Going back almost a decade now The Rapture were some of the hippest dudes in music, at the epicentre of the NY punk-funk explosion after ‘House of Jealous Lovers’ became a monster hit and Echoes was critically adored they seemed like they’d have it all sorted from henceforth.
The group have been through a lot in the five years since the ‘kind of unfairly’ maligned follow up Pieces of The People We Love, what with constant recording disruptions from front man Luke Jenner temporarily quitting and then lynchpin bassist Mattie Safer leaving for good earlier this year. A big question mark now hangs over their potential relevance with the release of their fourth album, things have changed a lot since then and they might well have struggled to keep pace.
‘Sail Away’ is a storming opener though, and one which suggests a band back in their prime as laconic yelps and climactic bursts of distorted euphoria float around on a raft of feedback before segueing into the next track with arrhythmic trumpet and meandering atonal keys. Sadly the plodding beat which opens ‘Miss You’ is more symptomatic of the dry and seemingly half-arsed approach which sullied some of the last record. Whilst the lead synth has a catchy simplicity to it and the unimaginative lyrics are delivered with conviction it all just feels a bit hollow. The excitement of Echoes was in its variation and its cavalier attitude; yeah in ‘House of Jealous Lovers’ and ‘Sister Saviour’ it had two stonking big ‘made for radio’ hits, but the rest of the album was fragile and tethered by a strong sense of emotional vulnerability which is surprisingly lacking here.
The Rapture all the old fans want to hear is evident on ‘Come Back To Me’; a bold track built around chopped and processed accordion sampling and a bouncing balearic beat which could be the toast of club dancefloors if it weren’t for the second half crumbling into delightful low tempo lethargy. The title track teases similar glimpses of their golden era, with Jenner’s swooning castrated vocals, but it fails to capture any real momentum and ends up just limping through the motions. Frankly, most of the album could be dismissed in such a manner; ‘Blue Bird’ is a tepid blueprint of psychedelic rock; ‘Children’ sounds like MGMT without any hooks; ‘It Takes Time To Be A Man’ is a patient nu-soul stroll which is pleasant but lacks any actual soul. It is an attempt at something a bit different though and well, that counts for something right?
Lead single ‘How Deep Is Your Love’ is the clear standout, anthemic slams of house piano and deep drums swirl around hypnotically, and although it is probably missing a killer bass line it’s nonetheless one of the few tracks with that hit quality of old. It’s sweat addled and ragged, yet dancing on into the night as saxophones enter the fray along with layered vocals to cement its place as the best track on the album.
Hopefully the next record won’t take five years because whilst In The Grace of Your Love contains just enough glimmers of quality to satisfy fans who have been patient, it’s clear that The Rapture are falling far short of cutting edge in 2011 and their style now seems very passé. Here there are tentative steps towards a new identity for this decade, a competent but uninspiring comeback from a band who are capable of much more. There is still a lot of work to be done.