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Monthly Archives: October 2006

Growing up, watching “Superfriends”, it was easy to ignore Aquaman. After all, I was probably more into Marvel Comics and wasn’t really into swimming all that much. He seemed a little pathetic in my 7 year old mind; basically everything had to be contrived to accomodate his powers.

Apparently, I wasn’t alone. He appeared an episode of “Robot Chicken” about a group of super heroes (Hulk, Wonder Woman, Batman, Superman, etc.) sharing an apartment, a la “The Real World”. Aquaman was portrayed as an effeminate wimp, pushed around by Superman and the Hulk and ridiculed for his “super” powers.

This morning I was reading an article in the New Yorker about Thomas Paine, and Aquaman made a rather unexpected appearance there:

Thomas Paine is, at best, a lesser Founder. In the comic-book version of history that serves a our national heritage, where the Founding Fathers are like the Hanna-Barbera Super Friends, Paine is Aquaman to Washingtons Superman and Jeffersons Batman; we never find out how he got his superpowers, and he only shows up when they need someone who can swim.

Somewhat related to that, during a layover in Cincinnati on my way back from Ottawa, I learned that Union Terminal looks suspiciously like the Hall of Justice.

I went to RATATAT last night at the EARL. Anyone who has talked to me about music in last several months would know how completely obsessed I have been with them. I’ve turned (or tried to turn) almost everybody near me on to them. I had been anticipating this show since I saw it listed, despite being a Monday night, despite knowing that the EARL meant they weren’t going on until until midnight.

And yet, despite all this fanboy-ness, I can’t believe how much I had wrong about them. First off, I wasn’t pronouncing their name correctly (it’s ‘radda-dat’, not ‘rat-tat-tat’); Evan Mast is, in fact, the less-strung-out-looking one; and that people will crowd a club to see a band that has no lyrics (although they have been getting a bit of airplay here lately).

The thing that took me most by surprise, though, was how wrong I got their music. I have been listening to the first album near constantly for months and ‘Classics’ has joined it since its release — it’s not as if I’m only passingly familiar with their sound. When I first heard them, I thought they sounded like the music from a splashscreen from a Commodore-64 game (then I found the Advantage and realized what game music really sounds like). Later I just thought they sounded like incredibly good hipster soundtrack music — perfect for when Selena and I are sitting on the porch, watching the crackheads walk by, maybe^Wprobably drinking a cocktail (like every we do every evening) — seamlessly shuffling with the likes of Lali Puna and Madlib to set a good sonic backdrop to observe the universe through ironic and cynical lenses.

Yeah, well, that’s not the kind of band they are. RATATAT, friends, is a balls-to-the-wall heavy metal band. This amp goes to eleven. Oh sure, you knew the influence was there: Germany-to-Germany, Lex, Seventeen Years… yes, sure, you could hear the guitars and the inspiration. The photos and logo lent tongue-in-cheek references to the cock-rock culture. Well, live and in person, the ‘references’ and ‘influence’ give way to ‘reality’. Think ‘Helloween‘ without the vocals. Also think of them being awesome. And sort of art-y. Maybe even more rocking.

Yes, this was a metal show – replete with headbanging, faux pyrotechnics (nice touch, I might add) and mod/ironic imagery projected on a screen (well, sheet, really) behind them. Everything was much faster and the guitars much louder and more distorted. “Nostrand”, which exemplified my ‘chilling with a cocktail’ view of them became a driving anthem. “Gettysburg”‘s guitars were cranked up furiously changing the tone to near-thrash. “Lex” was bedlam; I had no idea how much this song just blazes– projected on the screen was a person smashing the windshield of a car (the camera was in the passenger seat) which looped continously on the measure.

And yet it was still most definitely RATATAT. “Wildcat” was still the crowd pleaser (as was “Seventeen Years”) with the projection of the cat head icon whenever the ‘mrowr’ sound went. “Cherry” was still just smooth, wide, crescendo. They played almost the entirety of both albums.

Yeah, they are must-see. And if you don’t have either of their albums, yet, have I told you how much I’m into them?

Skip the opener, the Envelopes, though, man, they suck.