Last Night Ratatat @ Neumo’s
posted by March 28 at 14:30 PMon
Ratatat brought the micro-arena rock to Neumo’s last night and they brought it hard. The three-piece NYC outfit have evolved from semi-ironic, riff-slinging hipster phenomenon to fully balls-out riff-slinging true rawk demigods, and the change suits them well. Standing front and center, I was pressed up against the barrier coralling the underage fans to my left into a dense throng, and watching these kids wyle out—I mean fully throw, thrash, hesh, and mosh their bodies into a sweaty, quivering heap—proved the band’s rising status and undeniable effect.
No doubt Ratatat’s always had a way with melody, using Mike Stroud’s guitar glammery to braid bittersweet hum and classically-informed chords around Evan Mast’s rudimentary bass and drum-machined beats. Joined by a spastic keyboardist, they built epic anthems out of pulsing rhythm and melody and then totally shredded them to bits. Stroud’s got all the guitar hero moves down pat, arching his back, falling to his knees, waving his axe out in front of his body to hose the crowd with sound. He veers from minimalist syncopation to hard-strummed grandeur, a singular style that will, in a couple years, land him in the pantheon of the masters.
The band’s greatest asset is the emotive, human heartbeat that pulses at the center of their robo-rock blowouts. It comes from their swooning melodies and keeps them grounded even as their volume reaches into the back rows and beyond. With continually evolving visuals thrown up behind them—abstract slivers exploding, digital rain falling, cars crashing and fires storming—the whole affair was rather gripping and totally ripping. Ratatat are definitely a band worth seeing live, more rockin’ than most rock shows.
Much-ballyhooed opener 120 Days, however, continutes to fall flat. Fujiya & Miyagi did a much better take on Motorik a couple weeks ago at Chop Suey, going funky and pristine where the Norweigans of 120 Days muddle it up with scuzzy psychedelica. Lead singer ┼dne Meisfjord does a Euro-fied mashup of Jim Morrison and Bono, all sleeveless preening and out-of-tune howling, pretty much ruining the unruinable Motorik drive of the rest of the band. I guess some would consider him a sexy nihilist crooner; he seemed more like a lunkhead. “We are 120 Days; you are Seattle,” he informed the crowd at the end of their set. “Buy the t-shirt.” Whateva.
After their set, Ratatat played a 45-minute “DJ” set at Havana. The dudes, along with their elfin bearded mascot, basically scrolled through their iPods and threw on seemingly random, totally unmixed selections. Some were good, most weren’t. It was as much a DJ set as karaoke is a concert. Still, the crowd ate it up and danced until the lights came on at 2 am.