Short Story in a Song — “The Rat”

If you asked me in the mid-90s what one band I thought was destined for indie rock stardom, I probably would have said Jonathan Fire*Eater. With great songwriting, a retro sound and an art-damaged vibe, this five-piece quintet seemed like the perfect New York response to the wave of Brit Pop crashing on America’s shores. Unfortunately, despite releasing a handful of solid albums and singles, the band broke up after their major label debut, Wolf Songs for Lambs. Bad news for their fans, but a phoenix soon rose from the ashes in the form of The Walkmen featuring three members of Jonathan Fire*Eater and two from The Recoys.

The Walkmen are an equally talented band with several impressive songs in their arsenal, but we’re here today to talk about “The Rat.” Propelled by a relentless drum beat that is truly impressive to witness live, the real energy in this track comes from the short story worthy lyrics. As the title implies, our narrator has leveled his disdainful gaze upon somebody that seriously betrayed him. Although it’s never made clear exactly who this backstabber is, it’s easy to imagine them as an ex-lover, a former friend—or both. Whatever the nature of their grievous transgression, it left our protagonist emotionally bruised and isolated from the world he once knew. Now the sinner has come crawling back and it’s tearing our hero apart.

Read the full lyrics for The Walkmen’s “The Rat” right HERE.

More “Short Story in a Song” posts:

S.W. Lauden is the author of the Greg Salem punk rock P.I. series includes BAD CITIZEN CORPORATIONGRIZZLY SEASON and HANG TIME (Rare Bird Books). He is also the co-host of the Writer Types podcast. Steve lives in LA.


  1. JF*E were awesome, no doubt about it. AS fer the Walkmen, I think this is their best song. Didn’t like Hamilton Leithauser’s vibe compared to Stuart Lupton’s weirdo vibe. Plus, Leithauser is too goddamn tall. There should be a limit on how tall rock stars are. Have you heard Lupton’s Childballads? Thanks for this reminder of both bands, though!

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