In his continuing search for the sweet spot between hip hop and punk, Rat Boy has been taken under the wing of ska-punk veteran Tim Armstrong - best known for his bands Rancid and The Transplants - and as a result, he’s never been so sonically ambitious.
Plunging you into a pace with a force to give you whiplash, ‘CHIP ON MY SHOULDER’ is a rollicking homage to punk. A cacophonous chorus meets laid-back, reggae rhythms giving a distinctive flavour to the record. Ska sensibilities are ever-present, worn more brazenly on his sleeve than previously. ‘MY NAME IS RAT BOY’ carries the baton, shifting gears into bombastic reggae, weighted with menacing guitar work.
It would come as no surprise that ‘INTERNATIONALLY UNKNOWN’ was recorded in LA; as much as Jordan Cardy’s sound is inherently British, the American style is tightly interwoven into every track. ‘FLIES’ and ‘DAD’S CRASHED CAR’ have uncanny hallmarks of Green Day, with their rollicking choruses and disillusioned drawls.
‘FOLLOW YOUR HEART’ is the record’s curveball. Gaudy gameshow synth loops, while Jordan drones sardonically: “When the people give you nothing / Follow your heart”. It’s surreal, with indulgent brass sections heaped in for good measure.
Rat Boy is stylistically less himself than ever. Tracks such as ‘I WANNA SKATE’, a riotous punk chanter; and ‘SO WHAT’, dusting off his state-of-the-nation lassitude in its lyrics, seem like hollow efforts when stood next to his more experimental songs. Rat Boy works best on this record not giving the fans what they want - but something new.