The Ratchets - Heart Of Town (Cover Artwork)

The Ratchets

Heart Of Town (2005)

Pirate's Press

For younger fans who haven't yet unearthed some of punk rock's most celebrated classics, Heart Of Town might be something of a curveball. The echo of the 70's punk canon -- bastardized and/or buried by most bands associating themselves with "punk music" -- has eroded almost beyond recognition. For the most part, that's how it should be; sounds are supposed to evolve. Things are supposed to change.

But it's becoming increasingly difficult to cut through the sea of shitty bands. So while the Ratchets will find comparisons to the Clash hard to avoid or dispute, maybe that's not a bad thing. After all, we've got plenty of pop-punk bands singing about girls, and plenty of modern mosh / nü-metal dressed up to resemble something more authentic -- and so many times, these bands are impotent, vacant, and totally disposable. So if the next big sound gives birth to so much useless music, maybe looking back in time is worthwhile. It's not like we're overwhelmed with mature, roots-rock-reggae-influenced bands in 2005.

With all Clash comparisons set safely to the side, an objective look at Heart Of Town reveals an incredibly catchy and extremely memorable EP. There is something inherently smooth about the Ratchets, a genuine feel the band has for the music they are playing that makes you want to listen to the same songs over and over. And the Ratchets' understated deftness in blending surf and reggae into their rock songs is really quite impressive. Maybe it's because so many bands have tried to do this and failed miserably, but then that's even more reason to pay attention. Either way, the raspy, yet tuneful vocals, the well-placed guitar leads, the storytelling implicit in both the arrangements and vocals: It all makes for a great offering. Heart Of Town is at once airy and electric, anthemic and cynical, raw and polished.

Both the writing and recording of this EP reveal a focus that most bands never even graze. What makes this so interesting is that Heart Of Town is the Ratchets' first proper release. Maybe this was foretold; their demo was met with both fan and critical acclaim, recorded after three practices.

The Ratchets are taking something vaguely old and making it into something vaguely new. What would one call that -- timelessness? Either way, "Iraqi Vice" (track 2) is a hit.