It’s 1991 all over again! We’re at the Hacienda, dancing furiously to the Happy Mondays and their curious rock/dance hybrid. Well, maybe not, but certainly it is for San Francisco-based post-punk band The Rapture and their eclectic second album shows this. However, whilst the Mondays sang about drugs, sex and their Manchester council estate lives, The Rapture sing about much more emotional and intelligent issues; predominantly, love. The wife of singer/guitarist Luke Jenner must be one happy lady. The other Rapture members- Mattie Safer, Gabriel Andruzzi and Vito Roccoforte- must also be pretty heavily smitten, with a large proportion of the songs dedicated to the subject. The type of music varies wildly from song to song, from bleeping techno to saxophone-led slow jams. The sheer variety of this album is one of its very strongest points- the album could have appeared schizophrenic and confused, but instead the songs are remarkably diverse. The Rapture have a very specific sound, helped in part by the truly great production of the super ‘hip’ DFA, based in New York. The sound is predominantly lo-fi, verging on ‘recorded in a cupboard on a Dictaphone’ territory, and yet it feels right, you wouldn’t have it any other way. In a time where albums are often overproduced it really is a breath of fresh air. Even during some of the more upbeat moments, the romanticism of the songwriters pokes through the songs like a mole poking around the soil, looking for grubs. I know full well that’s a bad simile, but I don’t care. I like moles.
Opening track “Olio” sounds like Aphex Twin in a moment of rare cohesion, with Jenner’s paranoid, occasionally spooky lyrics; “Trapped in my thoughts / You repeating like a machine gun” – making a disorientating opening, to say the least. This confusion is reinforced with the discordant, strident opening of “Heaven,” sounding like a hallucinating Captain Beefheart trapped in your heart. The A Capella bridge is like cold water being thrown on you, awakening you from the trance. Unfortunately you are plunged straight back into this stupor by the minimalist swing of “Open Up Your Heart.” An album highlight, one could visualize an old couple slow-dancing into the night to this ethereal masterpiece of piano-led beauty. First single “House of Jealous Lovers” is a disco banger that is guaranteed to get the club moving, and reinforces the fact that the cowbell is the coolest musical instrument EVER. Title track “Echoes” is also a beauty, with walking bass and cowbell solo adding up to sheer punk-funk brilliance. “Sister Saviour” at the same time is an echoing work of disco perfection, with surrealist lyrics; “Last night I had a dream / A warm field with strawberries and cream” over Mattie Safer’s synthesized bass. “Love Is All” is just that, a ramshackle journey through the trials and tribulations of love and how it makes everything else outside of it insignificant. The accordion use is outstanding, and that is a compliment I do not give lightly. Lastly, “Infatuation” is a fuzzy rumble through the darker corners of the subconscious that leads to a disturbing and harrowing finish. Whew.
All in all, there is something in this record for everyone. Whether you’re in the mood to boogie on down to “House of Jealous Lovers,” pull your best Travolta-isms to “Sister Saviour” or jerk spasmodically to “I Need Your Love,” this record caters to your every whim. The main problem with this record however is the often-sharp change of mood that accompanies the many genres cycled through. First time listeners may be disorientated by these rapid changes and the gloriously ramshackle production, but with repeated listens, you’ll love it.