It is a really good time to be a fan of Chicago music right now. Our scene is always vibrant, but we appear to be in another of those mini-movements (that I certainly hope grows larger) where more and more local acts break through nationally. Clearly our hip-hop scene has been pulling its own weight in that regard for a while, but people living outside the city could be forgiven for thinking our “rock” scene is minimal when in fact it just doesn’t get it’s due too far outside the city limits.*
This month Beach Bunny’s debut LP started that charge and today the new Ratboys album, Printer’s Devil continues the movement forward. Lead Ratboys Julia Steiner and her songwriting partner and guitarist Dave Sagan have crafted an absolutely crackling collection of tunes that cements their place near the front of the Chicago pack. On Printer’s Row the band’s previous guitar workouts are more focused, at times entering the same pop territory currently occupied by similar groups like Charly Bliss and Dude York. Opening with the duo of “Alien With a Sleep Mask On” and “Look To,” Ratboys firmly make their statement, climbing to new heights in their songwriting, managing to inject turbulence and pathos into bites of delicious tsunamis of guitars and irresistible hooks.
Even when the band slows things down, you remain hooked, unable to move away from the gauzier soundscapes and whispered confessions. And then, before you know it, you’re amidst an explosion of ebullient sound all over again and the ride continues. It is a really good time to be a Ratboys fan right now.
Ratboys celebrate the release of Printer’s Row with two Chicago shows before heading out on a larger tour behind the album. They play tonight, February 28 at Lincoln Hall, and then again tomorrow, February 29, at The Hideout.
*This is kind of funny when you consider how little actual Chicago music fans draw distinctions between genres, so we’ll lay this one on “media” outside of Chicago.