The five years it’s taken The Rapture to follow up previous album ‘Pieces of The People We Love’ have heralded departures in both musical style and former bassist Mattie Safer. The latter paved the way for the former in handing more creative control to frontman Luke Jenner, allowing him to infuse the band’s lyrics with his own tumultuous personal experiences and newfound spirituality, while a label move from Universal to their original home of DFA has granted them a chance to experiment with a newer, synth-based sound, away from the indie disco genre they popularised in the first place.
Tonight’s gig presents a challenge, not just because of the corporate logos, camera rigs and competition winners shoehorned into a tiny space by Rowans’ bowling lanes, but because this is a prime opportunity to gauge fan reaction to this new direction in a set comprised of old and new material. Set opener and ‘In the Grace of Your Love’ dips its toe in cautiously, with a slower pace and synth solo before the more traditional bass, guitar and drums chime in one-by-one. It’s the first of an opening trio of tracks from the band’s new album that steadily build up the tempo and showcase the album’s slower-paced numbers, but they attract little more than polite head bobbing from most. Unsurprisingly, the biggest reactions are saved for the indelible, unashamed party tunes like ‘Whoo! Alright, Yeah… Uh-huh’ and, of course, a rambunctious rendition of ‘House of Jealous Lovers’, before new songs like ‘Come Back to Me’, with its gospel-tinged refrain, and ‘How Deep Is Your Love?’ with its earworm-laying piano hook, show a natural and intelligent progression in influences from 70s disco/funk to 90s dance, while proving the band can maintain the party pace.
The raucous noise and pained yelps of ‘Echoes’ have given way to tighter musicianship and soaring vocals – less cacophonous, more joyous, but just as infectious. They may have traded in the cowbell, but this new direction may see the pioneers of punk-funk blaze a whole new trail.
By Phil Dixon
Originally published in issue 34 (vol 3) of Loud And Quiet. January 2012