While the sound of post-punk dance seems to be Chik Chik Chik, the rest of the world asks the question, “Yes, but what is the sound of hip-pop bedroom video game dance rock?” Ok, so maybe no one asked that question, but Evan Mast and Mike Stroud dared to give the answer, and that answer is `Ratatat’. The two young collaborators have just released their first self-titled album together under the name and it is sure to please music enthusiasts of all types.
The first thing to notice about the album is that Ratatat defies genre. It has hip-hop beats, but it also has crunchy Weezer-like guitars. It has dreamy bedroom Frenchy keyboards, but it also has a geeky Commodore / Atari / Intellivision video game feel. The first track, “Seventeen Years”, delves into the brain with its fuzzy bassline, stuttering lead guitar, and danceable handclaps. One of my favorites from the CD is the second track, entitled “El Pico”. Starting out like an Air tune, at about 1:20 into the song, a direction change is made, straight into the Main Street Electrical Parade at Euro Disney. The second time through the `chorus’, the guitars are disguised, as they often are on the album, as digital instruments. And man, can they boogie!
The absence of `traditional’ guitar sounds makes for two things: an interesting subtle and new sound or one reminiscent of video games old and new. There were times I swore that a particular riff was stolen from an Activision game I had for my Atari 2600, and then there were times that I was sure that Ratatat must have been commissioned to soundtrack the latest Final Fantasy game. Heck, both could be true. Maybe that’s why they’re giving away a Playstation 2 in a contest via their website.
“Everest” begins with their best Sigur Ros impression, and then heads back into Moog territory anew. “Bustelo” adds a little reggae guitar into the mix. How many genres must they use? We get it! And we like it! So why am I shouting? I just likes me some of this album. You want to hear what a slow jam sounds like without lyrics? Check out “Lapland”. Smoov, with a `v’.
“Germany to Germany” shows that Brian May was also a heavy influence, particularly during their awful Flash Gordon years. I kept expecting to hear, “Flash! Aaaaa-aaaa! He’ll save every one of us!” and not in a good way. But the song is still great! They pull off some of the cheesiest sounding stuff imaginable and make it into great pop music. That takes cajones, my peeps.
In the end, Ratatat is a love story. Huh? Yeah, that’s right. After Evan flirted with the alias E*Vax and Mike played around with Ben Kweller and Dashboard Confessional, they eventually found each other. Awwwww. Ain’t that cute? And boy are we glad they got together because they made one hell of a genre-bending album with a little something for the hip-hoppers, the be-boppers, the jammers, the geeks, the rockers, and the elitists. It is all things to all people. Ok, maybe that’s a little too far. But it DOES have one of the coolest album covers I’ve seen in a while …at least since Chik Chik Chik.
Air- Moon Safari
The Moog Cookbook
Postal Service- Give Up