When Jordan Cardy, better known as Rat Boy, first arrived on the scene with ‘Sign On’ – a fast-talking indie delight with an incredibly infectious chorus – comparisons to Jamie T were inevitable. Since his debut record, Scum, however, which heavily resembled Jamie T’s oeuvre, Rat Boy has explored a different avenue which comes to fruition with his latest record, Internationally Unknown. A collaboration with ska-punk legend Tim Armstrong, of Rancid fame, there are times on the record where Rat Boy begins to find his own sonic sound but, on the whole, all this record has done is saturate his own sound.
Always straddling the balance between indie and hip-hop, but this time with elements of reggae, ska and dub thrown in for good measure, it’s safe to say that Internationally Unknown is a mixed bag. While album opener ‘Chip On My Shoulder’ is a brilliantly raucous opening with a brazen reggae-style bassline, and ‘My Name Is Rat Boy’ celebrates its bombast in some style, single ‘Don’t Hesitate’ sees the artist revert back to the repetitive indie-rock of Scum. Likewise, ‘I Wanna Skate’ is so formulaic it could have been made by a Rat Boy song generator.
However, ‘Follow Your Heart’ is a certain highlight. A breezier, summery take on indie-rock that evokes Parklife-era Blur, it’s a captivating take on Rat Boy’s brand that does just enough to change things up. Additionally, ‘Internationally Unknown’ is a slow-burning romp with a beautifully infectious chorus almost handmade for festival season. Best song on the record, too, ‘Night Creature’, is a wavy and grandiose reggae track that takes things down a few notches and increases the chill factor of the record.
While Internationally Unknown’s predecessor, Scum, was a modern day look on the lives of British teens, this record has seen Rat Boy jump ship to record in L.A and it’s to the detriment of the record. ‘So What’, in particular, sounds like a parody of the Beastie Boys, while ‘Flies’ and ‘Dad’s Crashed Car’ evoke the dying embers of the fading early 2000s pop-punk scene. A wholesomely British artist who used to sing about Wetherspoons, it seems a strange decision to embrace this side of his music and water down his product.
Unfortunately, for the most part, Rat Boy seems lost in his influences. Seemingly caught between pleasing his existing fans with his Jamie T-meets-Beastie Boys style indie-rock, his bizarre obsession with Green Day’s American rock and his new influences of ska and reggae, it’s messy and confused at times. Still, Internationally Unknown has its moments and, at its best, it’s a cacophonous and entertaining listen.