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12.03 Not a timeless sound

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The Rapture’s Echoes

December 2003 – With all of the hype, expectation, and praise leading up to the release of The Rapture’s Echoes, it almost feels wrong not to be able to say “This album is the greatest thing to be created in the past ten years and we should all treat The Rapture like the geniuses that they are!” Stadiums should be filled. Sales records should be broken. Somewhere young girls should be screaming on a tarmac.

But then you listen. Something’s not there. Something holds you back from loving Echoes, like when you say that the movie you just saw was good, but not great. Sure there is a certain level of curiosity that is attached to the album, but it is questionable whether or not it has enough to be a long-time resident of your CD player.

Echoes begins with a thesis statement like song “Olio,” laying out exactly what The Rapture is all about: dance music. Programmed beats and pulsating bleeps are accompanied by crunky guitars and clattering drums. The most endearing part of The Rapture is the uniting bass of Mattie Safer.

As one would expect, The Rapture’s sound is far from cohesive. “Heaven” is a mix between Phish-style ethical lyrics — and beats that have a strange Rage Against the Machine feel. The line “1 2 3 4 5 6 7, I’m floating in a constant heaven,” is delivered by an off key chorus and then is reinforced by the band’s disjointed instruments.

The musical bouncing and vibrating is almost visual. Maybe it’s because you cannot help bobbing your head, a response reminiscent of a band like Soulive. The Rapture propels images of people shaking around in some type of induced frenzy.

Herein lies the attractiveness of The Rapture for lots of listeners. They give you a reason to dance. Echoes is a departure from the gloomy slacker image that has been the staple of any type of alternative band since the nineties. Sure, the age-old themes have not changed — a broken heart and loneliness are still centerpieces here — but now they’re set to a throbbing, rather than a simply distorted sound.

A fuzziness of sorts is still present, though. Echoes has an almost do-it-yourself approach, with low-tech production rather than sleek mixing. There is something to be said for the rustling sound of a vinyl record and the ruggedness of a recorded moment in time. But some tracks, like “Open Up Your Heart” and “Love Is All,” could use a touch of post-production, if for nothing else but to add some atmosphere that the band can obviously create brilliantly, but don’t.

Instead, it’s all about moving to the beat. “Open Up Your Heart” is an eerie waltz that seems to be straight out of a Paul Thomas Anderson Film. You would swear that it played somewhere in Punch-Drunk Love. That same delicate awkwardness that the movie portrayed permeates singer Luke Jenner’s lyrics: “When you’re sad and lonely/ And your mind sees you only/ Take a chance you can fight it/ Open up your heart.”

In most instances, though, The Rapture is about the “shakedown,” as in “House of Jealous Lovers.” A drum and synthesizer beat are accompanied by Jenner’s guitar –which has become almost completely redundant by this point in the album — all to make way for the bass line. All together it could make an eighty-year-old grandmother dance. Yea it’s fun, but eventually you realize that you’re listening to this on your earphones, and not at a rave.

Although all very interesting, Echoes is more like a passing stage more than anything else. The Rapture have created an album similar to that scary look you get in your eyes during an all night bender — not something that you would necessarily want to have around all the time — but it has its place. Maybe it’s the party, maybe it’s a live show, or maybe the place is the rave. But it’s not for all time.

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