Band: Ratatat
Album: Classics
Best song: “Lex” and “Wildcat” are tons of fun.
Worst song: “Nostrand” and “Gettysburg” are pretty mediocre.

I am totally fascinated by nature. My PS3 plays Blu Ray discs and — save for a couple of favorites (8 1/2, Away We Go, The Dark Knight and Dawn of the Dead) — all I own is nature documentaries in the high definition format. Much of my Netflix queue is occupied by nature documentaries and when I’m completely bored, I will automatically jump to the various channels playing nature documentaries on my cable system.

There’s something very intense and interesting about nature, ecologies and the like. I am particularly in love with walruses and penguins, largely because they don’t fit into any notion of what we think of well-adapted animals.

A walrus is a giant blob of a creature with a big mustache and giant, unruly tusks. It’s the David Crosby of the Artic. It farts a lot, has an unpleasant roar and isn’t really even a quadraped or biped by our normal standards. It’s weird and it hardly fits our definition of a well-adapted animal.

Yet, its fat, tusks and mustache are the reasons it’s so perfect for its enviornment. Those tusks can tear up the ocean floor to grab mollusks the walrus will eat. The mustache can detect where said mollusks hang out. The fat helps insulate it from the blistering winters in the Artic Circle. The tail/feet thing propels it through the water. The farting… I don’t know what that adaption has to do with anything.

Penguins are similarly ridiculous. They are birds that can’t fly. They have wings that don’t seem to serve any purpose. They look like they’re dressed in tuxedos. Their feet barely move, thanks to really short legs, which makes the penguin walk the single most hilarious thing in nature:

That thing has to spread its wings for balance as it lumbers ahead, slowly, surely. It has to angle its body to make sure it doesn’t topple over like a Jenga game.

Look, birds are weird and mostly not cute, but penguins on land? Amazing and hilarious and adorable.

But, you get a penguin into water and that motherfucker is a silent killer. Its flightless wings are perfectly for steering and propelling the bird among the icy waters of the Antarctic. The white stomach looks like the sky underwater, for easy sneak attacks.

That it’s cute? Just a bonus.

There are hundreds and hundreds of animals that are similarly ridiculous. The sloth can barely move. Ostriches look like they were assembled on a bet. A giraffe looks like a deer that’s been stretched. Most deep sea fish look more like monsters than they do actual fish.

But, when I think of awesome, well-adapted animals, I think of big cats. They’ve got claws and huge teeth and powerful legs and awesome camoflage. Some of them, like panthers, are dark as hell and perfect night predators.

Which, of course, brings me to Ratatat’s second album, Classics. The album cover features a big cat in what appears to be mid-roar.

I like Ratatat enough, though I do see them as something of a cheap ripoff of so many dance/electronic/conventional bands (grand example: Battles). They’re not as fun as !!!, for example.

Which is to say that Classics is really fun, but mostly forgettable. There are a lot of nice drum sounds and some excellent guitar lines, but, ultimately, most of the record is background music.

“Lex” is a great song based on hard dynamics and an offbeat slam that rivals “Staying Alive” as a great walking down the street to the beat song. “Wildcat,” the sorta title track, samples an actual panther, but more importantly, is smooth as hell. “Swisha” is soundtracky and “Tropicana” is trippy enough to fake it. No doubt, as Pitchfork mentions, the album has “mad hooks,” but those hooks are often too simple to remember.

The record is kind of repetitive and forgettable, but makes for good background music. It is definitely useful, albeit not at all groundbreaking or all that interesting.

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  • About Me

    I'm Ross Jordan Gianfortune. I am not a writer, but I sometimes write here about music and my life. I live in Washington, DC.

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