here seems to be very little point in reviewing Echoes now that it’s finally hit the stores; the UK’s been able to purchase it for two months now, it’s been all over the internet for a year or more, and the hipsters who were so keen to embrace it half an orbit of the sun ago have already stopped listening to it. Discopunk? It’s so passé, darling. The Rapture have wowed audiences, made dancefloors heave, rocked festivals – why bother to actually release the record at all now? The important stuff’s all been done.
The first hurdle is Luke Jenner’s yowling, neutered-hyena voice, equal parts Robert Smith and John Lydon (not, note, Johnny Rotten – this is post-punk), which slashes tremulously at your eardrums with even more abrasive abandon than the band’s Gang Of Four-alike barbed-wire-and-corrugated-iron guitars. All the rubbery-basslines and 4/4 beats in the world can’t make Jenner’s inept postpunk screeching palatable, but I guess that’s the point.
The second hurdle is more profound. What exactly is Echoes meant to be, a dancefloor-slaying set or a complete artistic statement? From “The Coming of Spring” through to “Sister Saviour” Echoes runs into itself like a DJ set, the cowbell signalling the imminent arrival of “House of Jealous Lovers” emerging from the collapsing debris of the previous track, quickening the blood. But if The Rapture’s intention is to shake your ass then why do they follow the eyeball-scraping electro-acid of “Olio” with the ham-fisted guitar-mess of “Heaven”, and then completely lose the tempo by throwing in a five-minute ballad immediately after that? To be fair, “Open Up Your Heart” does reach a beautiful, saxophone-kissed emotional finish as the band carefully ride a none-more-Beatles beat, but it certainly doesn’t do much for the dancefloor.
That isn’t to say that when The Rapture concentrate on raising roofs and bringing houses down they aren’t brilliant. “House of Jealous Lovers” and “I Need Your Love” are histrionic club bangers par excellence, and the synth-swamped rhythmic jerk of “Sister Saviour” shows the band at their scratchy, shiny, sweaty best. But perhaps the best moment is the heady, metronomic climax of “Love Is All”, proving that The Rapture can step outside the disco and elicit a strong emotional response just as well as they can rock a house party at the drop of a hat.
People are claiming The Rapture are geniuses, saviours and innovators but the simple truth is that they aren’t. They’re not doing anything any more radical, or even much different, than !!!, Radio 4, Outkast, The Neptunes, Primal Scream (remember XTRMNTR, please) Basement Jaxx or a host of others. They’re also not half as good as most of those groups, but their four-piece-guitar-group make-up undeniably posits them as acceptable to a certain demographic who might otherwise look away. As such Echoes is quite good.