Sun Aug 1
1001 SE Morrison

I'm more than a little exhausted with Rock's Narcissian self-reverence. For the past several years, the bulk of Rock's statements seem neatly made in tradition, in longevity, and, most offensively, in tribute. It just thinks itself a little too important. And while Ratatat's sound is largely one of the same borrowed lineage, it's a brief relief to see a band craft something so mindfully of the present--plundering history in a way that respects the disposability of the now.

For the uninitiated, Ratatat are a New York-based, two-piece instrumental ensemble comprised of Evan Mast and former Dashboard Confessional/Ben Kweller guitarist Mike Stroud, who together craft a careful, soft hybrid of confident lap-pop and angle-less guitar rock.

Mast--previously best known for his subtle, sweet electronic solo project E*Vax--also moonlights as co-proprietor of soft-core electronic label Audio Dregs, held down locally by brother E*Rock. Collaborating quietly over the past few years, Mast and Stroud began in earnest last year with the release of their first single, subsequent touring, and the unlikely courtship of XL Recordings. Issuing their debut full-length on the same label as the White Stripes no more than a year after they began, Ratatat has become predictably commodified, with tours alongside fading hype machines like Clinic and Interpol. Thing is, despite their troubling company, Ratatat's self-titled debut is actually good.

Though the haunting comparisons to Daft Punk aren't that farfetched, Ratatat's interest in the party only seems to last so long--as the bulk of their album sinks into more contemplative Eno-Fripp territory. Combining Stroud's triumphant, classically confident guitar work with Mast's melodic, hip-hop-heavy programming, Ratatat is a happy marriage of historical impossibility--arena rock and hiphop--in a way that is neither meat-headed nor winking. And it's this amalgam that make Ratatat truly refreshing in the spectrum of contemporary "indie" rock--they're half reverential rock, half of-the-moment hiphop; a distinction that lends them as much to the ever-present Now as it does the annals of history. And though its shelf life remains uncertain, it's a welcome gasp of fresh air--for now.