The Rat (song)

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"The Rat"
Single by The Walkmen
from the album Bows + Arrows
B-side "Clementine"
Released April 19, 2004
Format CD, 7"
Genre Post-punk revival, indie rock
Length 4:22
Label Record Collection
Producer(s) Dave Sardy
The Walkmen singles chronology
"Let's Live Together"
"The Rat"
"Little House of Savages"
Music sample

"The Rat" is a song by The Walkmen, released as the first single from their second album, Bows + Arrows in 2004. It has received high acclaim from critics, featuring in many publications' best-of-the-decade lists.

Composition and recording[edit]

Singer Hamilton Leithauser said the song originated in a jam session when the band were "just screwin' around." The band's drummer Matt Barrick instigated the track by playing a fast drum pattern. The band then quickly built this foundation into the full track, Leithauser said "we threw some chords on it, I wrote the words in five minutes." The song had been included in the band's live sets as early as February 2002, with slightly different lyrics than the recorded version.[1]

The band's usual method was to self-produce their material. However, after unsuccessful attempts to record the layered electric organ and guitar, they decided to record the track with a professional record producer at the advice of their label. This was later viewed as an unsatisfactory move by bassist Walter Martin who said "It doesn't sound right at all. I think the production for the rest of the album makes the music sound big and live. But it just sounds dense and solid."[2]

Ezra Koenig, who worked as an intern for the band, says the song was originally titled "Girls At Night" and was recorded a year after it was first played to him.[3]

Music video[edit]

The video features a live performance shot in black and white making use of chiaroscuro.

Critical reception[edit]

The track has received highly positive critical acclaim, featuring in many end-of-decade lists. It was named thirteenth best track of the decade by NME[4] and 20th best track of the 2000s by Pitchfork Media who named it "a St. Valentine's Day Massacre of relentless drums, bass, and guitar."[5] Rolling Stone called it "one of the greatest songs of the century".[1] Modern Drummer magazine praised Barrick's performance as "a jaw-dropping exercise in precision and velocity".[6] In October 2011, NME placed it at number 31 on its list "150 Best Tracks of the Past 15 Years".[7]

Stylus Magazine took a different slant saying that the song's 'one-hit wonder' success "was the worst thing to ever happen to The Walkmen. It brought the iPod-lazy—singles, MP3s, mix and matchers—to their shows and records."[8]

The song is featured on the soundtrack of Dirt 2.

Cover versions[edit]

Florence and The Machine covered the track as part of a series on Myspace Music.[9]

Track listing[edit]

CD & 7"[edit]

  1. "The Rat"
  2. "Clementine"