The Rapture

Pieces Of The People We Love

(Universal/Motown; 2006)

By David M. Goldstein | 30 December 2007

There’s so many superficial reasons to hate on the Rapture that I’m actually a little frustrated that Pieces of the People We Love is really good. Hatchet jobs are way more fun to write, and what makes for an easier target than a bonafide “dance-punk” album being released in 2006? And seriously -- did it really take nearly four years for The Rapture to write and release these ten songs? I mean, technically Echoes (2003) was released three years ago to the month, but the U.K. release date was nine months prior, and anybody with a modem and a passing interest in modern rock already had the album in full a few months before that. So yeah: four years!

Flashy and energetic, Pieces goes a long way towards reminding folks why they were supposed to care deeply about the Rapture in the first place, though I’m guessing it probably would have inured to their financial benefit had it been released, say, two years ago. That being said, the sheer enthusiasm with which they attack these ten songs elevates Pieces above any finger pointing or outmoded notions of dance-punk; instead, this is simply a raucous dance record that just happens to utilize guitars. The band’s verve manifests itself in glorious hit single-fodder like the life-affirming sunburst of “Down For So Long” and the uber-corny (albeit in the best way possible) shimmy of “The Devil.” The former has been kicking around in the Rapture’s live set since at least the summer of 2004, but the studio version finally settles on a dynamite arrangement, resulting in a super-catchy track melding the chords and key of Happy Mondays’ “Do It Better” with the gallop and itchy guitars of Talking Heads’ “Born Under Punches.”

And while we’re on that topic, suffice it to say that no band in recent memory has gotten as much mileage out of Remain in Light (1980) as the Rapture have here. The title track, the aforementioned “Devil,” and first single “Get Myself Into It” all feature that record’s signature awkward guitar funk, while the Mattie Safer sung “Whoo Alright! Yeah...Uh-huh” more or less rewrites “The Great Curve” and tosses in Thomas Dolby-keyboards and female back-up singers for good measure. Of course, you could do a lot worse than to look towards Light for inspiration, and the Rapture are not mere plagiarists. Plus, it takes serious chops to pull off that record’s complex rhythm math, and it’s clearly apparent that a heavy touring regimen has tightened the already considerably dexterous rhythm section of bassist Safer and drummer Vito Roccoforte.

In terms of sonics, producers Paul Epworth and Goldfrapp remix guru Ewan Pearson are successful in keeping the listener from noticing the absence of the DFA. Pearson likely had a hand in crafting “First Gear,” which sounds (surprise!) like a Goldfrapp song and utilizes the most electronics of any track on the album. Fortunately, the Rapture’s use of computers and keys elsewhere is far better integrated into their punkier tendencies, and unlike Echoes, it’s no longer possible to cherry pick the tracks that their laptop-minded producers had nothing to do with. Goofball du jour Dangermouse actually lent his production skills to the title track and “Callin’ Me,” but these songs have little to distinguish them production-wise from the Epworth/Pearson songs. The Dangermouse tracks are actually among Pieces’ least compelling, but both are solid gold compared to closer “Live in Sunshine,” an out of place hippie drone so kitschy it feels like an inside joke. Vocal duties are more evenly split between guitarist Luke Jenner and Matt Safer than on Echoes, and while the former’s yelps could still pass for Head on the Door-era (1985) Robert Smith when you’re drunk, it’s to his credit that he was way more annoying on Echoes than he is here.

Would it be blasphemous for me to suggest that Pieces of the People We Love might even be a better album than the much revered Echoes? It holds together better as a complete document, it contains at least seven potential singles, and sounds like a crack band at the top of their game, as opposed to the gawky hipsters who once enlisted a credible producer in vain pursuit of a much needed groove. Considering the unquestionably self-indulgent four year lag time between albums and the fact that most “dance-punk” nowadays is relegated to the cut-out bin next to “ska,” Pieces of the People We Love is far better than it has any right to be.