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The Coming of Ratatat

19 Jan 2016

A brother in poetry rang me up late yesterday afternoon.

“Hey man, I’m… I’m having a hard time with all these people dying. It’s got me down and out.”

Jebus.. So you called me? What makes you think I have any useful advice? “Ah.. You know.. I just wanted to talk to someone.”

I’m getting more and more phone calls like this one of late.

. . .

They say Death be not proud, but over the past few weeks, that shithead must be proud as a motherfucker. The grinning, mad skeletal bastard has been in overdrive of late, and I’m not taking chances. This is being posted from an undisclosed location: My inbox pinged this morning with a friend request from someone named Eddie Muerte. I’m not saying it’s suspicious, but all of our mutual friends are ex-parte. If you catch my drift. Unless black robes and scythes are in fashion in San Juan this time of year? Something shady’s goin’ on.

I turned forty-four a few days ago. Given the whiskey soaked pallor of the morning after? A certain chill in my bones was all but inevitable. But when I dragged my hungover bag of meat to the thought-screen, insult added to self injury as I was greeted with the news that while I was out knocking down shots of Tullamore – David Bowie was breathing his last. Happy fucking birthday to me.

Then it was Rickman. Within the past little bit the Grande Olde Ghoul has been reaping indiscriminately, plucking up icons of my imaginary youth. Grizzly Adams. Trapper John. Nat’ Cole. Scott Weiland. The hits keep coming. Is this what it means to survive? To grow older? That you look up from your own bullshit one morning and realize that you don’t recognize anyone anymore? This is the prize we get for living?

I want my fucking money back.

One of the first clues that you’re starting to get a little long in the truth is pretty women calling you “sir.” The second? Someone asks if you want to see a band you don’t know – and when you look ’em up you find out they’ve been around for fifteen years. Granted, I’ve spent the last decade grinding up the Blues into little lines on my coffee table for freebase consumption, but you’d think somewhere in between Son House and Charlie Patton I’d find time to have listened to a Ratatat album. On the other hand, my working knowledge of electronic music pretty much begins and ends with Daft Punk, and I’m almost of the opinion that once you’ve experienced the helmeted heroes of High Techno – anything else in the genre is probably a ride of diminishing returns.

That said, young minds. Fresh ideas. Etc. Etc. Ratatat is coming to the Norva this Monday, so I take a few minutes to pull them through the magic tubes to pre-familiarize myself with their newly released album: Magnifique.

. . .

From the initial sound of a metronome clack, clack, clacking – only to be knocked off the top of what to my ears is an actual piano – to the haphazardly slapped in guitar: It’s quickly apparent to me that Ratatat is not your father’s Ambient. There’s analogue components to their vibe that form an immediate declaration. Ratatat is first and foremost a band, and that’s not usually the case in this genre. There’s a reason we tend to refer to purveyors of Electronica as projects instead of groups.

The music reaches me despite my general aversion to the form and within minutes I find my ass shaking a bit. This is not something that has happened for many years. I may need to see a doc in the morning to make sure I haven’t damaged myself. There’s a strange sense of nostalgia kicking around the underpinnings of the songs on this record. Something akin to a recognizable anthem of people I don’t actually know or have any direct exposure to, but that I feel like if I hung out with I’d likely have a good time. I think this is probably very decent music. But should you fork over an Andrew Jackson and some change to see them live?

I’ve never exactly been sure who this kind of music is for, you know? Like, what type of person listens to electronic ambient trip – whatever that has no lyrics to it? What the hell is the point of this album? By the fourth track the answer pulls up in a chromed out Fiat 500 and slaps me with the obviousness:

Some people just want to fucking dance. Maybe it really can be just that simple. Maybe I’m not that old after all? Maybe Eddie Muerte can right fuck off.

Bowie would approve, I think.

. . .

Later, after seeing the show.

Full disclosure. I got plastered last night. Like.. The kind of shot pounding you usually save for wakes or divorces. Somehow I managed to get into a cab and head home afterwards. I vaguely remember that. This morning I was greeted by a review that I apparently typed up before crawling into my bed. At some point it seems I resorted to just banging my head on the keyboard a few times to get the idea across.

What you’re reading now has been heavily edited. I’ve checked the wires. There’s no outstanding warrants. A quick perusal of my Facebook feed shows no notable friend deletions. There are no accusatory text messages on my phone. I didn’t wake up next to a stranger. Overall I’ll rate the evening a B+ and call it a day. There was an opening act. I don’t remember his name and nothing he did makes me care enough to look it up. He had the stage presence and emotional range of a Cocker Spaniel out of its head on Quaaludes. He spent the entirety of his set shifting between two facial expressions. The music did nothing for me, although the surrounding masses seemed to enjoy him.

I snapped a few shots and then quit because he was about as visually interesting as watching an overturned syrup bottle drip it’s contents onto kitchen floor tiles. As a result, I missed the epic moment when he elevated a single hand into the air.

Not only do I not get it, I hope that if I ever do get it there will be an easily procurable over the counter remedy available at the Walgreens down the street from my house. Maybe it’s just the kind of thing you need headphones and a couple of tabs of some really high grade hallucinogens to get into. I don’t do that kind of thing anymore, so what the fuck do I know? I’ll chalk it up to my just being out of the loop and move on. (Haha! See what I did there? Loop? Electronica? Oy vey.. My pounding head…)

. . .

Ratatat, on the other hand, was fascinating and compelling. If you haven’t seen them live, you should gift yourself with the experience. Sifting through the wreck of last night’s notes, I’m left with three coherent observations.

One: Their fans absolutely adore them. Rabidly so. There was a sense of community and heartfelt appreciation for the music coursing through the audience in a manner of tone I rarely see outside of an Ani Difranco show. Which strikes me as somewhat peculiar, given that this is a wholly instrumental act. ie: there’s no lyrics upon which to glean any identifiable commonalities with the band’s experiences. There’s something to be admired when a group connects so deeply with fans through nothing more than instinct and feel propelled solely by sound. Kudos, seriously. It was a well done show.

Two: In my preview I mentioned a curious sense of nostalgia that this new album, “Magnifque,” induces. After hearing ’em last night I think I understand how a band I hadn’t previously had any experience with manages to make feel as though I know them. It’s a little piece of technical something, but I find it interesting enough to point out. From the outside looking in, it seems that each song pulls little bits and pieces from the previous song. Not so much that you can’t point at any one thing directly, but enough that the subtle repetition builds on itself to create an overt familiarity. It’s a neat trick, and Ratatat pulls it off deftly. Not all that dissimilar then what you might hear in a Andrew Lloyd Weber musical, actually, as I think of it.

Three: They are seriously not fucking around when it comes to the light show. It was outstanding.

. . .

I salvaged a few bits and pieces from last night's draft. I leave you with these til next time:

No, I’m not the pilot. I just sit in the back of the plane and blow shit up.

To me it’s.. About craftsmanship. You’ve got to create something that’s worth it. You’ve got to make the actual piece of art something that’s quality. Otherwise, why should anyone pay for it?

Six years. It took them six fucking years to put out a new album. What the hell were they doing in all that time? Learning how to crochet?

There’s only a few times in your life when you get to live by yourself. You have to appreciate that shit while it lasts.

The medical community has a deeply rooted respect for LSD. I’m just sayin’.

What the hell are you doing? Dude. Go. Go after her.

Honestly? I think they should name a venereal disease after Donald Trump. Instead of the clap, they’d say: You got Trumped. Nobody would vote for him if his name was Gonorrhea.

Wait, what? They have Jamesons?

I really need you to stop being an asshole before we get home, or it’s Kleenex and Vaseline for you the rest of the week.

Hey! For real? If you aren’t madly in love? You’re doing it wrong.

. . .

Love and kisses, kids.

/scene.

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19 Jan 2016

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