If Rat Bath was a video game, it would be a video game loaded with (free!) DLC. The Milwaukee group’s debut album, 2022’s Rat From Hell, wasn’t just an opening level of cowpunk, queercore, and self-described “y’allternative” tunes, but a fully realized concept album about a witch defeating a trauma-signifying demon. Songs like the blistering “Bone Eater” (“I bet you would have liked to hold my breath and shattered teeth / But if anything I was meant to light this fire at your feet”) and the moody “At Least You’re Lonely Too” (“I’m so lonely /That I could almost settle for you”) told a complex and personal story while still delivering plenty of hooks and instrumental heroics. Not bad for a group initially formed to settle a bet about whether or not My Chemical Romance was a country band.
The DLC is even more pronounced on Rat Bath’s sophomore album, Call Me A Monster, due November 10. First of all, Monster is a queer dual-character “murder country rock opera” about a star-crossed vampire (Susanna) and time-traveler (Cadence). Second of all, the lead-up to the record release show (November 10 at The Back Room @ Colectivo, with Gold Steps and Kat And The Hurricane) has come complete with a DIY alternate reality game of in-character journal entries hidden throughout the city, secret prizes, and mind-bending lore. If you’re a fan of collecting and obsessing over every single note, letter, and audio log in an 80-hour video game, Call Me A Monster is for you.
Also more pronounced on the new record: Rat Bath’s country leanings. Opener “Sweeter Than Blood, Softer Than Skin” finds Fred Kenyon, Cora Bequeaith, Róisín Shields, Ivy Escobedo, and Nikki Nelson delivering a shit-kicking hootenanny of the highest order. “Mercy I Cried” is a dusty ballad that’s both haunting and theatrical. Meanwhile, the quasi-title track “Calling All Monsters” alternates between cow-poke gallop and fiery freak-out. It’s another fantastic record from one of Milwaukee’s best bands.
“They will haunt you, they will keep you, they will eat you from underneath your skin,” Kenyon sings in the closing moments of “Calling All Monsters.” The song, album, and band, too, get underneath your skin. Before Call Me A Monster drops on November 10, listen to “Calling All Monsters” below: