Exercising their right not to remain silent
We Got A Right – The Golden Rat (Vicious Kitten Records)
What do you get when expat bi-coastal American underground star Mr Ratboy collides with Hiroshi The Golden Arm (aka Japan’s Johnny Thunders) in a Tokyo garage, each armed with the songs that pre-occupied their formative musical minds in the period spanning 1976-82? An absolutely killer album.
“We Got A Right” is a record that came about through necessity. Hiroshi The Golden Arm and Mr Ratboy first met in 1993 when the latter was a member of Jeff Dahl’s touring band. Fast forward a few years and Mr Ratboy is a resident of the Land of the Rising Sun and the pair strike up a musical partnership in the electro-trash outfit Ace Killers Union.
Come COVID-19 and nobody is playing (or going) anywhere. A proposed project for Mr Ratboy and Hiroshi The Golden Arm goes on ice and they’re each left to their own demoing devices. The seed of a joint all-covers album takes root and work starts...
The easing of lockdowns spurred garage recording sessions with Mr R on guitar, bass, voice and percussion and HTGA on guitar. Add some sax and mixing and the finished product goes above and beyond its modest beginnings.
These are 15 songs from Lords of the New Church, the Saints, Radio Birdman, Johnny Thunders and the Heartbreakers, Magazine, Lou Reed, The Stranglers, The Only Ones and the Patti Smith Band among others, the common thread being song in which both The Golden Rat members have heavily invested. It’s evocative and full-sounding, a record with feeling and heart that resonates throughout.
Mr Ratboy should be a name on everybody’s lips after doing service with Bebe Buell, Sour Jazz, Pillbox, Marky Ramone and the Intruders, Kevin K and Motorcycle Boy and a few more. Hiroshi The Golden Arm is a fixture on the Tokyo punk club scene, most notably with his own The Golden Arms who sounded like the Heartbreakers if they’d surfed with boards instead of spoons. All of which should tell you to grab a copy of “We Got A Right” – pronto.
The Golden Rat was never going to play these covers straight. Expressive guitar and plaintive vocals, fresh arrangements and wailing baritone sax on five of 'em, courtesy of Daigenta Okajima, imbue these tunes with new life.
A faithful take on the Ramones’ “Don’t Come Close” was never going to fly. The Golden Rat adds a dash of do-wop vocalising to take it right back to its Queens, NYC, roots. This version of Lou Reed’s “Rock and Roll Heart” has more vigour than the hollowed-out original. “Dancin’ Barefoot” and "It's Not Enough" take on fresh identities of The Golden Rat's making.
“A Minor Aversion” was a surprise choice when the “real” Saints reconvened to play again live in Australia but The Golden Rat must be on the same wavelength as Messrs Bailey and Kuepper to tackle it in their own studio and do it so well. The Birdman cover is a credible “Love Kills” and is the only song that pre-dates this session, going all the way back to 2018, and was heard on the Japanese compilation, "Jesus Loves My Heroin Vol 2"
Fittingly for an album that owes a stylistic debt to Johnny Thunders, it's on reborn Aussie label Vicious Kitten,
As someone else once said: "Tora Tora Tora DTK!"