should have smelt a ratShould Have Smelt a Rat – The Howlin’ Rats (self released)

 The debut album from this Newcastle, Australia, trio is an auspicious one. Its sound harks back to the early ‘70s, and it sits out in the blues rock cosmos like an orphan child of Chain, Blue Cheer and the early Deep Purple. 

Unlike the body of work that Chain left behind, it’s light on for the boogie beat. The Howlin’ Rats cook up a main of prog rock-tinged doom with a mild sense of psychedelics-induced foreboding on the side. It’s the blues, Scotty, but probably not as you know it. Someone get them on a bill with Datura4.

The Howlin’ Rats came about from a jam at a 2019 open mic at Hiss & Crackle Records in Newcastle’s Wallsend Delta when nobody else showed up.

Tony Fairlie (drums) Mitchell Easton (guitar and vocals) and Hobbit Harry (bass and vocals) keep it simple in the songwriting. There’s an occasional ring-in on backing vocals or upright bass, but “Should Have Smelt a Rat” is mostly the trio’s own work.. 

Last things first and it’s the closing rack “Buchinsky Part 2” that leaves the lingering impression with its keening, razor-toothed slide guitar, creeping bottom end and vaguely Baroque chant. “Boogeyman” and the gnarly “Vixen” are mongrel blues. It’s a “bitsa” as in btts of this and bits of that.

Two songs, “The Parade” (the harmonica-blowing, boogie-space rock odd man out) and “Two Pacs” are reprised from the band’s debut EP. It’s not cheating when they’re both keepers, by the way. 

“La Mia Memoria Nera” is the closest to a straight-up rocker. It’s built on a cast iron riff with licks on top. Tony Fairlie fairly beats his kit into the ground (see what I did there?) to take this one out. 

If you came for the view of the swamp, “Been Too Long” will sort you out.

This one’s available on vinyl, CD, cassette and digital. Let Bandcamp be your online retail channel of choice or swing past Hiss and Crackle Records and pick up one in person. I hear it’s a happening place.