Playing God
The Rapture: Echoes

oK, so last year The Rapture released their first official full-length album, after one mini-album (Mirror), one EP (Out of the Races and Onto the Tracks) and a whole lot of hubbub about indie dance floor-slaying sensation “House of Jealous Lovers,” the album’s lead single. Now, a lot of people were expecting a lot of things from this album, and after the promise of “Jealous Lovers,” not unreasonably so. As part of the burgeoning dance-punk scene, with ties to hip priests of the genre The DFA, all eyes were on The Rapture to deliver the genre’s equivalent to Nevermind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols, or at least a solid LP to announce that discopunk had arrived. And then, it was delayed. Multiple times. And by the time it came out—almost a half-year after the previously expected release date--people were tired of “Jealous Lovers” and they were tired of waiting for the album, and what they got was not the solid discopunk LP they had been anticipating. It was uneven, sloppy, and by strict definitions, only about half representative of the genre. Lots of people were predictably disappointed.

In fact, Echoes is a great LP. Of the eleven tracks, there is only one real clunker (the nearly unbearable “Heaven”) and if you skim off the fat at the sides a bit, the core of Echoes is in fact the discopunk masterpiece so many were looking for—just perhaps a bit more compact than expected. But this isn’t a classic review, this is a Playing God, and so now we’re going to take a look at the Echoes that so many wanted it to be. I’ll be trimming off the controversial, undanceable songs that cloud the discopunk fury of the rest of the songs, so that means the Bowie-esque slow song (“Open Up Your Heart”), the Big Star tribute (“Love is All”) and the piece of shit (“Heaven”) are all history, and the gorgeous, regrettably relegated b-side (“Silent Morning”) still isn’t going to fit. Let’s see what Echoes would look like as a great dance album all the way through, and see if everyone was right in demanding that it be as such.

01. “Olio” (album track)

I had to leave this as the opener. “Olio,” one of the best songs on the original Echoes, starts out the album perfectly, building up a teeth-gritting tension through the bubbling hook, the menacing bass keyboards, and Luke Jenner’s spot-on Robert Smith imitation, wailing “over and over and over again.” Not immediately danceable like some of Echoes, but it’s still a fine appetizer.

02. “Echoes (New DFA Remix)”

The tension from “Olio” climaxed fabulously on the original Echoes with the chant “1234567 I’M FLOATING IN MY CONSTANT HEAVEN”. Unfortunately there was a whole terrible song that came after that chant, so we replace it here with the eruption of the title track, the most discordant and one of the most exciting songs on the album, with a great lift from Public Image Ltd.’s “Careering.” The “New DFA Remix” is identical for most of the song, but replaces the half-minute metal freak-out at the end with an extra two minutes of disco-punk goodness. Yum.

03. “The Color of Spring” (album track)

Not much notable about this one—dance-punk filler, if you will, which is still pretty great. I’ll take the time here to point out how wonderful the general sound of The Rapture is—every instrument is so far up in the mix that it sounds like everyone in the band is playing lead, but it still achieves a wonderful synchronicity. Like Joy Division at their peak.

04. “House of Jealous Lovers” (album track)

“Spring” segues perfectly into “House of Jealous Lovers” on the original Echoes, so I figured I’d keep that transition. I can’t go into this song without writing a whole article, suffice to say, it’s the greatest thing ever done by anyone.

05. “Alabama Sunshine” (House of Jealous Lovers b-side)

Yeah, this one’s a bit of a stretch, but a bit of a stretch was required to get this thing out to 11 tracks. It’s not their best song either, but sandwiched between “House of Jealous Lovers” and “Out of the Races and Onto the Tracks” you’re not too likely to notice that. It’s better than “Heaven,” at least.

06. “Out of the Races and on to the Tracks” (Out of the Races and Onto the Tracks EP)

The song that first put The Rapture onto the map, the precursor to “House of Jealous Lovers,” and still one of their finest moments. Incidentally, it’s pretty much the only pre-Echoes thing that the Rapture did that was worth a damn, and here we rescue it from being condemned to hell along with the rest of the OOTRAOTT EP. It’s terrible, really. If you’re making your own copy of this edit, you might want to find the version from the Rules of Attraction soundtrack, or the Rough Trade Post-Punk box. The EP version has an annoying four seconds of silence before the song starts, nearly killing the album’s flow.

07. “I Need Your Love” (album track)

Of all the songs on Echoes, “I Need Your Love” runs the closest to the disco end of discopunk. It takes a little bit to get going, but once it does, it’s easily one of their most addictive songs. Why they made “Love is All” the third single off of Echoes instead of this is a total mystery.

08. “Killing” (album track)

Sounds a bit awkward when separated from “Echoes,” with which it shared a near instantaneous transition, but it does the least damage at this point in the ordering. It’s a fine song, although probably my least favorite of the tracks saved from Echoes. Gets points for “1, 2, 3, 4, KICK THAT FUCKER OUT THE DOOR!!!,” though.

09. “Sister Saviour” (album track)

I did save the transition from “Killing” into this, however. Behind “House,” “Sister Saviour” is easily The Rapture’s most loved moment. Most people cite Happy Mondays as the reference point, but it’s really more closely in sync with an early 80s Duran Duran, with its synth-pop bounce, shady atmosphere, and druggy chic lyrics. It’s a truly great moment for the group, even if I tend to prefer some of the more straightforward numbers.

10. “House of Jealous Lovers” (Morgan Geist remix) (House of Jealous Lovers double A-side)

Sure, why not? Primal Scream put two versions of the same killer track on their albums all the time (usually the same position, as well—track four for the original, ten for the remix) and seem to be getting away with it. Plus, this excellent remix is more than album-worthy, makes for a nice transition from “Sister Saviour,” and was thought highly enough by The Rapture that they even gave it double A-side status.

11. “Infatuation” (album track)

All right, so I suppose I cheated with this one, too—much more so than with “Alabama Sunshine,” as this is nowhere even close to discopunk. But it’s such a good song that even the people that tend to complain about the album’s inconsistencies and flaws tend to leave “Infatuation” out of the discussion, leading me to believe that it’s OK to still be putting that song on the mix. Plus, it’s a very promising way to end the album, showing just how much more The Rapture are capable of being capable of. And hey, one slow song should always be allowed.

By: Andrew Unterberger
Published on: 2004-02-24
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