The journey of Jordan Cardy AKA Rat Boy hasn’t been the most conventional. Going from releasing his first project ‘The Mixtape’ back in 2014 to being sampled on Kendrick Lamar’s ‘DAMN.’ and now releasing his debut album, Cardy has experienced the kind of cult fanfare many artists spend years developing. In many ways, his come-up isn’t dissimilar to Kendrick’s; following the hip-hop model of underground hits and mixtapes that precede many mainstream rappers’ careers.
With ‘SCUM’, Rat Boy does his best to please both the British rock and rap audiences he has cultivated since his first project. He isn’t the first British artist to attempt the political rap rocker vibe, and the influence of a band like The King Blues is clear to see. This is especially evident on ‘REVOLUTION’, where his Estuary cadence could be easily mistaken for TKB’s Johnny Fox. In fact, much of ‘SCUM’s indie rock influence plays like a history of the last decade of British music. The Jamie T-esque ‘FAKE ID’, the distorted ‘BOILING POINT’ reminiscent of Kasabian, or ‘LEFT 4 DEAD’ which evokes Favourite Worst Nighmare-era Arctic Monkeys, all show that Cardy is a keen student of indie rock.
This isn’t necessarily a criticism, as the whole project plays like a collage of diverse influences. This goes right down to the radio skit interludes, some of which are familiar in style to the crude satire of video game series Grand Theft Auto. The eight interludes do add a lot to the atmosphere of the record, but some are definitely funnier than others. For example, ‘TRUMPTOWERS INTERLUDE’ with its joke speech by Donald Trump followed by the literal endorsement of the Devil is pretty blunt — bordering on patronising.
The strongest moments on ‘SCUM’ arrive when Cardy is able to combine his multiple influences cohesively, whilst remaining experimental. The soulful but minimalist ‘TURN ROUND M8’, with its multiple vocal effects and upbeat chorus is an early highlight on the record. As is ‘MOVE’, somehow managing to combine heavy lead guitar, pitched up vocals, electronic effects and what sounds like a Dr. Dre ‘Deep Cover’ sample into an enjoyable track.
What binds the album together across these diverse styles is the strength of Rat Boy’s writing, and particularly his ability to write a meaningful and catchy chorus. Even when certain tracks may be sonically stretched, or go overboard on politics, Cardy remains rooted in the tradition of the melody driven pop-aware indie rock chorus. Lead single ‘LAIDBACK’ and the following track ‘I’LL BE WAITING’ perhaps do this best of all, stripping back the politics and experimentation in favour of straightforward stories of young love.
Although ‘SCUM’ can sometimes feel like the 2017 update of music you’ve enjoyed from the past 20 years, at its best Rat Boy delivers some of the most interesting and exciting moments to come from British music this year.
Words: Will Rosebury
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