RatTail: "Polka Dotspoka"

Unreleased (2010)

By Jessica Faulds | 3 August 2010

Whoever it was that said “writing about music is like dancing about architecture” clearly did not foresee the rise of the music blog, which, personified, would probably take a drag off a cigarette (clove) and drawl: shit, dude, you can write about anything. There are 1000+ word treatises on drone and columns dissecting sub-subgenres of subgenres of subgenres. Nothing’s untouchable. Forget it.

But the thing hardest to reach, from the critic’s perch on a step stool of qualifiers and similes, is that quality of simple goodness, the straight up heat generated by rubbing a few simple sounds together. In “Polka Dots,” RatTail harnesses this simplistic vitality and lets it run around the yard a few times. Neither epic nor over-thought, the track picks the pockets of contemporary trend-makers, pulling only the good stuff. Takes the garage, but leaves behind the gratuitous fuzz. Takes the indie rock hooks, drops the ingratiating need to please. This is what’s good about music, degloved. Bass, drums, and voice, not even a guitar, not even three minutes, but somehow the few elements at play configure themselves into the form of an instant, comfortable classic.

The indispensable element here is singer Jasmyn Burke’s voice, a deep and expressive instrument whose depth is amplified against the bare-bones arrangement. “I don’t love you,” she sings, and it’s nothing so simple as a taunt or lament. It’s a subtle and sardonic joke, embodied in the jerkily and colourfully animated video as a candy heart bearing the aforementioned un-love note. And the candy could represent the band itself – satisfying but not saccharine, simultaneously falling in with and fucking up expectations. Soulful and mocking: who says a song can’t be both?

“Polka Dots” is unreleased, but it’s too good to fall into anonymous irrelevance or released years from now in a collector’s edition “early unreleased material” album. Rumour has it the track will be on the track list of RatTail’s debut LP, coming out in the next year. For now, though, it’s just an untethered nugget of pleasure bobbing in the endless tide of new music being borne up on the shores of Myspace, too stubbornly buoyant to sink.