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.

Sometimes The Best Short Story Is A Song (#24)

I had a room-mate in the mid-90s that produced a fanzine from our living room. I mostly helped him assemble and staple it prior to shipping, but I also wrote the occasional review or interview. It was a pretty good trade-off given the amount of new music that was mailed to him on a weekly basis. That’s how I discovered Guided By Voices, Zumpano, John Spencer Blues Explosion, Railroad Jerk and a host of other 90s Indie rock bands. Among my many musical discoveries during that period, Jonathan Fire*Eater remains one of my favorites.

The band had a crypt-kicking, 60s garage rock sound mixed with a dramatic darkness shared by bands like The Cramps, Pulp and Nick Cave. “Give Me Daughters” was on their 5-song 1996 EP, Tremble Under Boom Lights, which established them as critical darlings. This narcissistic tale starts with a hypnotic organ line before crashing down into the story. Our protagonist envisions his demise via a motorcycle accident, causing him to wish for children who can carry on his bloodline. It’s a murky vision of a future where he hands down his peculiar wisdom to three daughters that worship at his feet—and possibly the only one in which he survives into old age.

Read the lyrics for “Give Me Daughters” HERE.

Previous installments in this series:

S.W. Lauden’s short fiction has been published by Out of the Gutter, Criminal Element, Dark Corners, Dead Guns Magazine, Akashic Books, WeirdBook, Spelk Fiction, Shotgun Honey and Crimespree Magazine. His debut novel, BAD CITIZEN CORPORATION, will be published by Rare Bird Books in October 2015. His novella, CROSSWISE, will be published by Down & Out Books in 2016.