There is an episode of Spongebob Squarepants where Patchy the Pirate finds a VHS tape featuring the titular sponge. When we catch what Patchy’s viewing, what we see instead of undersea idiocy is a bunch of cheap walk cycles–cue pirate voice and hook hand raise.
Magnefique by Brooklyn-based Electronic Rock band Ratatat is that cheap walk cycle.
It would not be farfetched to claim that the arena this album does its musical battles in is one that is more PG, rather than PG-13; it is childish, not using dissonant guitars to capture your attention. The charm of this record is that its first listen is, and please forgive the cliché term, breathtaking. At least it is for several songs. Take “Cream on Chrome” and the snake-charming guitar that gracefully takes the reins of the last third of the track. Someone needs to go back in time and place this song on an Apple ad ASAP. Or “Nightclub Amnesia” with its synth, one that exudes so much swag that it makes doing the robot in the club look fresh. Two-thirds into the song there is a crash that introduces over three minutes of Rocky-Balboa-running-up-the-steps kind of inspiration. The cymbals are crisp and I would not be surprised at all to find dance battles to this song, even with the kind of annoying power drill sound.
What this album does is trap you in an almost impenetrable bubble. Will this album make your joy increase ten-fold? Yes. If you become grumpy ol’ Squidward Tentacles for a day, will you get something out of this? Totally.
The main gripe with this album deals with a sound that I would like to call bright Viking metal. Songs like “Rome” and “Nightclub Amnesia” have a distorted guitar that is reminiscent to those you might find in the Folk-Metal genre. This is not a problem with the specific genre’s sound or appeal, but a pull-back from the immersion that I have with this record. These parts do add to the altogether upbeat feeling, but this stylistic choice makes me feel like I have just been teleported into a battle and have declared the cliché “This wasn’t what I signed up for!” After the first few tracks you will expect the volume and rhythm changes that come in the middle of songs. However, you might not get quickly settled in to some guitar sections. That or the strange use of glitches and samples at the beginning or end of tracks (“Drift” and “Countach”) will sour your musical palate.
I guess the main question would be whether you could dance to this record or not. The answer is a light-hearted not really. Yes, these are funky tracks with sweet guitar licks (“Nightclub Amnesia”), upbeat drums (“Abrasive”), a sometimes heavenly synth (“Magnefique”), and a sugary bass (“Rome”), but in the end the payoff will be the climax at the end of songs. Standing on their own, these tracks made me question whether I had heard each line of guitar before. Yet the mixture of elements in the effects and bright, colourful tones make me give this album the benefit of the doubt that it is something fresh.
Ever wanted the recommended amount of sugar for your diet of sweet tunes? Do you want to relive that walk cycle from Spongebob? Maybe feel like the Viking Leif Erikson on a good day? Well, Magnefique is the album for you.
Dustin Ragucos is a writer of things fictional, poetic, and musical. His main loves include Death Grips and Indie music. Dustin’s blog is host to a weekly blurb about albums old and new.