You Dirty Rats is the latest project of Rudy Colombo, the singer/songwriter/guitarist of The Humbuckers and a former member of The Gypsy Moths, Billy the Six and NC Rail. But, unlike those other projects — Colombo's Asheville presence dates back to the 1990s — You Dirty Rats is a departure from the country-influenced songs Colombo usually writes.
"Don't hang yourself on my rope, don't blind yourself on my light, don't cut yourself on my knife," he sings on one garage-y, grunge-tinged number, performed recently at Lexington Avenue Brewery. "It's a first, literally," said guitarist/vocalist Stacy Moore (who also played with the Humbuckers). "We're baby rats."
For a debut show, the band performed like seasoned veterans. Which, of course, they are. Both Colombo and Richie Tipton — Colombo's collaborator from NC Rail and Billy the Six, and the headliner of the night with his new band, The First Kings — are known for putting together musical acts as outlets for their song writing abilities.
But, while these musicians are adept and prolific, they never take themselves too seriously, adopting alter egos for each new band. In You Dirty Rats, Colombo goes by "Templeton," Moore is "Remy," bassist Jeff Baucom is "Heffe" and drummer Will Chatham (of The Whappers) goes by "Señor Cats."
But the silliness stops at the aliases. Well, and a few song lyrics: "I'm Such a Sucker When She Puckers," delivered with slow-menacing guitar, straightforward percussion and almost-menacing lyrics, is worth a giggle. But it's also a good, solid rock song, drawing from both the '80s and '90s bands on which these musicians were schooled, along with spare, modern rock influences.
The crowd at LAB was decent-sized: You Dirty Rats, the First Kings and the evening's other opener — Matthew Knights Williams — draw from a similar fan-and-friend base and the audience seemed to know what they were in for. This wasn't a dancing a crowd, but there was keen sense of appreciation and plenty of nodding to the beat.
But even without dancers, You Dirty Rats played with plenty of conviction and energy, from their "Hey, hey" choruses to inventive-but-structured guitar solos and aggressive-but-practiced rhythms. Moore and Columbo traded off lead vocal duties, with Moore tending toward a showier performance while Columbo's style is warmer.
One thing you can count on with any of Columbo's projects: Good, solid songs and excellent musicianship. You Dirty Rats doesn't disappoint on that front, but the quartet does turn out a refreshingly edgy show. Hopefully an album and plenty of live appearances are in their future.
Learn more at myspace.com/youdirtyrats.