Album Review: Rat Scabies – “PHD (Prison, Hospital, Debt)”
Since his acrimonious departure from The Damned some 20-odd years ago, Rat Scabies has been surprisingly quiet creatively. One of the most distinctive drummers of the punk era, he’s still cropped up here and there as part of punk supergroup (with J-pop and desert rock tendencies) The Mutants, as well as short-lived stints in The Bermondsey Joyriders and with his old Damned bandmate Brian James, but PHD, unless I’m mistaken, represents his first proper solo output since leaving messrs Vanian and Sensible behind. Given that he was a pretty consistent songwriter during his two decades with the group, I was interested to see how this one would turn out.
It gets off to a strong start with Chew On You sounding like Marc Bolan and Johnny Thunders meeting up for a jam in some disreputable speakeasy somewhere in the afterlife, before two frenetic instrumentals in the form of My Wrists Hurt and Sing Sing Sing quickly take things off in another direction.
Ah yes, instrumentals. That’s probably something you should know before you buy this album – of the twelve songs here, only three actually have lyrics, with the other nine being instrumental numbers. Of the other two proper songs, Rat’s Opus is a real oddity sounding like Scabies taking a chainsaw to Lionel Bart for a big music hall number, while Dazy Bones has an odd but beguiling kind of psychedelic feel to it which isn’t bad at all.
Elsewhere, the instrumental numbers range from the kooky sci-fi stylings of Floydian Slip which samples speech from two UFO spotters, through the lazy psychedelia of Floating, to the sinister creeping It Feels Like Sunday. It’s certainly not an unpleasant listen, although as with quite a few albums of this kind, you get the impression it was maybe something that was more fun for Scabies to make than for the casual music fan to listen to. But still, not bad.
Prison, Hospital Debt is very much the sound of Rat cutting loose and making the sort of album he's always wanted to because, let's face it, who's going to stop him at this point? More of a curio for fans of his previous work than something that's really going to appeal to casual listeners, it is at least an interesting listen, and certainly shows off the guy's versatility both as a musician and as a songwriter.