“People are saying ‘You wanna see the Rapture tonight?’ as if they’re saying, ‘You wanna see a corpse?’ It’s more morbid curiosity than anything.”
Not outing my guy here, but try putting last night better than “morbid curiosity.” Three years ago the Rapture had the hottest twelve around, an actual punk song you could actually play in a dance set, vice versa. I don’t give exclusive credit to “House of Jealous Lovers” for the birth of indie-dance parties, which in my mind grew more out of electro and electro-clash and post-punk/synth-rock shoehorned into disco sets, the jump, say, from Bunny Sigler to, say, “Rapture.” But the track actualized the spirit–experiencing rock music in ways other than the concert format.
Then the full-length Echoes came out a year later–not an 80-minute collection of dance singles, but a rock album with slow songs and fast songs and singing and light genre-hopping and so on–a lot like this year’s LCD Soundsystem record actually. Besides “they fucking blew it” and “dance-punk is dead,” we heard “the Rapture are nothing without the DFA.” Rapture toured non-stop for the year, watched Franz Ferdinand and the Killers and everybody else “bring dance back to rock” and sell hundreds of thousands more records than they did, finished up in September 2004, then pretty much disappeared.
An industry-is-fucked story, really. Universal never should have re-released “House” as the album’s lead single–a year after everyone playing it out–since the Rapture suddenly became “band with one awesome song” by default, no interest in pushing the album as a rock album. More trouble, so much of Echoes is smart studio work (the songs composed largely in the studio, I remember), especially “House” and the snare effects and the drum machine programming, etc., the whole rhythm track was chopped up, clicked, and resequenced, etc. All very difficult to reproduce live, if not impossible–so the divide between The Rapture The Rock Group and The Rapture The Studio Players unfairly indicted the band. They made a good rock album with some well-produced dance tracks, but got stuck in who-did-whats and mis-markets and anachronism in general–play with a few release dates, radio singles, etc., and the Rapture wouldn’t need this three-graf intro.
When Rapture bassist Matt Safer scooped us a few months ago about the band’s new songs, direction, etc., he made clear the band’s bringing complete songs into the studio, not working on them on the fly. What we got at Crash Mansion last night, the band’s first NYC gig in over a year, were totally songs–the Rapture The Rock Group’s best songs yet. The fact that the songs are so full live tells me the band really wants to get away from the production-heavy sound, and they totally have the songs to do so. Less track-y, better vocal melodies with more color (more “soulful,” Safer had said earlier), some occasional slips into mopey G. Love college-funk (until the bridge, first song “No Sex for Matt” (sp?) scared me for a sec), but for the most part no-frills dancey synth-rock. Saxophonist-bellcowist Gabe Andruzzi switched out of his trance-dance Kenny G routine (save the curly hair and party shirt) into more sit-down keytar type-shit, all pretty catchy from what I remember last night.
Can’t say enough about Safer and Jenner singing–they really work well on their own (Safer’s bari bounce more confident, Jenner holding back on the glass-shattering vibrato of yore, straight stares, doesn’t have to ham it up because he knows his voice is songbird), but the best shit’s when they sing together–Jenner trills Safer, Safer’s huff keeps Jenner from overpowering. Speaks to a noticeable dynamic change in the band too–Jenner’s definitely scaled back on the head honchoisms, again, letting his voice do the work. Jenner’s guitar rings out more too, less swipes at the board, more hugging and caressing, even a guitar solo at one point. I wish drummer Vito Roccoforte would can the stuffed high hat–unless it’s breakneck I’m always convinced he’s losing time–but maybe looser is better here. The closer he gets to approximating Echoes drum sounds, the more apparent the difference between live/studio, better or worse.
That’s the new stuff. The Rapture played songs off Echoes (“Sister Savior”, “House”) and “Out of the Races…” too; all sounded fine, got your boys Asian Dude With the Backwards Baseball Cap and Asian Dude With the White Jacket knocking into people like they do at every fucking show, if that means anything to you. Still, I’ll always opt for “House” in a DJ set over “House” live–just saying–and I bet the Rapture would agree with me. Because their new songs actually sound better live than their old songs–way way better, and the Rapture as “Dancey” Rock Band who also have good dance remixes seems a better, “safer” (you love it) path than Dance-Rock Band–dead in tracks, not by their own will but still, never able to commit fully to either.