Ratboys: Printer’s Devil (Topshelf) - Review | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Saturday, January 16th, 2021  

Ratboys

Printer’s Devil

Topshelf

Mar 03, 2020 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


If all you did with Ratboys' latest album, Printer's Devil, was flip over to "Victorian Slumhouse" to listen to the rubbery grooves and hear vocalist Julia Steiner wrap an uncharacteristic drawl around the phrase "Tesco parking lot," you'd probably have a pretty good day. Fortunately, it's just one of many endearing moments on the Chicago-based group's third album. The duo of Steiner (guitar/vocals) and David Sagan (guitar) are joined here by new full-time members Marcus Nuccio (drums) and Sean Neumann (bass). Nuccio and Neumann (sounds like a high end deli) provide the ballast to allow Sagan in particular to go a little nuts. For her part, Steiner more than holds her own in spite of the extra layer of crunchiness.

Look no further than the opening salvo of songs to see that Ratboys are serious about bringing the noise to coat their pop infused melodies. The joys of the amount of time spent off stage while touring are chronicled well in opener "Alien With a Sleep Mask On"—"where are we are again?" The song bristles enough at the beginning, but explodes into an involuntary head-bobber in its final two minutes. The first reflective moment comes four songs in on the hazy "A Vision," where Steiner's sweetly distilled memories are exhaled over finger picked nylon strings.

One of Ratboys' best tricks is to put forth Steiner's most heartfelt lyrics in a crush of guitars and deep rhythms. "Anj" is no doubt a barn-burner, but also hides an open letter to Steiner's childhood babysitter. Roles of caretaker and the cared for subtly shift underneath the band confidently lathering things up. If the first half of Printer's Devil shows the band flexing its muscle, the latter half puts their versatility on display. The aforementioned "Victorian Slumhouse" makes for the album's most retro and carefree moment, while the lush country shadings of "Listening" recall the band's earlier sound. For their final act, the title song's locked in beat overlaid with guitar drones and Steiner's hushed vocals recall the potency of one of Yo La Tengo's strongest concoctions.

In these days of commoditized content, Ratboys dare to bring back one of indie rock's earlier hallmarks: an album full of quality songs by a band that clearly cares about what they put out into the world. Hand selected earlier this year to play an acoustic set at a Bernie Sander's campaign rally, Ratboys' core of Steiner and Sagan are making the most of the moment. For a band that brings the warm reception with them, Printer's Devil should bring them some hard earned returns. (www.ratboysband.com)

Author rating: 8/10

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Average reader rating: 6/10



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