Much too often, fence-straddling, genre-bending albums come across as contrived works with a lack of direction and no noticeable motive in sight. It seems the purposeful incorporation of “this and that” creates more musical confusion than cohesion. That being said, the above does not apply to Doug Ratner’s latest studio release. And while the album’s myriad of influences is worn on the sleeve, Ratner has in fact made them see “Eye To Eye.”
The album opens to a three-track onslaught of punk-laced, guitar-driven rock. “I Still Fall” is a raucous guitar and vocal frenzy a la vintage Ramones. “Red Head” is replete with staccato guitar riff work, a healthy melding of alt and punk sensibility along with Ratner channeling Social Distortion’s Mike Ness on the vocal delivery. “As Good As it Seems” chugs along in a beachy, surf rock vein with a clever time change foreshadowing the solo at the midpoint. Then something happens…
“Dust Part 2” is the album break and marks the emergence of acoustic melody. Though only clocking in at not quite two minutes, acoustic prowess and guitar interplay are the showcase facets of the track. Between the intermittent strums and picking, the melody is infectious. My only problem is its brevity. It left me wondering where the rest of the track would/could go. Title track “Eye To Eye” picks up the album pace again with a straightforward, toe-tapping melody. And while the musicality is still there, it’s the sage lyrical matter that stands at the foreground. When I read that Ratner said the album was “very biographical” this is the track that came to mind. “Melatonin” rounds out the album with another guitar and vocal onslaught. There are no frills or effects-laden tricks here, just a through and through rock tune straight up to the anthemic midpoint guitar solo.
Despite weighing in at a slight 38 minutes, the clever arrangement of tracks makes Eye To Eye seem longer than it is. It has the necessary peaks and valleys to offer up a “complete” album and the genre mash of intelligent pop and honest rock lends likeability to all listeners. Garage-y and retro but polished and contemporary, this is a respectable outing for sure.
By Chris West – firstname.lastname@example.org[Rating: 3.5/5]