the front, fists raised, for the Leeds band.

So does the new EP sink or swim? The best song on here is second track ‘Deadbeat’, with its driving drums and what is to become an instantly recognised banging guitar intro. ‘N.O.M.O.N.E.Y.’ (previous Video of the Moment here) and ‘Get Loose’ both have good, strong whiffs of earlier, less inhibited, less sleepy recent Vaccines, which in my opinion can only be a good thing after that train wreck known as ‘Melody Calling’. You can just see the punters now, throwing their bodies round a circle mosh pit at a festival to these songs. I sort of imagine frontman Graeme Thompson looking at his own image in a mirror, practising his best anti-establishment, Johnny Rotten-type sneer. My guess though is, from his age at least, is that Thompson more likely picked up the sneer from the Gallagher brothers, and now is better at his active bitch face – and growly voice – than either of them.

Track ‘Reeperbahn’ just by the name is a nice nod to the infamous red light district of Hamburg where the Beatles honed their craft and ‘became’ men. Oddly, it’s not the raucous, firing on all cylinders affair I’d expected to be but instead something that might have been in the earlier portions of the Fabs or the Stones’ back catalogues. It’s passable, but it feels like a letdown after the first three very good songs. Luckily, EP closer ‘Green Tears’ brings back the swagger, with psychedelic vocal effects and more boots up the backside. This song also features an absolutely brilliant guitar solo; forget the groups that NME are touting as the next great British rock band, China Rats are the future.

If the Crookes are in line to become the kings of Tramlines very soon, then it’s not a huge stretch of the imagination that China Rats could be the same for Live at Leeds if they can keep their songs up to this level. If a battle between the two actually materialises, it will be us, the music-loving public, who will win. Play on, lads.

8.5/10

‘Don’t Play With Fire’, the second EP from Leeds rockers China Rats, is out the 30th of September on Once Upon a Time Records.

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8 Responses

12:02 pm
25th September 2013

New post: Album Review: China Rats @chinarats – Don’t Play with Fire EP to be released next week on @onceuponatimeuk http://t.co/H8OzO0TxVs

3:21 pm
25th September 2013

RT @tgtf: New post: Album Review: China Rats @chinarats – Don’t Play with Fire EP to be released next week on @onceuponatimeuk http://t.co/…

3:34 pm
26th September 2013

8.5 / 10 Album Review: China Rats (@chinarats) – Don’t Play with Fire EP | There Goes The Fear (@TGTF) http://t.co/wG8lvHVB78

4:17 pm
26th September 2013

Thanks to @intamission and @tgtf for giving our new EP 5/5 and 8.5/10
Check the reviews here:
http://t.co/LgM42a9ulk
http://t.co/M8zRb2E0zt

4:18 pm
26th September 2013

RT @TopButton_Digi: 8.5 / 10 Album Review: China Rats (@chinarats) – Don’t Play with Fire EP | There Goes The Fear (@TGTF) http://t.co/wG8l…

4:18 pm
26th September 2013

RT @chinarats: Thanks to @intamission and @tgtf for giving our new EP 5/5 and 8.5/10
Check the reviews here:
http://t.co/LgM42a9ulk
http://…

4:18 pm
26th September 2013

RT @chinarats: Thanks to @intamission and @tgtf for giving our new EP 5/5 and 8.5/10
Check the reviews here:
http://t.co/LgM42a9ulk
http://…

[…] (Hint: he’s someone we respect very much here at TGTF, having worked recently with China Rats on their latest EP ‘Don’t Play with Fire’.) Get your entries in by noon British time on Friday the 25th of October. We’ll choose a winner […]

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