A cacophony of spiraling, clashing sound
Dale Crover is back with his second solo album Rat-A-Tat-Tat!, an interesting fusion of blues, garage rock grooves and left-field experimentation. It offers Crover’s committed audience the experience that they love, while still broaching new territory and bringing in unconventional new sounds. Most recognized for his work as the drummer in the American rock band Melvins and for his brief time with Nirvana, Crover is also known for his fondness for experimental music. Crover has made a name for himself in grunge-rock for his talents on guitar and drums, while also forming a reputation as a boundary-pusher within his genre. This album demonstrates just that—Crover possesses an utterly distinct ability to bend genre to his will and produce a distinctive sound.
Much like Crover’s first solo album, The Fickle Finger of Fate, there are quite a few purely instrumental tracks. While Rat-A-Tat-Tat! is only 12 tracks total, much shorter than The Fickle Finger of Fate, Crover insists on adding disruptive transitions once again that border on self-sabotage, nudging listeners in the direction of that skip button in the worst cases.
The album opens with “Moclips,” a distinctive track that leads the unsettling transition into, “I Can’t Help You There,” which is built upon an energetic and uplifting beat. The opening track greets people with an abrasive and confusing ambiance that might represent a barrier to entry for some listeners. This acts as a great showcase for Crover’s unpredictability, as he attempts to reform the off-putting into a more inviting sound.
Crover does his best throughout the project to vary sounds from track to track. On “Tougher,” Crover distorts the vocals in an effort to focus the track around the heavy guitar. Conversely, on “Shark Like Overbite,” the pop undercurrents (and Beatles influence) are undeniable. This is one of the most exciting moments of the project; despite all the abrasiveness that exists elsewhere on the project, this track manages to transports the listener into an entirely different and more cheerful atmosphere.
This crowning moment is followed by both “Supine Is How I Found Him” and “Piso Mojado,” which abruptly break the flow of the album with drums gone awry, accidentally creating a pseudo-acid rock sound. Perhaps these tracks were placed in the middle of this eclectic mix of songs in an attempt to fuse the distinctive sounds of the record. Both “I’ll Never Say” and “Untrue Crime” wind down the album with rich and mellow melodies after two particularly unsettling tracks. Both tracks incorporate Crover’s experimental mixes in a smoother way than the rest of the album.
The final track of the album, “Kiss Proof World,” would have been a fantastic closer if it wasn’t for the final minute of the track that transitions back to the extreme opening track “Moclips.” “Kiss Proof World” does its best to wrap up the album with some smooth soft rock, but Crover’s attempt to make the album come full circle through this inclusion destroyed the song’s potential.
Overall, Rat-A-Tat-Tat! is oddly organized and doesn’t flow all that well. Crover’s disturbing transitions, while certainly bold, obstruct any sense of ongoing forward motion. One minute people are feeling the music, tapping their foot, the next they’re listening to an instrumental track without any regard for what other sounds occupy the same album. Though Rat-A-Tat-Tat! can be confusing at times, it showcases Crover’s experimental aspirations in a distinct manner. Not only that, but it opens up Crover to a wide variety of audiences as he offers a completely different experience in every track, some tracks which unfortunately do remind the listener that the skip button is always well within reach.