The Rapture - Echoes
or better or worse, we here at Stylus, in all of our autocratic consumer-crit greed, are slaves to timeliness. A record over six months old is often discarded, deemed too old for publication, a relic in the internet age. That's why each week at Stylus, one writer takes a look at an album with the benefit of time. Whether it has been unjustly ignored, unfairly lauded, or misunderstood in some fundamental way, we aim with On Second Thought to provide a fresh look at albums that need it.
When it was released, Echoes left a bad taste in my mouth. Maybe if I was willing to embrace dance-punk as Rock Redemption, I would have drooled at the novelty, but I have techno roots, so I lamented the loss of a perfectly good collection of DFA beats. The punk in the Rapture’s dance-punk seemed a half-assed excuse for indie kids to accept neon beats and vamp synths. (“I don’t know—disco is positively gauche, but this album has some Gang of Four in it, so I’m safe.”) Since life is too short to be annoyed by music, Echoes was relegated to the used bin after a few listens. I chalked it up as another victim of hype.
But, damn, people will not let it die.
So why not give it a second chance? Very few things in life are better than a musical revelation—the transformation of garbage to glitter. So I listened to “Sister Savior,” then “House of Jealous Lovers,” then the beginning of “Olio,” and I thought I understood. These tracks are sweaty, smoky, and more than a little pissed off and more than a little sexy.
Unfortunately, then I heard the rest of the album.
Be honest. Look underneath the avalanche of press comments that conditions a response to a piece of music. You’ll feel better when you admit that Echoes is dull and bloated.
“Heaven,” “Echoes,” and “Olio” repeat so much that they feel like forty-five second loops stretched to four minutes. They seem to start out strong, guitars ripping and slashing as post-punk guitars will, production flourishes disguising the fact that it’s already been done better, and beats bumping along. And so I wait, and I wait, and nothing happens. The music repeats, word for word and riff for riff. The good feelings die halfway through. The guitars eventually sound flat, the basslines lose their energy, and the beats don’t move the body. If I could cut the fat on Echoes, it might not last fifteen minutes.
But that’s not the worst of it—at least those songs leave a decent first impression. “Love is All” and “Open Up Your Heart” are terrible. This statement is so self-evident that I almost don’t feel the need to justify it. But here goes. Maybe the band wanted to “diversify” their sound and somebody suggested ballads. “Yeah, that seems like the easiest way to create a contrast without trying too hard,” said the Rapture, “but how can we disguise our total indifference to writing a good ballad?”
“Oh, no problem,” said the idea man, “we’ll hand them over to the DFA, and they’ll add their magic touch. Then people will ignore the high-school poetry lyrics and the high-school prom band instrumentation.”
The rest of the album doesn’t atone for these sins. Yeah, it’s got some nice beats (and whoever blasted out the synth lines was having a damn good time), but nice beats aren’t that hard to find nowadays—and the rest of the beats in this wide world aren’t marred by Luke Jenner’s wailing. I spend the album waiting for him to clear his throat. He’s at his best when he’s repeating something I can ignore, ala “House of Jealous Lovers.” I grant that on “Olio” his shriek matches the tone of the song, and on “Sister Savior,” he is willing to sound like a human, but I cannot forgive.
So rip “House of Jealous Lovers” and “Sister Savior” and jam them into a DFA comp. The best of Echoes comes from the DFA anyway, and that’s why the Rapture should be kept under their umbrella.
By: Bryan Berge
Published on: 2005-02-01