Ratboys - GL

by Mark Moody Rating:8 Release Date:2018-02-23
Ratboys - GL
Ratboys - GL

Indie rock/folk band Ratboys return from last year’s excellent and tuneful GN (short for Good Night) album with a wisp of a four song EP titled GL (short for Good Luck - sorry all you accountants out there).  The primary band members are Julia Steiner (vocals/guitar) and David Sagan (guitar) who have been together almost ten years now but aren’t exactly prolific, though that seems to have changed of late.  In addition to an earlier album, the band released a split single with Dowsing last year as well as the sophomore LP.  Even though GL consists of outtakes from last year’s album, it shows a commitment to release new music and the band has been consistently touring as well.  Steiner’s sugary vocals and the tangle of her guitar with Sagan’s hearken back to the early college radio glory days of the late 80s/early 90s.  To be specific and after listening to them over the past year, the previous era band and album that comes most to mind is the early Matador gem of Bettie Serveert’s Palomine (see review in our Lost Classics section also published today).  Both bands benefit from a strong female vocalist, though at times they both verge on the earnestly frail giving an edge of authenticity.  The vocals are surrounded by a swirl of hooks, riffs and Crazy Horse style crunch of guitars in places that, particularly for today, serve as notice that guitar based rock is not dead.

While the band described these four songs as outtakes, they sound fresh and thematically linked.  The title song is a briskly moving tell off to “a big hearted liar” who inflicted pain on not just Steiner, but her friend as well.  She doesn’t fully let him off the hook, but describes the offender as “a broken boy, and I know that it hurts”, all as Sagan fires echoey solos with pounding drums and guitar flares as the song closes.  Pedal steel flavors ‘You’ve Changed’ along with a folky loop of guitar.  The beautiful melody hides another broken relationship story with the nonchalant but cutting line “we’re happenstance and objectively boring”.  Not something you want to hear from your gal!

The fleeting march of ‘Figure’ is barely there and over in under two minutes, but it’s punchy and tuneful nonetheless.  The longest track here, ‘After School’ is split in two starting with gently tapped drums and chiming guitar as Steiner recalls an awkward school yard encounter.  But as she bends to tie her shoe the background swirls behind her subject.  The song breaks forth here to the EP's most energetic pace which is supplemented by a trumpet call.  Steiner’s question of “have you ever seen such Holy light” seems to build her confidence in a hoped for outcome, much as Bettie Serveert leader Carol van Dijk finds herself while watching the “yellow light on the crowd” in the quarter century old ‘Tom Boy’ - some things never change and hope springs eternal.

If you missed last year’s GN, it’s an essential companion and entry point to this worthwhile EP.  The line drawing of Sagan in a meditative state also makes a perfect bookend to GN's cover of Steiner.  It wouldn’t be a proper Edward R. Murrow sign-off after all without Good Night and Good Luck.    

 

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