Great Album Review in the UMASS Collegian!

Debut Doug Ratner LP packs a punch

By: Dave Coffey | November 22, 2010 |ShareThisShareThis

As a musical genre, good ol’ fashioned rock n’ roll is exactly what it sounds like on paper: a hard-hitting, roll-with-the-punches, guitar-solo first ask questions later kind of experience. That is, it should be all those things, as long it avoids the common pitfall of diluting itself to a more calculated standard (re: Nickelback).

Fortunately, such problems are anything but present on “Eye To Eye,” Springfield rocker Doug Ratner’s debut studio LP. This is what you call a lunch-break record: straightforward, compact and, most importantly, thoroughly enjoyable. In fact, clocking in at a lean 38 minutes, “Eye To Eye” might just rival Weezer’s back catalogue for shortest record you immediately want to listen to again.

Ratner’s throwback brand of stomping rock tunes is pretty much the 24-hour diner of music: no frills. Anywhere. Right from the get-go, “I Still Fall” is a bottle rocket of an opener. Combining AC/DC-like riffage with a clear-cut Ramones-era punk rhythmic attack, the pace is set for the next few songs.

Anyone with ears can tell Ratner is certainly well-read in the stylings of classic rock and punk, with some special attention clearly paid to the sections dedicated to The Who and The Clash, respectively. But while the majority of the album chugs along with a don’t-look-back attitude, it’s far from a one-dimensional sound. Ratner and co. clearly sport some substantial shades of surf, reggae and ska that give most of the album a rather unique, island-jammy aura over its solid rock foundation.

The latter musical motifs come to a head midway through the album at “Dust Part 2,” an acoustic beach-rock instrumental that catches the listener off-balance in the best way possible with its gentle intertwining guitars. This interesting little number opens up the mellower midsection of the album wherein Ratner formidably tackles two ballads, proving he can throw down in multiple musical and emotional shades of songwriting. Especially standing out is the slightly melancholic yet insanely catchy “Alone Again,” displaying Ratner’s softest, most melodic side on the album.

Pulling into the final stretch, “Eye to Eye” begins to pick up the pace again once more. Powering through the dark boogie blues rock of “Bottle Me Up,” the album finishes up on the frantic jolt rocker “Melatonin,” the second longest song on the record. Ending on a fade-out erratic guitar solo, the album comes full circle and ends with the similar no-holds-barred rock attitude it began with.

While there’s not exactly any virtuoso work demanded by the instrumental duties of “Eye To Eye,” the musicians clearly know what they’re doing, and then some. There’s some pretty awesome axe skills showed off in more than a few guitar solos across the board, the most notably impressive of which range from the drippingly sweet, melodic slide work in “Alone Again” to the melt-your-face-in-30-seconds-flat solo section in “Bottle Me Up.” The rhythm section constantly holds down a tight groove while weaving through a variety of styles, sometimes even in the midst of one song. It’s also worth noting the kick-butt breakdown in “Ahead Along” before the solo is about as close as you’re going to get to a drum solo in a four-minute song without it turning into a wankfest.

Overall, this album is special because it packs a wallop of a punch with its no-nonsense, flying by the seat of your pants garage-retro rock. “Eye to Eye” is a gift of epic rock n’ roll proportions in its purest form.

Dave Coffey can be reached at dscoffey@student.umass.edu.