The Rapture shows the listener a different New York City than the familiar indie stylings of slick bands like The Strokes. Simple and honest, they come to have fun. This isn’t to say they’re never adventurous or clever, but on their new release, “Pieces of the People we Love,” they always aim to please. This is music that would be as welcome on the dance floor as a pregame in Davenport.
Similar to the dance rock of Franz Ferdinand, Rapture cultivates an indie rock vibe inside pounding 4/4 rhythms that are derived more from house music than punk. While Ferdinand gets that drive from a bass guitar and drum, however, Rapture takes that idea in a much more electronic direction. Directly influenced by the Manchester Club scene (led by bands like The Happy Mondays), Rapture provides the listener with real rave-style electronic crescendo on intense songs like “First Gear” (even while they repeat the syntactically awkward “my, my, my, my Mustang Ford”). “First Gear” is one of the most successful tracks on the album, combining a twisting organ line with an unrelenting beat that does the venerated genre of car songs proud. The Beach Boys would be confused, but still pleased.
The Rapture truly owns its distinctive style through the vocals and guitar work of Luke Jenner. “The Devil” features screaming guitar solos that sound like the riff of Franz Ferdinand’s “Take Me Out” taken one step further. Pieces of “The Sound” channel heavy metal, while the rest of the song remains decidedly electronic, peppered with a creepy organ and staccato distorted bass. The end of that track descends into chaos instead of building to a climax, but this can be forgiven in the face of honest rocking. Jenner’s guitar is perfectly at home ripping real punk rock solos over relentless house beats. The result sounds less like a novel idea and more like a natural decision. This isn’t to say that the stylistic melting pot is always successful — “Living in Sunshine,” while a great, slow, pounding, epic rock song, would be a much better song if one were simply to remove that annoying electric organ.
The bass-heavy drive of the dance floor is a constant presence on this album, at first making the whole experience seem flat and unvaried. On the second listen, however, a subtly mature sensibility leaps out from every penetrating beat. The title track, “Pieces of the People We Love,” sounds like a White Stripes Song, “Whoo Alright, Yeah … Uh Huh” is funky as hell, and “On and On” is honky-tonk and blues streaming out of a synthesizer. Rapture never strays quite far enough from their dance rock foundation to risk turning the audience off, but offers a surprising amount of range within their niche.
The lyrics, while oftentimes incomprehensible, are light and fun, just what one wants up against the playful club beats: “High, high as a kite/ Low, low as it goes.” Vaguely drug related, nebulous, shoutable — perfect. Most of the time the vocals are essentially another rhythm track, with the actual spoken words fading into the background. But when Rapture decides they want the audience to hear something, it hits the spot just right. In their own words, “Gotta get myself into it / why not help me do it?” Damn straight.
Rapture never bites off more than it can chew, and luckily it can chew quite a lot. “Pieces” is a fun and exciting album, one that knows what it has to do and sticks to that. In the end, it pulls it off with just enough flair. The Rapture is all about enjoying their music, and they want the audience to do that too. They’re good for getting out on the dance floor and feeling their rhythm or sitting back and appreciating what they’ve got. Don’t expect your mind to be blown or your world to be shattered, but look forward to a solid and successful shake.