Review Summary: While Classics is enjoyable under certain circumstances, most songs are ultimately as innovative as their individual title.Ratatat
Mike Shroud – Guitars
Evan Mast – Synths, Keyboard
will forever remain the greatest thing Ratatat
, the NYC electronic duo of Mike Shroud and Evan Mast, will ever record, if not the most popular. It is a difficult task for anyone to dislike this song. Alas, almost all innovative ideas and catchy hooks from it and the group’s self-titled debut are void from Ratatat
’s sophomore effort, Classics
. Hampered by lackluster instrumental bits, bland and reoccurring base beats, and a complete deficiency of emotion due to absent vocals, Classics
is a pretty dull recording.
There is way too much rehashing of old material, and even revision of ideas inside the album itself to make this truly enjoyable. While I understand that under certain circumstances these songs are a boatload of fun, when one listens to this for the sake of listening to the music, and tries to dissect it, it can be frustratingly painful and boring, with a few exciting moments tossed sporadically throughout the album. The first track, Montanita
, conveys the group’s signature sound spiced up with some luau-themed beats and instruments, including a xylophone, but this shot at inventiveness is a complete failure as the song is in fact incredibly annoying. Lex
is possibly the best track on the album, featuring a noteworthy guitar riff and keyboard work that places it among the best songs Ratatat
have ever done. The instrumentals change up frequently enough to make it enjoyable all the way through, as opposed to a strong start with a sub par finish, and vice-versa.
, the most popular song on the album, has a very disappointing main theme. It’s pretty cool at first, but it’s also unpredictable in a not so good sense; when it sounds like the group could have thrown a neat riff or scale in there, the theme ends with a short, sharp, staccato note, and then repeats. This repetition, common in the genre, detracts from the song to the point where any promise it once held has been reduced to dust because it’s downright tedious. Then about two minutes into the song a simple yet baffling section of melodic keys and guitar begins and chugs its way all the way to the end of the song, without revisiting the main theme. This highly infectious section is one of the few places Mike and Evan were truly outgoing with the recording.
Capping off the track analysis, Tropicana
is a very recognizable tune, making its way to the big screen via the Judd Apatow comedy Knocked Up. The main section is nice and relaxing, but not too exciting, and occasionally the song has too much going on at once, making it sound much denser than it needs to be. A lot of the album seems this way, as well as rushed during the recording process. Too much of it sounds more than eerily similar, as the synths are consistently doing the same exact thing, switched up only slightly as to continually confound any unaware listeners. While I am well aware that everything here can be played live very well, as a group of my friends covered Ratatat
’s entire self-titled debut on a guitar, bass and drums, most of this could easily be recorded by a couple of kids fiddling around with Garage Band (In fact, Ratatat
was recorded entirely on a PowerBook). It isn’t meant to be complex, sure, it’s meant to be enjoyable, but one still has to understand that this isn’t original or intricate to any extent. The tempo, save for Gettysburg
, is always somewhat slow. Any addition of some variation in this aspect would have aided in making this an exceptional recording, although of course not alone. The dialogue pieces featured on Ratatat
are also missing on this album. While at first a listener may feel indifferent of their absence, they are the human quality this entire album sorely needs.
While this review has had its far share of compliments and harsh criticism towards this album, let me conclude by saying this really does have plenty of highs and lows. Depending on where you are, who you’re with, what you’re doing and what you’re on, the standout tracks on here can be exceedingly pleasurable. Unfortunately, if you aren’t a fan of the genre, this is pretty tiresome with few highlights at the very best. Ratatat
are definitely capable of better than this though, and from an unbiased perspective, I wouldn’t recommend Classics
to listeners new to the band or genre.
Inside the Genre: 3.5
Outside the Genre: 2.5