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Ratboys - Happy Birthday, Ratboy Music Album Reviews

Ratboys - Happy Birthday, Ratboy Music Album Reviews
To celebrate its 10th anniversary, the Chicago group pairs new recordings of songs from 2011’s RATBOY EP with a collection of early rarities, contrasting cozy nostalgia with hard-rocking instincts.

Ratboys have every reason to be bitter. After nearly a decade of touring, supporting bands like PUP and Soccer Mommy, the Chicago group had cultivated a rock-solid setlist bridging its recordings’ melodic pop with a heavier live sound. Following 2017’s mesmeric GN, songwriting partners Julia Steiner and Dave Sagan rounded out their roster, adding touring bassist Sean Neumann and drummer Marcus Nuccio as full-time members before returning to the studio for their third full-length. When Bernie Sanders shouted them out at an Iowa campaign stop, it became a meme. 2020 should have been their year.
It wasn’t. Printer’s Devil, which would have been a career-defining record in virtually any other timeline, arrived on February 28, 2020. The anthemic “Anj” and “Alien With a Sleep Mask On” never knew a concert hall or festival stage. Ratboys canceled their first headline tour and relegated the album’s nervy guitar pop to acoustic live streams recorded amidst IKEA furnishings. Confined indoors, the quartet was moved to revisit past triumphs, rearranging old demos and concert staples for the new lineup. Happy Birthday, Ratboy, released to coincide with the band’s 10th anniversary, packages new recordings of songs from 2011’s RATBOY EP with a collection of early rarities and one new song, “Go Outside.”

Approached as a companion piece, Happy Birthday, Ratboy is somber and reflective where Printer’s Devil was ebullient and hopeful. But like all of Ratboys’ music, the songs have a glowing warmth even when the guitars roar and Steiner’s vocals border on a piercing shriek. The new RATBOY arrangements are faithful to the midtempo afternoon ambience of the original EP, which Steiner and Sagan recorded as undergrads at Notre Dame. “The Stanza,” which recalls high-school reading lists and nail-biting teenage listlessness, is outfitted with a more punctuated slap-guitar touch, while “Key” swells with a drowsy chorus and woozy synth solo. They also punch up the jangly folk of “Down the River” from the 2011 version.

Steiner describes Ratboys’ sound as “post-country,” which doesn’t quite fit. Their catalog is split between intimate folk pop and louder indie rock, and both strains are approachably earnest in a way that only rarely verges on melodrama. As a lyricist, Steiner finds poignancy in glancing portraits—a little boy playing on train tracks beyond view of his preoccupied father, a dead housecat overstaying its welcome in the kitchen freezer—which together approximate a clear-eyed Americana. When she writes about growing up, her focus drifts to unexamined, interstitial moments, as on “Intense Judgment”: “On the second of July, I stubbed my toe/It was 2010 and my brother was in Mexico.” Her narratives are conscious of guilt, yet redeemed by close embraces. On “Down the River,” her narrator leaves a six-pack of Heineken on a gravestone.

But Steiner and Sagan’s earworm-y melodies have a timeless quality, and Happy Birthday, Ratboy gets really interesting on its back half, where the double-tracked vocals and snarling basslines resemble Veruca Salt and Juliana Hatfield’s mid-’90s work. “Collected” lurches between jagged verses and radiant chorus; the half-time instrumental breakdown features Sagan’s most psychedelic performance in memory. His playing is equally striking on “Cacao to Cacao,” which conjures early Third Eye Blind in its pacing and precise composition.

“Have a Heart” is the record’s most ambitious arrangement, laying violins over guitars for a stirring climax, but Happy Birthday, Ratboy is most rewarding when Ratboys contrast cozy nostalgia with their hard-rocking instincts. To balance the enrapturing melody of “88 Fingers Edward,” the engineering emphasizes Neumann’s rugged bass and Sagan’s growling guitar chords. Steiner’s soft voice lilts in wistful memory: “Follow me back where we were when everything was right/And we were humming and our mouths were dry, we didn’t say it but we liked/When 18 was the age of walking in and doing things you couldn’t do/When you younger, you were dumber, but you’ll be older soon.” Then Steiner pleads, “So give me a nod, and some time to look around,” and the song launches into a two-and-a-half minute instrumental digression, both guitars soaring through a momentous key change. It took them a while to get here, but Ratboys were always sitting on a goldmine.
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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
Ratboys - Happy Birthday, Ratboy Music Album Reviews Ratboys - Happy Birthday, Ratboy Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on Tuesday, April 13, 2021 Rating: 5

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