Sunday, September 17, 2006

Bitter pill or grand old time?

On the new Rapture track, "Whoo! Alright-Yeah Uh Huh”, Mattie Safer declares, “I used to think life a bitter pill but it's a grand old time.” A fitting announcement for an album whose chief flaw appears to be a rather one-dimensional insistence on the good times.

Progenitors of punk-funk and largely responsible – along with then co-pilots the DFA – for spawning much of the current indie disco landscape, populated by the likes of New Young Pony Club, Good Books, Klaxons even, The Rapture deliver a slick version of the sound on "Pieces Of The People We Love”. With it they've morphed from barely reconstructed indie squealers with added cowbells, to a precision-tooled guitar funk conglomerate hot enough to lure Danger Mouse into the studio for a couple of tracks. But for all its obvious achievements this album doesn't engage nearly as much as its predecessor.

And somehow they nail the problem succinctly in that one line. The bitter pill is the key - simple hedonism just isn’t enough. So when they drone on about a night on the town in a Ford Mustang on “First Gear”, like a No Wave version of a number from Grease, you wonder what happened to the deviant frenzy of “House Of Jealous Lovers” the fragility of “Love Is All”.

“Whoo! Alright-Yeah Uh Huh” is the album highlight by a country mile - partly because it does the best facsimile of the DFA-produced Rapture on offer – but most significantly because it actually has something to say. Full of bile, Safer lashes out at the girl that accuses him of writing "crap rock poetry" and almost goes as far as fingering the numbing corporate haul of the promotional circuit as “the reason we're so uninspired.” "A party ain’t great cuz the booze is free," he suggests. They come close again on the furious, if terribly over-produced, The Sound which suggests the nightmare of birthing this album from the belly of the world's biggest record label.

When it all finishes with the psyche-lite Chemical Bros retread of “Live In Sunshine" its hard not to conclude that punk funk's getting too dumb for its own good.


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