May 12, 2010

Aaron Frank did not name his column. The title stems from a certain editor’s penchant for bad puns and an affinity for both Frank and Dank and “There’s Something About Mary.”

Ratatat may need a life coach. Not like I believe in life coaches per se, but there have been bad decisions of late. Like blowing their XL money on a video with nothing but a white parakeet, or releasing stale material cut during the 2007 recording sessions for LP3, they seem to be taking career advice from MGMT, Kid Cudi, and the weird voices that occur after a couple lbs. of the sweetest cheeba.

Three successful LPs and two widely acclaimed mixtapes deep, the NY experimental duo seems to be exhausting their creative wellspring. When I saw these guys last Spring at the Palladium, they put on such a spellbinding, phenomenal show that “filler” was one of the last things I would expect from their new album. An hour and a half of soaring guitar riffs and blaring bass, all backed by a kaleidoscopic light show, was an ADD crackhead’s worst nightmare, and one music critic’s excellent Saturday night. As for the lingering rumors about the glowsticks and blue dolphins, I plead the fifth on the advice of my legal representation.

So yeah, their new album was a big a disappointment. Granted, there are some good songs on LP4, but nothing like the attraction of past standouts like “Shiller”, “Mirando” or even older jams like “Loud Pipes.” Longtime fans may notice the near absence of any hip-hop influence, which worked so well for them on their remix projects and likely got them their gig picking a better nickname for Scott Mescudi than “Mr. Solo Dolo.” Whereas, LP3 had a smooth cosmic lilt,  LP4 just feels disjointed and predictable.

Some of the best songs on the album feel like obvious outtakes from LP3 (“Drugs”, “Sunblocks”, “Mahalo”), and come awkwardly sandwiched between newer, more experimental songs, most of which fall flat. One song that totally nails it is “Neckbrace”, which combines some of their psychedelic influences with an uptempo dance rhythm and some slicing hi-hats. As good as that one track is, the opener “Bilar” comes off sounding like something from Now That’s What I Call Dubstep Vol. 12 and sets the album back from the start. Tracks like “Alps” and “We Can’t Be Stopped” similarly lack the character and emotion exhibited on previous efforts. LP4 puts Ratatat in an odd position. While a lot of people will still probably enjoy this album, it’s definitely risky to put out something so obviously rushed while still trying to find an identity. Maybe this woman can help.

MP3: Ratatat- “Party With Children”

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