Whatever the duo’s cool-kid credentials—headquarters in Brooklyn, touring with Bjork and Mouse on Mars—the two guys in Ratatat come off squarely as a couple of stoner geeks who dig King Crimson and laser-light shows.
Like prog rock and bitching visuals, LP3—the third album from guitarist Mike Stroud and electronics whiz Evan Mast—can be a blast. Stroud has an ear for bombastic melody and a mastery of late-’70s/early-’80s guitar tone, and he’s not ashamed to use either in huge doses. On more than one occasion on LP3, he riffs on the harmonized solo in the Eagles’ “Hotel California” with an apparent straight face.
Mast is the emerging star, however. On this disc he steps forward to enhance Stroud’s rock pastiche with Daft Punk beats and elaborate studio tricks (check the Renaissance Faire intro to “Dura,” the faux-Middle Eastern swirls on “Mumtaz Khan,” and the circus-music flourishes of “Gipsy Threat”) that flesh out the group’s previously bare-bones production.
In the end, though, LP3 sounds like two best friends showing off to each other. The instrumental jokes rarely rise above winking reference, the majestic parts never feel whole, and none of it has heart to match its enormous technical accomplishment. Even worse, you can’t dance to it.