Ratatat uses a particular guitar sound that symbolizes what is best and most limiting about the band. Compressed and chorused like an incredibly clear recording of 10 guitars two miles away, it's the same sound Steve Vai used in 1985 to assure us that the getting-laid part of rock 'n' roll was no longer important. For Ratatat, it's the sound of irony at work. It undercuts their most ambitious tracks, stitching together elements of the composition but also reminding us that hey, these guys are just screwing around.
Ratatat is not just screwing around. Their famously chaotic live shows, complete with lasers and video projections, are actually carefully planned. Parts of the band's newest release, LP4, suggest similar ambitions: The harpsichord on "Bob Gandhi" and dulcimer on "Bare Feast" reach for the poignant lyricism of a Books album—only with, you know, dancing. But then that guitar kicks in, and we remember to put our tongues back in our cheeks. It's possible that this is what pop music sounds like now that we've all acknowledged that it's dumb and we like it anyway: the sound of not giving a damn, carefully.
Ratatat plays the Wilma Friday, June 3, at 8 PM with Despot and E*Rock. $25. Sold out.