'GN" by Ratboys, album review by Adam Williams.

Topshelf Records




From country-esque twangs to the delicately hushed vocals of guitarist Julia Steiner, Ratboy’s sophomore album ‘GN’ is rooted in organic soil; fertile ground for the duo’s homely tunes, that are part conceptual, part confessional. The album plays out with a raw intimacy with themes of travel, nostalgia, family and a touch of the dark and macabre, littered amongst the record’s 10 songs.

On the surface, the country tinged rock ‘n’ roll found on ‘GN’ appears to be lonesome and simple but there are times when the tracks can fray at the ends – with shards of riffs and swathes of fret manipulation splintering off in many directions. This can be attributed to Dave Sagan’s dextrous approach to the guitar and how he bends and breaks his instrument to create walls of textured sound. It isn’t uncommon for a song to commence upon meagre foundations, for it then to slowly swell into a sprawling, understated behemoth. That’s the thing with ‘GN’ it creeps up on you but instead of hitting you with a jolting BOO! the sonic evolution unravels slowly; you notice that no longer are you listening to a song made up of brittle acoustic strums and a solitary vocal but a full-bodied alt-rock song that’s cinematic and expansive.

‘GN’ mostly trades on an intimate lyrical theme but in amongst the introspection, Ratboys have distributed the occasional patch of darkness. Opening track ‘Molly’ contains the eyebrow raiser of “I just want to love my family/hold my shelter and lie in the symmetry” while album closer ‘Peter The Wild Boy’ has Steiner asking “Peter what makes you sad? How in the world did you let it get this bad?”. Elsewhere ‘Westside’ paints the picture of Steiner being dislocated from her familiar surroundings “On the Westside I’m far from home/I’m always far from home” and to ram home the point of isolation and despair she confesses some inner turmoil “cry hard and all alone”. Sorrow and dejection are diluted by a loving tone spelt out by words of affection. ‘The Record’s glowing heart is framed by “I want to spend the rest of my life doing everything with you” and ‘Wandered’s warmth is that of an autumn afternoon stroll as the leaves change colour to amber “take my wrist and lead me into the light”.

Ratboys may have created an album that’s a true depiction of life; it’s slightly bruised and vulnerable but open to love and compassion.

Words and thoughts of Adam Williams