You should never judge a book by its cover. Likewise, you shouldn’t judge an album by the picture on the front. While the cover of the Ratchets’ Glory Bound shows four overly tough-looking dudes clad in motorcycle jackets, their music is nothing less than honest, working class punk rock and roll that shows that convention can still go a long way when you combine talent, passion, and meaning.
To put it simply, the Ratchets sound a lot like the Clash. Combining elements of `77-style punk, reggae, ska, and rock and roll, they exhibit their Clash influence without sounding like a rip-off, despite singing that often sounds like the ghost of Joe Strummer himself.
The album opens with the catchy punk number “Book of Law,” which leads into the even catchier “Rockers Taking Over,” which starts off in the punk style and dips into some reggae/ska as bassist Dan Desimoni lays down a deep walking bass that transitions the song back into punk just before it ends. “Human Amplifiers” shows off the band’s rock and roll capabilities with some slick classic rock-style guitar playing coupled with honest, inspiring lyrics. The song “Ration” is a paradigm of a technique that is used throughout the album in which one guitar utilizes a moderate amount of distortion, while the other guitar is left mostly undistorted, resulting in somewhat of a garage punk sound.
“Cathedral Bells” has a touch of a tropical feel as a light, relaxed reggae rhythm is underlaid by some smooth Caribbean-style guitar playing. By track 9, the band really breaks out the reggae, as “Proclamation Time” sounds like an updated version of “Guns of Brixton.” Some of the album's best, most political lyrics come from “Skyjack Sunday Starts,” which touches on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: "A New York City rabbi called the leader to come near / …The freedom fighter talked of his people’s needs / With his ways the Rabbi could not agree / 'In your place, son,' he said, 'I may have done the same thing'."
The final track on the album, “Born Wrong” features Franz Nicolay of the Hold Steady playing softly on the piano beneath some unpleasant vocals that nearly kill the song before it really gets going. Once the drums and guitar kick in however, “Born Wrong” becomes one of the strongest tracks on the album.
With so many bands trying so hard to do something new, it’s nice to have a band like the Ratchets to prove that good ol’ fashioned punk rock can still beat the socks off any trendy style in the scene today. Mixing reggae and punk is nothing new, but when it’s done right the result is the Ratchets’ Glory Bound.