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For a band who were once as fashionable as they come, it’s a relief that The Rapture’s playing is as tight as their skinny jeans. Five years ago, the Brooklyn fourpiece were hailed for their jittery, speedy screech of a 12-inch, “House of Jealous Lovers”, which signalled a revival of early-1980s punk-funk and established the cowbell as the percussion du jour. Yet their 2003 album, Echoes, was a disappointment and, though they remained unimpeachably cool, subsequent British groups such as Bloc Party and Franz Ferdinand enjoyed considerably better sales.
The Rapture’s current LP, Pieces of the People We Love, is decidedly poppier, and tones down the asperity of Luke Jenner’s yelping voice, best glossed previously as that of a “neutered hyena”. The opening bars of “Get Myself Into It” even recall The Police’s “Walking on the Moon” for a not unpleasant nano-second, while multi-instrumentalist Gabriel Andruzzi resuscitates another sound trapped in a mid-1980s vortex, the squiggling saxophone.
Tonight, though, they revel in jagged intensity with almost avant-garde élan. It’s a reminder that their music takes notes from New York’s “no wave” scene. But all is guided by the groove and catchy hooks lurk in the noise. Bassist and co-vocalist Mattie Safer, a ringer for nerdy actor Rick Moranis, camply declaims his Donna Summer impression. Vito Roccoforte switches drumsticks for turntables on the acid house-influenced “I Need Your Love”. Andruzzi, moving between sax, synths and aforementioned cowbell, dances like a bandy-legged Bez from Happy Mondays.
Dance-rock is easy to mess up. Taut and urgent, however, The Rapture can execute it brilliantly. Not fully convincing on record, they are at the height of their powers here. The encore trio – “Don Go Do It”, “First Gear” and “Olio” – could fuse the electricity of a small town. As his mates head offstage, Jenner, a puppy in the body of a college basketball star, is on his third crowd-surf. Little wonder he doesn’t want to leave: he is cresting a wave of adulation.
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