Is The Rapture’s latest album, In The Grace Of Your Love any good or not? It’s hard to tell from the reviews, with almost every credible music publication in the UK offering up a completely contrasting take on the record. The dance-punk outfit from New York City first came to prominence in 2003 with their epoch-making album Echoes and in particular, the song ‘House Of Jealous Lovers’ which after several thousand remixes became an indie dancefloor classic. After a notable absence from our musical consciousness, the band have just released a new album, In The Grace of Your Love, and are about to start a tour which takes in bits of America, then crosses to Britain and over to other parts of Europe in October and November. It’s been 5 years since the release of their last album Pieces Of The People We Love, which, in pop music terms, is a pretty long time. The intervening years have also seen the band parting ways with their long-term bassist Matt Safer, which must have affected the feeling within the band.
“This is a really hard question to answer quickly,” responds keyboard and guitar player Gabriel Andruzzi when questioned on the subject of Matt’s departure. “Our relationships changed a lot before Mattie left. Luke (Jenner, singer), Vito (Roccoforte, drummer) and I all were able to put a lot of crap behind us in order to engage with each other and respect each other. Functionally we all had a lot more room. Vito got to really stretch out rhythmically, I got to play bass and Luke got to sing every song on this album.”
With such a shift in dynamic, the song writing system is bound to have changed, so how do The Rapture go about writing music nowadays? “The lyrics are all written by Luke and the music was written by all of us. Sometimes the vocal comes first, other times music inspires the vocal, whether it is a sketch made by myself or Vito, or a jam that came from us all playing in the room.”
The lyrics certainly contain a biographical element, with Jenner focussing on the ‘small’ lessons life teaches us about love, loss, family and friends, and his vocals have rarely sounded better. In the 5 years since the last record, we’ve all become a little older (and wiser, we like to think), but are the band still as optimistic about love as they appeared to be on their earlier records? From ‘Love Is All’, we’ve gone to ‘In The Grace Of Your Love’ and ‘How Deep Is Your Love?’, a song on the latest album where Jenner admits to trying to write in a prayerful state to see where it would take him. “Optimistic about love? You can’t deny love. Love is… It’s like air. Can you be optimistic about air? (I’ll answer my own question. In this day and age with all the disrespect that is done to air I guess we have to go beyond optimism and become somewhat militant in protecting air quality).”
For this lastest album, the band enjoyed working with Philippe Zdar from Cassius, who brought a consistency which was perhaps lacking on the album’s predecessor, where production duties were shared between Ewan Pearson, Paul Epworth and Danger Mouse. Zdar took more of a low-key approach, which the band liked. “I love working with Philippe. He is a very, very energetic, loving and supportive person. Philippe brought a lot of reverb. That’s about it technically. He spent most of the time eating crepe suzette, drinking coffee, complaining about his lost comb and never really getting our name right.”
In The Grace of Your Love is a dance album in which The Rapture have smoothed away some of the rough edges of their earlier work to give their sound a beautifully sequenced and syncopated feel. The balance tilts away from dance-punk and leans much more towards a traditional dance album, so what was in their minds upon entering the studio? “No master plan at all.” responds Andruzzi. “This record was way more about process than about reaching a specific goal. We chased a feeling, followed our intuition and embraced a variety of inspirations while pursuing a single path.” As an opening track, ‘Sail Away’ is very powerful/hopeful, so how did that come about and what’s the message behind the song? “That song was actually a real gift. A really weird wizard chick riding a golden dragon brought that one to us.”
Gifts aside, there seems to be an element of ‘out with the old, in with the new’ on In The Grace of Your Love. ‘Bluebird’ and ‘Can You Find A Way?’ could easily have slotted back into their older repertoire, whereas ‘Never Say Die Again’ and ‘It Takes Time To Be A Man’ seem to mark a slight departure – an easier sound with some sax and jazz noodling also featuring. “The saxophone came about simply because I play sax and Philippe and Luke really love the instrument and kept asking me to play it. The sax on ‘It Takes Time To Be A Man’ was actually the last thing we recorded for the album.”
The band have road-tested the album recently, with select dates in the US and around Europe, taking in Amsterdam, Antwerp and even Stradbally, Ireland, so how have people reacted to the new material? “Great! A lot of love coming back at us. It feels good to be performing with our audience with more regularity. We are taking it one tour at a time… We are just getting started touring this record. It is hard to start making plans to write and record a new record.”
Fair enough then. So let The Rapture’s In The Grace of Your Love coax you back onto the dancefloor. Give the album a spin and let your feet do the rest of the talking. They’ve sidestepped the possibly distracting hype surrounding Echoes (and particularly ‘House Of Jealous lovers’) before of course, but this time they’ve judged a tricky return just about right. In The Grace of Your Love is a box of surprises, but there are enough original, good tunes and grooves to reward the repeat listener. ‘Sail Away’ and its companion piece ‘Children’, ‘Miss You’ and ‘Come Back To You’ gently elate, before the title track and album closer ‘It Takes Time To Be A Man’ gently put th listener back down to earth. It may be an album which continues to divide opinion, but there’s more than enough momentum here to keep the band moving forward. And you can be pretty sure that whatever else happens, The Rapture will always entice you to the dancefloor.
In The Grace Of Your Love is available now through DFA Records.