Review: The Rapture – In the Grace of Your Love
September 12, 2011 Leave a comment
Brooklyn-based trio The Rapture perfectly exemplifies the devastating hype cycle of music in the Internet age.
They exploded onto the scene in 2002 with the classic single “House of Jealous Lovers,” a danceable blast of punk rock that descended onto the awkward and thoughtful drama geek that was early aughts indie rock like a manic, wedgie-happy bully.
The Internet hype-machine kicked into high gear, hastily labeling The Rapture’s mixture of angular post-punk guitar and disco beats as “dance-punk” and celebrating the resurrection of legendary sounds from bands like Gang of Four, New Order and The Talking Heads.
But the Internet is a fickle beast. It tore The Rapture down just as quickly as it had hoisted the band into stardom, calling them plagiarists and puppets of the now famed production duo DFA, also known as James Murphy and Tim Goldsworthy — the founders of LCD Soundsystem and owners of DFA Records.
That short taste of success was enough to drive the band to a major label for its laughably inconsequential third album, another all too common story among indie bands. Shortly after its release, the band’s lineup began to crumble, with vocalist Luke Jenner quitting then quickly rejoining and bassist Matt Safer splitting for good. It looked like the end for a band that had, only three years prior, changed the face of independent rock.
Now, five years since its last album, The Rapture is back on DFA Records, the label responsible for its glorious “House of Jealous Lovers” moment, for the release of In The Grace of Your Love. Sadly, it seems those Internet naysayers were right all along.
The album opens strongly with “Sail Away,” a disco-punk power ballad that evokes an unholy lovechild of U2 and The Killers, but quickly devolves into a disjointed mess of poor production, inane lyrics and humdrum melodies.
When it’s bad, it’s really bad. “Blue Bird” is a cloying attempt at the classic glam rock of T. Rex, but it lands somewhere closer to Mott the Hoople cover-band territory. “Children” sounds like an unrelentingly upbeat dronefest built from the scraps of MGMT’s sound collection, but it’s confusingly juxtaposed with Jenner singing about the tragedy of losing children, whether to death or divorce.
Then there’s “Roller Coaster,” what I’m assuming is an apocalyptically bad attempt at a Beatles-esque sing-along. The result is a nauseating lullaby about trying to maintain a romantic relationship amidst a chaotic life, featuring a painfully dumb chorus and possibly the wimpiest guitar solo of all time.
However, there are some great moments sprinkled throughout the album’s 50 minute runtime. The title track features a dramatic breakdown, stripping back layers of guitar, synth and theremin and leaving Jenner to belt out the song’s final lines alone. He sounds beaten and vulnerable. It’s one of the few genuinely emotional moments on the album and definitely Jenner’s best. Meanwhile closing track “It Takes Time to be a Man” is a pleasant Motown number with a wall-of-sound climax and lilting saxophone outro.
In The Grace of Your Love is clearly the work of a band struggling to define itself. The range of styles represented on the tracklist is dizzying, but somehow they all end up sounding like the same song with varying degrees of bad lyrics.
It’s safe to say now that even at the height of its success, The Rapture’s sound was largely defined by the production of Murphy and Goldsworthy, a duo absent during the recording of this latest album. The only track that approaches this DFA produced level of quality is “How Deep is Your Love?” a disco banger with a mercilessly catchy Chicago house piano line and a chorus that sounds strangely like the “Thong Song.”
One problem is Jenner’s voice, a nasally squawk perfect for the angular punk rock of the “Jealous Lovers” days, but unable to mesh with the more melody driven vocals found on Grace. His attempts at the winding, snake charmer melody of “Can You Find a Way,” for example, are just embarrassing.
Lyrically, things aren’t much different. They’re shallow and repetitive, which worked when combined with the band’s past dance music, but the expanded palette of this latest release reduces the musical dynamism and leaves the irritating and distracting writing front and center.
It will be interesting to see if the band can survive a second flop, especially one of this magnitude. “How Deep is Your Love?” is proof that there is some spark left in The Rapture, but it seems without the help of its former producers, the band is stuck wandering around musical limbo, looking for a sound to capture the Internet tastemakers’ attention yet again.