photos by Katy McCourt-Basham
review by RJ Cubarrubia
For me, the best possible academic environment often includes a healthy murmur of Ratatat; their guitar driven electronic instrumentals are never too fast, never too slow, never too dance-y, and never too lounge-y, creating a uniquely stimulating atmosphere of sound that can make the ironic phrase “study party” a reality. Playing to a March 29 sold out crowd at the Showbox Sodo with Think About Life and Despot, the New York City duo brought their big beats, big sounds, big lights, big visual screen, and big hair and threw the study out of my party with their noticeably more danceable live sound.
Canadian dance-punk group Think About Life began the night with fun, energetic songs with fast, funky basslines and a grimy electronic sound resulting in clappable, danceable punk anthems suitable for the sexiest of sing-alongs. The Montreal three-piece took a minimalist approach onstage, with only drums, a guitar, and vocals creating the beats and melodies behind computer supplied layers of bass and other sounds. Think About Life’s short, fast, and furious songs set the energy level high for the rest of the night.
New York MC Despot brought a particular heady aspect to intelligent hip-hop with his experimental approach to songwriting, rhyming, and performing with electronic beats reminiscent of Ratatat (go figure) and a flow that bordered on spoken word poetry. Despot showcased some particularly strange songs: armed with a music stand and notebook, Despot spit one song of verses recently written on tour rapped over beats with no discernable chorus or verse, each song being unique to each tour stop; another, his last, was a one minute rap junglegym. Despot’s flow was particularly articulate and his weird beats and delivery challenged traditional heady hip hop.
Ratatat’s music is a tough call: I can never decide if I want to read or dance (I usually end up dancing while sitting down, resulting in laughs, frustration, and sometimes injury). However, their live sound made that decision for me, with an extra layer of thump over their gracefully sharp grooves, adding a nice punch that kept me moving throughout their set. Covering new and old, including fan favorites “Wildcat” and “Tropicana”, Ratatat kept the set stimulating with a large video screen with the mandatory party propaganda and intense neon strobe lights. I’m glad I didn’t bring books to this fiesta. Regardless of your opinions of their records, if you want to have a great time, Ratatat will take you there.