The Rapture, dance funk’s brightest lights following their desperate and occasionally brilliant 2003 album, Echoes, are back with Pieces of the People We Love. At every turn the album demonstrates this band’s quality and cements why when we think of funk-punk, the Rapture is among the first rank.
It’s easier to unravel the Rapture’s breakout album, Echoes, in hindsight. Part of the album’s appeal obviously originates from the DFA’s gritty, low-fi disco production, which lends the project a propulsive, unstoppable energy. Part of the reason, though, this didn’t translate into the larger-scale adoration accorded to Bloc Party or Franz Ferdinand was timing: the album was released after a slew of much more run-of-the-mill disco-punk—the easy reaction was to write this one as another in a series (albeit well-conceived), without giving the lesser played songs their due. Still, for those who invested the time in the album, Echoes‘s palpable sense of need burned brightest; desperation fueled the band’s rough beats and the beauty-wail of “Love is all my crippled soul will ever need.”
As Luke Jenner declares with characteristic strangulation in the coda to “Whoo! Alright-Yeah… Uh Huh”, typical attitude-wise from Pieces of the People, “I used to think life’s a bitter pill but it’s a grand old time”—and there you have it. This is the new Rapture, with a more upbeat outlook but still determined to make the hipsters dance. The new album is more confident and more slickly produced (still hanging on, though, to the band’s signature aggressive guitar/funk sound). There’s nothing here with the twisted, manic energy of “House of Jealous Lovers” or the constricted revelation of “Love Is All”. But despite this, the Rapture have created a minor masterpiece of danceable rock, perfectly melding the familiar elements of punk, funk, and disco in a heady mix with surprising variety—now celebratory, now bittersweet. And throughout, the quality of the songwriting is consistently outstanding.
The first single, which came out about the same time as the new Killers song and elicited some of the same head-scratching response, is “Get Myself Into It”. Though it’s undeniably a move into more poppy territory for the band, the Rapture stamp a chaotic saxophone scrawl and Jenner’s high-pitched shriek and there you have it—already a classic. Probably obvious from the overall tone here, but the single’s far from the only quality song here, from the na-na-na chorus of the title track to the exhortation for all the crossed-arm hipsters to get up and dance on upbeat shaker “Whoo! Alright-Yeah… Uh Huh”. “The Devil” (apparently he likes to dance) is more slickly produced, but still finds the room to allow Jenner’s voice to tremble with vibrato and his signature sense of standing on the edge of chaos.
It’s possible to draw various parallels here and there, especially on the more dancey tracks. “First Gear” echoes the Presets in its middle section, and the “My-my-my Mustang Ford” repetition at the end is very LCD Soundsystem. Co-producer (the other two are Paul Epworth (Bloc Party) and Danger Mouse) Ewan Pearson’s influence comes out strongest on “The Sound”, which accelerates into a Chemical Brothers/machine gun beat, with a hard edge. These new sounds don’t seem out of place, somehow—even if it’s the Rapture in party mode, Pieces of the People is entirely the Rapture.
In the end, Pieces of the People We Love requires less investment from its listeners but offers all the dance-mayhem energy and the dueling guitar/saxophone bits that make up the band’s sound. By the time the slow-shuffled beat on the final track, “Live in Sunshine”, gives way to synth pulses and then off into the atmosphere, you’ll certain feel this a fond farewell—to sunshine, to summer, and certainly to one of the year’s outstanding records.