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The Rapture

In the Grace of Your Love

Rating: 2.5/5.0

Label: DFA

The founders of a scene and the creators of a unique new sound are often afforded somewhat of a license to never try anything new. The Rapture added “dance-punk” to our musical vocabulary in the late ’90s and then perfected it with their brooding yet danceable 2003 album, Echoes. The Rapture’s five year hiatus, and the resulting anticipation of their new work, made it all the more possible to them to coast off of nostalgia for the sound they helped to found. The ease with which the Rapture could have fallen into complacency and gotten away with it is what makes their eclectic new record In the Grace of Your Love so unexpected. While the Rapture should be commended for their risk-taking, In the Grace of Your Love contains as many failed experiments as successes.

The most striking difference between In the Grace of Your Love and the Rapture’s past work is the record’s general positive and upbeat mood. A significant residual effect of this change is in the vocals of frontman Luke Jenner, whose distinctive nervous yelp had been indispensable to the Rapture’s sound. In the Grace of Your Love finds Jenner doing much more actual singing, at which he is much less gifted. On the opening track “Sail Away,” Jenner does his best to hold dramatic long notes over grandiose keyboards; however, Jenner’s new vocal style is less capable of conveying emotion than his former shrill shouting which fell somewhere between angsty and paranoiac. Jenner is the undisputed frontman on In the Grace of your Love, a welcome change from Pieces of the People We Love’s awkward co-frontman tension between Jenner and former bassist Matt Safer. The dominant Jenner that appears on this record, however, is a dissatisfying departure from the Jenner we know and love.

Many of the tracks on In the Grace of your Love go for a euro club aesthetic, from the hypnotic chanting on “Can You Find a Way?” to the bombastic synth on “Children.” The track “Children” is catchy enough to be memorable; however, the increased reliance on synth in combination with Jenner’s new vocal style makes the Rapture sound generic and at times borderline robotic. The euphoric synth cut “Roller Coaster” is a downright irritating track. Lyrics have never been the Rapture’s strong suit, but lines like, “If life’s a roller coaster/ Then I want to get off,” are groan-inducing. Details occasionally emerge that remind one of the Rapture of old, such as the accordion loop on “Come Back to Me” and the broken sax at the end of “Sail Away,” yet these details take backseat and only serve to make the listener yearn for the Rapture’s former sound.

The Rapture’s foray into pure dance music isn’t a complete failure, as the track “How Deep Is Your Love?” is an undeniable triumph for the band. The track builds upon a minor-key house piano line with an escalating disco groove that culminates in an extended honking and screeching sax solo. “How Deep Is Your Love?” stands alone on the album in capturing the Rapture’s former drama and angst, doing so on a nightclub-worthy dance track.

The final track on In the Grace of Your Love is perhaps the most out-of-nowhere experiment on the record, but also might be the one that works best. On “It Takes Time to Be a Man,” the Rapture try their hand at soul. Yet the soul here is dance-infused, especially with the second half woodwind instrumentals. Thus, on the album’s final cut, the Rapture finally show the brilliance in blending genres that made them famous in the first place.

While the Rapture’s lack of complacency is admirable, they failed to anticipate the effects of removing the “punk” entirely from their dance-punk sound. It was the “punk” side of the Rapture that made their imperfections and weirdness as a band endearing rather than deficient. Without their brooding punk element, sub-par lyrics are much more noticeable, and Jenner’s voice becomes a liability rather an asset. Maybe the disappointment of their fans in the dance-only sound of In the Grace of Your Love will help the Rapture get their angst back.

by Frank Matt

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