Rat Cat Hogan

We're Bicoastal

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Herbert Bergel, who, with drummer Robbie Skrocki, constitutes Rat Cat Hogan, is a musical diarist interested in writing songs that detail the ordinary, mundane aspects of his life, whether that involves a "Business Trip to Portland," a "Blackout," or the trip to a punk rock club recounted in "Doctor Explosion." Of course, it's exactly this directly autobiographical approach that makes his songs unusual and striking, that and the way Bergel writes lyrics, with no rhymes and little structure. The underlying music, which varies from melodic folk-rock to nearly atonal punk, rolls along, and over it Bergel recites his observations in a sing-song voice. Jonathan Richman and Lou Reed, other performers who often shoehorn lyrics into musical forms, come to mind in comparison, but Bergel takes the style even further. His songs are all like "Frank Mills" from Hair, with run-on lyrics sung as recitative instead of in verses and choruses. Bergel doesn't always restrict himself to reality, either. "I Never Run Into Anybody" offers a clue in its title that its tale of running into an old school friend on a train may be a fantasy, which Bergel confirms in the final line: "All right. It wasn't really her." But whether his reflections on dead relatives and buying a cat are true or not, they are certainly quirky. To Bergel, his life is his art, and he doesn't let much get in the way of his self-expression.

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