Ratworld, the highly touted debut from Leeds group Menace Beach, is a fuzzy, sugar-crusted indie rock platter with a '90s problem. Fortunately, the band's founding duo of Ryan Needham and Liza Violet wear their influences well, and their apparent affection for everything from chugging, Pavement-like slacker rock to wobbly, Slowdive-era shoegaze is framed nicely by some quality songwriting and pleasingly loose production courtesy of part-time bandmate and Hookworms frontman Matt "MJ" Johnson. Lead single and album opener "Come on Give Up" blends big-time hooks with laid-back snark and "Elastic" really lays on the charm with its thrilling summertime chorus. The bulk of the vocals are shared simultaneously between Needham and Violet, with Needham providing much of the laissez-faire slacker quotient and Violet the indie pop sweetness. There's a little bit of a Black Francis/Kim Deal relationship in the way they play off of each other vocally. Violet's hushed, breathy "Blue Eye" provides a nice break in the program before crashing midsong into a wall of squall. For his part, Needham's erratic, punchy vocal melodies play almost like guitar riffs. Together, they provide a nice push and pull on songs like the excellent "Dig It Up" and the fuzz-pop bliss of "Infinite Donut." As fun and quirky as this album is, one of the more enjoyable moments comes in the almost tender "Pick Out the Pieces," a drumless wash of warm guitar sprawl and dreamy duetted vocals. Like "Blue Eye," it helps provide a bit of range on an album that is somewhat lacking in that department. Still, it's hard to fault Menace Beach for either their '90s reverence or the fact that they've loaded up their album with a string of similar-tempo, hooky tracks. They do what they do quite well and this cohesive debut should win them plenty of fans.
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AllMusic Review by Timothy Monger