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Album Review

by Ratatat

XL Recordings

Review Date
Reviewed by
Ryan Eyers

When a band titles their fourth album LP4, right after they’ve titled their third album LP3, you might start to worry. When you fire up said album, have a listen, and hear a lot of the exact same sounds (and I mean the same notes, on the same instruments, with the same effects laid on, over very similar samples and beats) as you did the previous album, alarm bells might start to ring. And when you’ve listened to the album a few times through, and found pretty much no progression, no real difference from past work, if you’re a fan, you might feel quite disappointed.

Because that’s what Ratatat have done on LP4, and it feels pretty lazy, especially for a band that sound so fresh and interesting when you first listen to them. Their self-titled was smooth, explorative, Classics built on that with an assuredness and an ear for an irresistible hook, and LP3 completed the evolution by laying on thick, ethnic grooves and an assortment of instrumentation that kept things diverse. On LP4, gone is such development; instead the listener is left with poorly masked retreads of earlier sounds, something that perhaps shouldn’t be that surprising considering much of the recordings to come out of the same sessions as LP3. Which begs the question: why wait two years to release it?

Despite this, LP4 still provides moments of the gleeful enjoyment Ratatat can be so good at providing, often when guitarist Mike Stroud eases off on saturating the listener with the two or three effects he seems to adore. ‘Neckbrace’ simmers with snatches of competing percussion and a guttural bassline that sounds like they’ve got the guy with the deepest voice in the world humming along, while ‘Bare Feast’ ambles with a charmingly twangy acoustic guitar, punchy beat and wheezy accordion and ‘Grape Juice City’, the pick of the album, sums up a lot about what can make Ratatat great with its quirky but perfect mix of geeky samples, crisp melodic and keyboard flourishes spread across a relentless beat.

Sadly, these moments are few and far between, and don’t really provide anything that hasn’t already been done better in previous work. Overall, LP4 is generally such a blatant retread of past material that while as a fan you want it to just be a catharsis, a release of some unremarkable material to get it out of the system, another scenario seems more likely: that Ratatat have simply run out of ideas.

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