Herewith, the question once again arises: what is music for? Is it the lofty high art concept propagated by such enlightened publications as The Wire? The hipster-ish dilettantism of art-as-fashion-statement via Vice? Or is it alternative music’s long awaited release from the confines of too much thinking, not enough loving?
The Rapture was arguably the band to destroy the shackles of 90s slackerdom, which still had its hold on alternative music with its groove of the ‘Standing Still’ in the early millennium. At the vanguard of the newly united front of dance and rock music, the New York four-yet-to-be-three piece was heralded by the not yet dishonorable Pitchfork as the band of the future, declaring their album debut Echoes as their number one for 2003. Anyone who followed James Van Der Beek in to the Bret Easton Ellis film adaptation The Rules Of Attraction would likely never have missed Matty Safer’s frenetic bass lines from the instant hit of ‘Out of the Races and On To the Tracks’. Nudging toward the rise of The Strokes garage revivalism and a renewed contemporary interest in Gang of Four, that track, plus the opening of Echoes’ ‘House of Jealous Lovers’, would ambush those still unprepared for their synth-guitar fusion into a full-blown embrace of an electronic exploration that was way ahead of its time.
It’s a decade later and, as a band fraught with poor timing and the label wrangling often reserved for those destined to change the course of history without reaping its rewards, The Rapture release only their fourth album to much industry buzz. After Safer’s departure and a third album flop with Pieces of the People We Love in 2006 (except, of course, for the Grand Theft Auto beat box number ‘No Sex for Ben’) The Rapture return to the safe arms of the DFA production team of Echoes, along with in vogue French producer and one-half Cassius, Phillipe Zdar. Having failed in trying to gain celebrity points with the likes of Paul Epworth and Danger Mouse on Pieces of… Luke Jenner and company instead stick to whom and what they know best. The tide might long have passed –with every band with heads and limbs embracing the liberation of synthesisers, beats and fun in their basic repertoire –but that won’t push In the Grace of Your Love beyond a triumphant return to the tech-loving Kingdom that The Rapture created.
Driving through the heavy disco and swing band jam of Gabriel Anduzzi’s saxophone in ‘Never Gonna Die Again’, there’s a distinct sense of the ‘here and now’ within the spliced organ-sampling of ‘Come Back To Me’. It’s distinctly Europop dance rhythm giving way to the trending inclination of the YouTube generation toward the likes of Balkan Beat Box and anything east side of the iron curtain.
Meanwhile, that irrepressible theme of ‘love’ keeps its hold on the band with the ricocheting build ups and fall downs of ‘How Deep is Your Love’. It could easily call to mind songs like Haddaway’s ‘What is Love?’ if it wasn’t for Luke Jenner’s distinctly off-key vocal whine. That said Jenner keeps up with the singing acrobatics, from manning up and dropping down an octave for the organic pulse of ‘Sail Away’ to the crotch-shrinking falsetto of ‘Blue Bird’.
Not so much a return to form but a lucid recovery from the too-clean seduction of the big names and synth-pop immediacy of their 2006 album, The Rapture remind us who we have to thank for freeing indie rock from the stifling influence of College rock seriousness. They simply want to enjoy the fun-loving fruits of their labour and luckily it’s catching.
(The Rapture are on tour right now, unfortunately sold out here in the UK)