The Rapture

Echoes

(Universal; 2003)

By Amir Nezar | 31 December 2007

Finally, finally, finally. The latter-end-of-the-year save seems to be at least sputtering to life. Let's be honest - while I could easily put together a bunch of solid albums into a top 50 so far, it's been...hard to distinguish, shall we say, which albums are in the top twenty and lower twenty. As for my top five, I could give you about ten artists who would rotate in and out, but it'd be difficult to hand out ribbons that I wouldn't take back a week later. Except for Radiohead and Broken Social Scene. Numbers one and two, still.

Which is all to say 2003 has thus far been a consistent year for music, just not a very good one. It's been one of those where the up-and-comers have virtually obliterated, thus far, our old, seemingly reliable favorites. M83, Broken Social Scene, TV on the Radio, even The Constantines. Not the most familiar names when they first dropped, though they were quick to kick you in the ass and make you pay attention.

Of course, we've still got four months, with albums by The Strokes, The Wrens, Death Cab For Cutie, Liars, and a bunch of old friends (Shins, Spiritualized, etc) on the way. But the first phase of the comeback has seemed to raise itself up. Sort of. Enon, one of my own personal darlings, proceeded to let me down big time when I thought they would be top-5 material. The Decemberists came out with their sophomore effort which was, well, good, but basically just small improvement upon their already strong first effort. Mr. Reid loves it - it's got an 83% in my book. But you know who I was waiting for? The Rapture. Christ in a handbasket, these guys no less than powerhoused my ass to a mayhem of shaking and twisting when I first heard "House of Jealous Lovers." And they were one of those bands (who the fuck thought this would happen) that were insanely fun and really skilled! I was sure that The Rapture would finally pick up a year of music that was getting close to drooping. And I was right.

Of course, waiting for their album has been something akin to having sex for hours but being unable to reach orgasm; we all have their album downloaded, now we just want to buy it. In the meantime, who can count the number of rip-offs that have cropped up under the shade of the dance-punk promise? The Moving Units, for instance, have thought it clever, during the void left by the anticipation of Echoes, to plagiarize, and I mean seriously plagiarize The Rapture's sound. Shit, I thought I was listening to b-sides from Echoes when my buddy put their album in the boom-box (their crucifixion is forthcoming). But then again, I was not worried, for after listening to Echoes for the dozenth time, it became clear that well, you just can't beat the original.

Put plainly, you'd have to be an asshole not to like Echoes. I won't go so far as to say you have to love Echoes. That's up to you. If you're a tight-assed, snooty 40 year-old, feel free not to like it. If you're a tight-assed indie music snob who's been waiting to backlash against a group that's obviously super-talented, if your idea of fun is not having fun, then feel free not to like it. Just don't talk to me.

The reason this album kicks so much ass is not because each song kicks ass, per se. There are a number of songs here that are subdued, from the opener "Olio," to "Open Up Your Heart," to the closer, "Infatuation." They're all awesome, by the way. So are the more mid-intensity numbers, like "Sister Savior." The hyped-up, club-rocking, hipster-thrashing numbers, "House of Jealous Lovers" included, still fucking rock.

That's probably the key to why this album is so damn good: the variation. Filthy, jagged, angular guitars great, off-key but perfectly in-character vocals, techno beats, nasty fat bass, and cowbells are all great when employed in the right doses. Overload on one of the elements, and you've got tedium. Don't use them quite well enough, and you've got a failed experiment. But vary them up just so and you've got a top five contestant.

If what you know of The Rapture is confined to "House of Jealous Lovers," then "Olio," the opener, will mystify you. But if you're not an asshole, you'll realize that while it could be played at a club, it is dark, sinister, and exceedingly well put together. Thick synth blurps, a constant slinky synth line, and a killer programmed beat are all made almost unstable by the singhowl of Luke Jenner, the lead man. He sounds constantly unhinged, and it works wonders Terror and sadness are expressed in an eerie tremble in his voice. Jenner's voice will of course be commented on by everyone and his brother, but if you ask me, despite his lack of any obvious vocal skill, the man can sing like a motherfucker. He's not utterly tuneless; he carries a vocal melody excellently on "Open Up Your Heart." It's just that on half the tunes you cannot tell whether he's really in control, or whether he's about to spontaneously combust.

Then again, with rhythm and bass sections like these guys have, it'd be difficult to stay at the mic what with the uncontrolled ass rotation that would be careening you around the stage. "I Need Your Love" is pushed forward with a rubbery bass line and a techno, cymbal-accentuated beat. It's the most club-friendly track here, and it's insanely catchy with its synth/bass hook. Jenner is at his best here, and when his first real wails come in, it's with a manipulated horn accompaniment and leads off into a guitar line that turns into glitches and beeps. The song is artfully deconstructed and reconstructed while smacking your ass into orbit, before kicking out and cutting out. Same with songs "Killing" and "Sister Savior," lined as they are with retro-synths and guitar jangles, and killer beats to boot.

"Echoes," with its filthy-awesome bass hook heaven and the crowd-pleasing shrieks of "WHAT!!" at every lull, is pure enjoyment through its opening moments, and after a little guitar stabbing is chased around by a cowbell before kicking back into its original fare. The song then gets pounded with some cymbal annihilation, before it psycho-schizoids out into rhythm bedlam and ripped guitars. It cuts out, naturally, on a dime.

It would take me a damn long while to explain exactly why this album is so freaking great, how every track here is excellent, how it is truly the original dancepunk opus. It's a smack in the face for the cooler-than-thou stand-and-nod-only cynics that piss you off at your favorite concerts. It vindicates those of use who lose our shit during the rhythm freakouts at those concerts, only to see that no one around us is dancing. Most importantly though, it's actually technically and melodically awesome. So fuck naysayers.

Word on the street is these guys played in Ibiza and the whole crowd lost every ounce of shame they had and absolutely fucking flipped. That's evidence enough for me. If you can inject some life into those jaded hipsters, then it's proof enough that these guys are doing the club-punk fusion damn well. Far and away one of the best albums of the year, and without question the most fun. Seriously, what the fuck else could you ask for?