The first ten seconds of New York quartet's The Rapture's new album Echoes is all that you need to hear to realize that there's nothing at all musically original about this band of hipsters. Opening track "Olio" sounds like just about every Cure song that I have ever heard and would fit quite well on a Best of '80s Sexually Confused New Wave compilation. Rapturous crooner Luke Jenner couldn't sound any more like Robert Smith if he had a gun to his head, and the band's unmistakably eighties dance beat sounds like a terrible Casio demos. There's not an original note in this group's shamefully derivative repertoire, and the entire album feels wrenched out of the era of made-up androgynites.
But maybe that blatant 80's pop referencing is what makes this band so unique. Listening to the opening track, I'm trying to find the irony, the smirk, the "cool" that has suffocated the life out of so many indie bands and their tight-jeans, tight-black-t-shirted followers. This group has abandoned everything that "indie" has come to mean since Stephen Malkmus started playing the twanger and yelling about two states. They are unabashedly a dance band. What's more, this unoriginal dance band has produced an amazing album.
Have I lost my mind? Maybe. In ten years I could look back on Echoes and wonder why I wrote this review and why I paid extra for the import copy before the CD was released on American shores. For now, though, I'm content to shut up and dance.
Concession: The album starts out very slowly. It's not until track five that this band begins to show their mettle. The first track, "Olio" goes on for way too long. While "Heaven"'s insane harmonies and guitar noise makes it much more original than its predecessor, its placement directly before two of the worst songs that I have heard kill the joy that its odd danceability instills. "Open Up Your Heart" sounds like they wanted to write the longest, most repetitive and inane love song ever. They succeeded. Note to The Rapture on future albums: acoustic guitars=bad. Jenner's high-pitched squealing does not lend itself to romance, and the lyrics read like a fifth grader's stab at love poetry. I'm considering buying some really expensive technology that will allow me to just erase this stain from an otherwise excellent album. Except, wait, the song after it sucks too. A nearly five-minute disco stomp? It's annoying at two minutes and deadly by four. I think, though, that the first third of the CD was intentionally bad so that we would be pleasantly stunned by the next seven songs.
Working electronica into a live band's sound is not a new idea (David Bowie did it), but The Rapture's innovation is doing it completely distastefully and amazingly well. "The Coming of Spring" sounds tense and explosive and starts to finally get those hipster booties wiggling, but it is only a warm-up for the best song on the album. "House of Jealous Lovers" is the most frantic, frenetic dance romp that I have ever heard, and it opens up the psycho-dance movement within the album. The band opens the song with a rock steady groove that is an unmistakable disco reference. If this is disco, though, it's the wildest disco I've ever heard. Luke Jenner sounds out of his mind. Most of the song's lyric is "House of Jealous Lovers/SHAKE DOWN." Really, though, it doesn't matter. Jenner says everything he needs to in the delivery. You can hear the jealousy and rage explode from his throat with every screamed "Shake Down!" and the bass' thumping groove make this one a great romp.
The rest of the psycho-dance movement is in the same vane as "House of Jealous Lovers." All the songs feature frantic guitar squealing, bass lines that run all over the neck and steady, furious drumming, courtesy of Vito Roccoforte. "Echoes," the title-track, gives "House" a run for the money that it earned by intimidating the other inmates in the psycho ward, but somehow falls just short of "House'"s brilliance.
The one-two punch of "House" and "Echoes" is almost more than the average listener can handle. I, for one, was getting sweaty from shaking what my mother gave me all over the house, and was thankful for the slowdown that comes after "Echoes." Though the disco beat never stops, the tangible intensity of tracks five through seven is softened a little, and the band begins to revisit their Cure/Beegees collection. "Sister Saviour" is a classic disco number, and the album's last two songs are only good for calming down the listener (much appreciated, guys).
My point's been beaten to the ground: this is a great dance album. As such, the lyrics don't matter that much, but for people who care about things like poetry in their music (myself generally not included), avoid the liner notes. The song titles give you a pretty good idea of what these songs are about, and the depth of emotions that the Rapture manages to conjure: "Open Up Your Heart" "I Need Your Love" "The Coming of Spring" "House of Jealous Lovers" "Love is All." I bet that one of these guys has a girlfriend. Most of the lyrics seem like an afterthought, as well they should be. I pity the fool who is sitting reading the words while the disc is spinning, because they've clearly missed this band's point.
Josh Scannell. Josh Scannell is an 11th grader at Blair High School. He is a page editor on the Silver Chips staff. When not working, he enjoys listening to, reading about, watching and playing music. He also enjoys a good movie and hanging out with his friends. More »