Ratatat - Self-Titled
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Ratatat
Self-Titled

Ratatat has been long enough in incubation that it's gone through at least one name change (it was originally known as what is now the last track on the release - "Cherry"). It's the brainchild of Evan Mast (aka E*vax) and Mik Stroud (aka ax player for everyone from Dashboard Confessional to Ben Kweller) and it mixes a love for everything from hip hop to 80s style guitar rock to IDM music. Veering from cheesy to serious in a heartbeat, it's 11 tracks and just about 45 minutes of instrumental music that will have you air-guitaring along and making up vocals for it.

Opening with "Seventeen Years," the release gives you a good idea of what to expect right off the bat. As fairly simple programmed beats thump along, bubbly synth sounds percolate and some serious flaming guitar riffs blare out. It's enough to make the Wyld Stallions pump their arms in ecstacy, and just when you think that "El Pico" is going the way of melodic electronic music in come the guitar riffs again.

It's actually on some of the more mellow tracks that the album is at its most successful. Both "Crips" and "Bustelo" move with a mellow sort of hip-hop flow and while the guitars are present, they only show up in places to add more punch while the programmed electronics take more of the foreground. Of course, when the group lets loose with more of a flying-V style, it works quite well too. "Germany To Germany" moves through some subdued passages before bursting forth with enough riffage to satisfy your favorite hessian for at least a minute.

The biggest problem with the release is that it's simply a little too programmed for it's own good. While it's obvious that the guitar parts are guitars, they're so flawlessly played and produced that it feels like the whole album could have been done by machines. Perhaps that's part of the sterile charm of the release, but a touch of a rough human element couldn't have hurt any. While the riffs are definitely juicy at some points, they never really truly rock out good and hard ever. In some ways, it sounds like 80s arena rock filtered through a subdued electronic laptop filter. All of the above said, it's also a pretty enjoyable listen, and even if you don't think it's sticking in your head on the first listen, you might find yourself humming it later on.

rating: 710
Aaron Coleman 2004-05-27 00:00:00