Sep 032008
Authors: Nick Scheidies

Ratatat. Aside from being fun to say, the word is also the name of a Brooklyn-based instrumental music duo that has been pumping out a club-ready fusion of electric guitar, synthesizer and hip-hop beats since 2004.

If you haven’t heard of them, you’ve almost certainly heard their music: their instantly likeable tunes populate major motion pictures and car commercials alike.

Ratatat’s third, most recent LP is titled, “LP3.” Forgive the band for the uninventive album name; all of their creative juices must have been expended in making “LP3” a huge creative leap forward.

The album is bursting with sounds, styles and instruments new to the onomatopoetically named duo — transforming Ratatat from a one-trick pony into … a pony with multiple tricks.

This newfound diversity is represented in the titles of the songs themselves, which thankfully are far more inspired than “LP3.” While “Falcon Jab” and “Bird Priest” are fun pieces of abstract silliness, titles like “Shempi,” “Bruleé,” and “Dura” hint at the abundance of international influences at work.

Take “Mi Viejo,” in which a distinctly Spanish acoustic guitar melody is coupled with the pattering of bongos and a noise that can best be described as the sound of a gurgling dishwasher in reverse. Or “Mumtaz Kahn,” which incorporates so many vaguely foreign musical elements that it would be impossible to pinpoint its origin without a map and a degree in world music.

Traditionally instrumental, Ratatat even squeezes in wordless vocals on “Flynn.” Meanwhile, “Gipsy Threat” features the sound of someone lighting a flare and distant laughter.

All of this experimentation with noise isn’t just admirable — it’s necessary. Ratatat’s old sound was already stale halfway through their last album.

But in their omnivorous, somewhat self-conscious, quest to enrich “LP3” with didgeridoo, tabla, and the like, Ratatat have forgotten what brought them success to begin with: the synthesis of irresistible hooks and fearless arrangements.

The closest they come to the glory of “Seventeen Years” or “Wildcat” is with “Shiller,” which kicks the album off promisingly with an eerie synthesizer and a lullaby of a guitar line. But as with much of “LP3,” the song feels unfinished — fading away instead of forging ahead in a creatively interesting direction.

Perhaps the album just wasn’t given enough time to develop; it was recorded in a matter of weeks. Whatever the case, “LP3” simply doesn’t have the dynamic punch needed for a largely electronic album to transcend the limits of its genre and connect at a human level.

In short, “LP3” may not be great music, but it will make great fodder for a car commercial.

Staff Writer Nick Scheidies can be reached at

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