Reviewed by Brett Thorne.
On Ratatat’s fourth album for XL Recordings, the appropriately titled LP4 (these guys know how to cut to the chase), Mike Stroud and Evan Mast diverge very little from the path that has taken them to the top of the stoner-dance, chill-wave scene and breathe new life into the expression “If it’s not broken, keep making carbon copies of it.”
A headlining slot at last year’s Fun Fun Fun Fest and collaborations with acts like Kid Cudi, Animal Collective and Bjork confirm that the band is doing something right.
Then again, Nickelback just sold two million albums in the time it took you to read this sentence so maybe the meter stick used to judge musical quality is becoming less reliable.
The first time I ever heard a Ratatat song I thought, “Wow, that’s an interesting guitar tone.” Then I heard another song and thought “Wow. They really like that tone.” Then I heard a different song and thought “Wait. Have I just listened to the same three songs on repeat?”
At Fun Fun Fun Fest, the band put on a grandiose show complete with video projections and a fantastic light show, but for me, the music failed to match the visual spectacle. As my friends danced at the front of the stage among clouds of smoke and drug enthusiasts of every variety, I stood in the back wondering when one song ended and another began.
It’s no secret that Mike Stroud likes the mysterious distorted sliding sound he gets out of his vintage Epiphone, but on LP3 the band began to branch out into a more organic sound with some songs taking on a world music feel. These songs continue in that vein. In fact, many of LP4’s tracks were recorded in the same recording session that spawned the previous album.
Stand-out tracks like “Bilar” and “Drugs” continue the trend of broader instrumentation with the former concluding in a buildup of violin, cello and the standard wash of Ratatat digital effects. The effect, while nothing new, occasionally borders on transcendent.
Tracks like the ornamental “Mahalo” and “We Can’t Be Stopped” fail to sound like anything more than filler pulled from the scrap pile of the LP3 sessions.
Fans of Ratatat’s previous work will find a comfortable, unchallenging album in LP4, devoid of growth, evolution or anything else we have come to not expect from Stroud and Mast. I treat this album the same way I treat the clearance items at Goodwill: Take the two or three things I like and leave the rest on the rack.
Ratatat | LP4 | XL Recordings | Release: June 8, 2010 | Rating: 5.1 of 10