It’s tempting to think of Need Your Light as a course correction. Ra Ra Riot’s last album, 2013’s Beta Love, found the band turning away from its baroque pop beginnings in favor of synth-forward dance-pop. That record featured some catchy songs but ultimately lacked staying power. Need Your Light, on the other hand, is much more in line with the band’s first two albums; the frenetic drumming and string arrangements that defined 2006’s The Rhumb Line are back in full force, as are the more dense soundscapes of 2010’s The Orchard. It probably isn’t a coincidence that, after a lukewarm reception to their disco phase, this album’s best songs sound like B-sides from past works.

But that narrative doesn’t quite stick for me. Need Your Light has an energy and focus that suggests it’s a marshalling of strengths rather than an attempt to pander. It functions like a greatest hits record, offering a career retrospective that touches on all the band’s moods and motifs up until now. The uninitiated can get a taste of its Vampire Weekend-lite beginnings with a song like “Foreign Lovers,” dip in for a touch of its moody period on the album’s title track, and sample its dance-focused recent past on “Instant Breakup.” Everything the band has proven itself capable of in the past, it proves itself capable of again here.

Need Your Light’s fines moments are the ones that take the established capabilities and push them in a new direction. Say what you will about Beta Love, but its fingerprints are all over “Absolutely,” which might be the catchiest song the band has in its catalog. Built on a piercing disco guitar riff and filled out with pulsing keyboards and flighty string accompaniment in equal measure, the song sounds like a hybrid of Dexy’s Midnight Runners and Tokyo Police Club, which isn’t a combo I knew I wanted until now. The album’s other big departure, “Bouncy Castle” is unlike anything I’ve heard from an indie rock band in the past decade. It’s the kind of song that hasn’t been reliably made since the late ’70s – prog disco that splits the difference between Styx and ABBA. Maybe Ra Ra Riot should write a rock opera next.

That idea isn’t as off as it sounds. If Need Your Light has a drawback, it is that it feels like an attempt to master the past rather than work on the future. It’s foolish to complain about a band doing the thing that it does well, but there is a creeping sense that the band might be repeating itself. As much fun as it is to listen to something as punchy and driving as “Foreign Lovers,” or as desperate and direct as “I Need Your Light,” the fact remains that these are beats the band has hit before. The returns aren’t diminishing yet, but Ra Ra Riot certainly seems like a band at the edge of something. Time will tell if Need Your Light is a an exit ramp or the start of the next lap, but Ra Ra Riot remains more than compelling enough to ride with.

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