Pieces of the People We Love
ity The Rapture—they're damned if they do, and damned if they don’t. When it became apparent that they would be leaving the nurturing arms of their formerly symbiotic producers The DFA, many people assumed that the New York four piece would sink, that they’d be nothing without the people who gave them their sound. So it's almost no surprise that it’s taken them three years to follow-up Echoes, their much-trumpeted but faintly disappointing major-label debut, a period during which bands like Franz Ferdinand, Bloc Party and Arctic Monkeys have seemingly had entire careers. It must've taken them much of that time just to figure out how to approach their sophomore effort. Repeat the sound of Echoes and be lambasted for not developing? Overhaul their aesthetic and be accused of running away from what made them great in the first place?
The answer, of course, lies somewhere between the two. Teaming up with Bloc Party knob-twiddler Paul Epworth, UK remix guru Ewan Pearson, and the ubiquitous Danger Mouse, The Rapture’s third album was written and recorded during gaps in their hectic touring schedule over the last 18 months or so, and you can tell—Pieces of the People We Love is a record of almost ruthless efficiency, a straight-up, no-nonsense dance attack which suggests that three years of heavy gigging have taught the group exactly how to work a crowd into an adrenalized frenzy.
Lead-off single “Get Myself Into It” is taut, smooth, and ultra-funky, its enormous bass, relentless groove and irresistible horn hook make for probably The Rapture’s best single to date, vaguely redolent of Stereo MC’s now-ancient classic “Connected.”
The problem that will no doubt have people complaining is the album's complete vapidity. “Don Gon Do It” stutters in on backwards loops and super-processed vocals before dropping in some fat bass and retro keys, upon which cue Luke Jenner warbles “High / High as the sky / Low / Low as a ghost / Purple dragons fly into your eyes / Milkshake shimmy cry and cry and cry”—complete and utter nonsense, yes, but with immaculate handclaps and low-end throb. “First Gear” seems to be about nothing other than driving a fast car to a disco. How deep!
Sonically, Pieces... is pretty remarkable though—smoother than you’d ever imagine The Rapture could sound, their cheese-grater guitars sandpapered down to fine, funky upstrokes, while drums thump, bass resonates unbelievably low and far, and layers of micro-percussion and electronic filler maintain a fascistic momentum—even Jenner’s vocals are thankfully lowered a tone or five from the brittle yelp of yore. And yes, there’s cowbell. The album’s also cohesive enough to not feel like the work of three producers, although that may be something to do with the somewhat limited songwriting on show...
“The Sound” is a jarring, schizo-disco episode of history-telling, Jenner warbling about LA, big producers, and looking for “the sound,” which the song then slashingly erupts into, while “Live in Sunshine” suffers from exactly the same fault as a handful of tracks from Echoes—which is that when they slow down and aim for profundity, The Rapture start firing blanks. “Calling Me” winds down in greater style, but much more effective are the likes of the title track and the rather deftly-titled “Whoo! Alright - Yeah... Uh Huh”—they may be dumb, but they sure are funky.
“People don’t dance no more, they just stand there like this, they cross their arms and stare you down and drink and moan and diss,” the band observes at one point. It’s only nine years since Dismemberment Plan wrote “Doing The Standing Still”, but, y’know… perhaps the kids still need to be told. Pieces of the People We Love is a great funky dance record with guitars, and not much more. Luckily, it doesn’t need to be.