Top 100 Albums of the Decade: #62 Ratatat - Classics
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#62 Ratatat - Classics
Well, Classics was a self-fulfilling prophecy of a title, wasn't it? Two years prior, Ratatat's self-titled debut flaunted boombox-swarming beats, arena-rock hooks and a flair for the dramatic. It was a simple declaration: anyone can rock, but we are ready to be Rockstars. But it all came across with a sort of self-referential immediacy better suited to one-off encounters – every time "Seventeen Years" came on in a friend's car I'd go, "this is my jam!" and we'd dance 'til our seat belts nearly busted for about four minutes, and when it was over we'd move to the next song and that was that. There aren't many iconic, glamorous stars in our current music climate, and you could tell Ratatat was trying to step into that void.
So, Classics – that word implies staying power, a residual intrigue, something you keep coming back to years later. This album is killer. It built on everything in their debut, and it took their strengths to the extremes. "Lex" and "Loud Pipes" hit crazy old-school hip hop / rock strides, and these tracks account for some of the most vicious headbanging action (wild hair and all) in their live set. But they also roll out into relatively experimental territory for a dance record. "Montanita" is straight luau, all breezy guitars and coconut percussion ushering the album in. "Gettysburg" is appropriately militant and "Kennedy" fittingly presidential – if, say, you threw hydraulics on the motorcade. And perhaps the emblematic track on Classics is "Wildcat." It builds slow, like a beast waiting to pounce, and when it does it rips you apart. More interesting than the relentless dance-assault at the climax, though, are the sampled panther growls scattered through the track. You could call them kitschy (what is this, the 70s?) but you know what? Fuck you, we're rockstars, that's what. Yeah, if they'd never made that declaration with their debut – and if you'd never seen how they wail live – you might turn a smirk at their grandiose posturing. It's all good, though. Ratatat dips into all sorts of influences but comes back to a simple mission in the end: no fancy shit, the music just has to rock hard. Sometimes – so say the panther growls, the wailing hooks and booming bass – it has to be that simple to turn out a product with so much staying power.
Check back tomorrow for the next album! To see the full list of the Top 100 Albums of the Decade, click here.