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THE CRITIC: LP4 Shows Ratatat Running Out Of Gas

by Rudy Klapper 7 June 2010 221 views One Comment E-mail Rudy Klapper

Ratatat - LP4

XL Recordings 2010

Rating: 6/10


It’s not easy to create a distinctive brand of music that the everyday listener can categorically describe as “yours,” but that’s what Brooklyn-based duo Ratatat have managed to pull off since their 2004 debut. That combination of Mike Stroud’s signature high-pitched guitar sound and Evan Mast’s fluid bass lines and break-beat drum rhythms is practically a trademark, having that rare ability to be heard and immediately attributed to these electro/house/indie rock/whatever practitioners even if one is barely familiar with them. It’s even tougher to sustain that kind of success in an instrumental genre, where ideas fly past their expiration dates even quicker than usual and bands with an innovative sound soon find those same ideas turning on them, sapped of originality and joie de vivre.

Props to Ratatat, then, for making it well past the average lifespan of an instrumental rock band and making it to this, their fourth proper album. As expected, LP4 is a fairly traditional Ratatat record; weeping guitar lines, busy rhythm work, the occasional oddball instrumental flourish, and beats that fairly scream at you to chill out. It’s all very well and good, and if you’re a longtime Ratatat fan, chances are you’ll love this record. But if you were expecting any groundbreaking leap, any change whatsoever from a band long accustomed to fiddling with the same set of sounds over and over again, don’t come to LP4 for it. Hell, LP4 comes from the very same sessions that produced LP3, something listeners of that latter album will probably be able to tell right off the bat. The songs are denser, more packed with experimental side tracks and exotic accents, but they lack that certain oomph, that stick-in-your-head-no-matter-what-you-do quality that made an album like 2006’s Classics such a, uh, classic.

Is this a bad thing? Certainly not, if you’re into Ratatat, and some songs here almost manage to stand up to some of the masterpieces of Classics: the deceptively slow opening of “Drugs” that rapidly degenerates into a filthy synth-fueled dance party, the occasional symphonic sample or mandolin bit that crops up on a song like the Eastern-flavored “Bare Feast,” the impeccably layered single “Party With Children,” complete with sexy harp. Stroud and Mast are still two of the best beat alchemists around, able to craft layer upon layer of instrument and sounds to brilliant effect, but it still sounds like you’ve all heard it before. It all leads to LP4 having little identity of its own, with the unfortunate tendency for tracks to blur into one another. It’s good for a low-key party, or as background music as you do something else that requires a bit more brainpower, but as an artistic statement, LP4 gives off the unmistakable impression that Ratatat just may have finally run out of gas.

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