The Rapture sounds nothing like a band coming to an end.
It is always tempting to interpret a band’s last album, its swan song, as a kind of memento mori—even when bands do not necessarily know that a given album will be their last, one wants to interpret the music on that final album as somehow exhibiting an awareness of the group’s imminent demise.
After recording part of the album in France, the group took the songs to London, where they were to work with producer John Cale on the remaining material. What emerged from these sessions was an exuberant farewell, a largely upbeat album that is more celebration than death knell.
Embracing its poppier side as it had done in recent years, The Rapture opens with “O Baby,” a shuffling song with an island vibe reminiscent of late Talking Heads (think Naked). This song stages typical Siouxsian ecstasy and intoxication – “I’m in a state of weightlessness/ When I inhale your angel breath” –against a breezy, carefree musical backdrop.
Second track “Tearing Apart,” with its sparse, keyboard-driven rock sound, risks skirting a somewhat conventional sound, but this is an exception. As a whole, the album is quite varied—one hears near- acoustic, R.E.M.-like songs alongside dream-pop, goth-rock (“Not Forgotten” hearkens to the classic Banshees sound), trip-hop, industrial, New Wave and more. Musically, it draws from the Banshees’ core elements as well as brass, woodwinds, cello and accordion, and lyrically it re-treads themes characteristic of Siouxsie’s aesthetics—melancholy, desire, frustrated romance, death.
But this is not to say that the album is lackluster. It’s true, “Not Forgotten” and “Love Out Me” sound like lesser versions of songs they had already recorded—strong enough, but they don’t add much. But songs like “Fall from Grace” are inspired efforts that show how well the band was able to draw from, expand and elaborate on its ‘80s sound to fit into a new musical landscape in the early-to-mid-‘90s, as though in a conversation with himself about where it came from and where it has ended up. With a compelling melody and a warm, even joyous sound, you would never guess what the lyrics are actually saying: “Look me in the eye/ Speak it to my face/ My hate is cold/ As I fall from grace.” The song also features another line that is one of the best of the album: “Like a tender bruise/ Temptation waits in one caress.”
The quieter songs, too, are one of the album’s strengths. A sign of musical maturity, they show that the group no longer had to resort on volume and dissonance to conjure intensity. Indeed, they are now able to do so with outwardly pretty elements like on “Sick Child,” with its delicate guitar playing, chimes and surprisingly catchy chorus—though, to be fair, it takes a vocalist as charismatic as Siouxsie to make “Still shaking in this tear room/ Like a sick child/ Still shaking nothing reconciled” into a chorus. Other stand-outs include the enchanting, haunting “Forever” (“Forever just one more time then never/ This is the last string to sever”) and the epic, 11-minute title track, one of Siouxsie’s trademark Symbolist vision-dreams, charting a course through her own emotional unconscious.
In short, The Rapture sounds nothing like a band coming to an end. In this sense, their recording career ended on a question mark, with an unrealized future stretching ahead of them, which is perhaps all one can really ask from a band as cryptic, multifaceted and kaleidoscopic as this, a band that is a model of how to make a career of a restless hunger for exploration.