The Rakes' pub crawl soundtrack on the Capture/Release UK album and the Retreat US EP reveal the 'it' band hype is somewhat unfounded.
US release date: 11 October 2005
UK release date: Available as import
PopMatters Associate Music Editor
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Cashing-in on the Common Londoner card, the Rakes have come forth with the UK album, Capture/Release, and the US EP, Retreat. Unfortunately, the "it" band hype is somewhat unfounded. The quartet is producing competent, if fairly pedestrian post-punk pub rock, in a field already crowded with the likes of The Bloc Party, Interpol, and The Others.
Repeated listens of Capture/Release uncover some songs to pique your interest, but the brevity and sameness of the songs weigh the album down. "Retreat" is a quality single that captures the essence of The Rakes' music -- It's not paranoia so much as a hyper-sensitive feel of worry mixed with resignation that runs through their work. Singer Alan Donohoe's bored confusion on "Retreat" ("I don't wanna miss out on anything / At the same time I feel the need to retreat / Everything is temporary these days / Might as well go out for the fifth night in a row") ties directly to the album closer, "Work, Work, Work (Pub, Club, Sleep)". Musically, "Open Book" is reminiscent of the early, sonically disturbing and experimentally disjointed work of the Cure, but thematically, it continues down the same path as most of the album.
The slacker to-do lists of "Retreat" and "Open Book" are completely interchangeable: "Walk home, come down, retreat to sleep! / Wake up, go out again, repeat! / Walk home, come down, retreat to sleep! / Hook up again this time next week!" and "Pick up a book / Put down a book / Turn on the TV / It's two a.m. / There's nothing on / I just need something to focus on." And any potency behind the observational storytelling of "Work, Work, Work (Pub, Club, Sleep)" is drained because it comes after being bombarded with the same ideas for the past 10 songs:
I've got the same shirt on for two days in a row / With the soy sauce stain so everyone knows... I'll have my lunch early, get some sugar in my blood / My clothes still smell of last night, I've got to clear my head... It's all these words, idea, and different arguments / Someone's always talking when I try to make some sense... I just drift along with no focus on the end
There are some songs that deviate from the overall sentiment, but nothing stands out as particularly interesting. Even when the band tries to deviate from the pub and club scene, they still end up in common work-a-day Londoner territory. The catchy but annoying UK single "22 Grand Job" is an under-two minute musing on a mundane job in the city. "Guilt" covers the remorse of a one night stand, and "Binary Love" is a bizarre love affair of technology. "We are All Animals" comes off as the band's sweeping excuse for their behavior. Only "Strasbourg" stands out among these songs as an amusing fantasy tale of intrigue and espionage, one that finds Donohoe ruminating about surveillance cameras, blown covers, the Autobahn, and vodka over Matthew Swinnerton's churning guitar work.
The Retreat EP adds two new songs and a remix to Capture/Release's "Retreat", "Strasbourg", and "22 Grand Job". "Dark Clouds" has a Joy Division feel in both the rhythm section of Jamie Hornsmith's bass and Lasse Petersen's drumming, and in Donohoe's delivery. "Something Clicked and I Fell Off the Edge" tells the tale of excess. Paul Epworth's "Phones Remix" of "Retreat" is the longest song among the two albums, clocking in at nearly six minutes. It's also the song that ends up the most memorable of the bunch -- not because it is necessarily the best remix you'll hear, but because it is so radically different sounding than anything else by the Rakes.
It's not that these are bad songs, it's just that they are all so thematically similar they begin to run together and loose their potency. Between the two releases, pick the Retreat EP for its conciseness and variety, and pick the Capture/Release full-length album for a dark soundtrack to an early 20s pub crawl lifestyle.