Review Summary: Luke Jenner knows that we're all children. Do you?
I tuned into The Rapture's livestream of In The Grace Of Your Love
somewhere around the fifteenth minute of it, and I found myself tuning out shortly after, upon hearing nothing but Luke Jenner's reliably off-key wailing over - get this - an accordion
. "Aren't we all children?" he was asking over and over again, and at the very least, he wasn't presenting a particularly great case for his maturity. I mean - these guys were the coolest people in Brooklyn less than a decade ago! Why would they resort to gimmicky carnival music now, after a five-year silence? Enter the power of context. It's a healing power, allowing even the most questionable of choices to justify themselves, for the greater good of the album
, or whatever. I'm not sure if that aspect of a full-length is really as important as the guys at Other Music might have us believe, but...fine. All I know is that "Come Back To Me", that offending accordion-featuring song, actually sounds great when framed by the outsize rock and Beach Boys vocalizing of "Blue Bird" and the delicate, glitchy balladeering of the album's title track. The song works best when surrounded by a bunch of other stuff that sounds almost nothing like it. In other words, In The Grace Of Your Love
is an absolute mess. A massive, fun, winning mess. It's all over the place, lacking the laser-sharp precision and minimalism of Echoes
and tight hooks of Pieces Of The People We Love
- and I'd argue that it's all the better for it.
Granted, I'm pretty much inclined to love whatever these guys put out, even if I can't stomach the cavity-inducing Pieces
. 2002's legendary "House of Jealous Lovers" was…no, fuck it, is
, without question, one of the defining tracks of the last decade, encapsulating everything that made the dance-punk movement great in the first place - mainly, the understanding that "dance" values and "punk" values were hardly mutually exclusive. Which was part of what made Pieces
an underwhelming, if still enjoyable, effort - there was little of the bite that made Echoes
a classic. Now, In The Grace Of Your Love
is hardly a return to the appealing losing-your-shit mentality that pervaded "I Need Your Love" and "House of Jealous Lovers", but it's loose, goofy, and uninterested in whatever may happen to be in vogue at the moment. And since The Rapture's specific brand of "cool" is firmly rooted in the mid-2000s, it makes sense that they practically sound like a throwback now. So it makes sense that first single "How Deep Is Your Love?" forgoes the abrasiveness of the band's early work - listening to this stuff is, at this point, a straight-up nostalgic experience. No, "How Deep Is Your Love?" is straightforward piano house, almost traditionalist aside from Jenner's perpetually agitated voice. It's also fantastic; to listen to it isn't merely an aural experience. The song lays itself into you, whether you like it or not. I've heard people ask derisively, "How deep is this song's length?" Ahh, come now; let's not indulge in such pettiness. When Jenner repeats the that titular question over and over in the song's second half, accompanied by a shockingly good saxophone solo, it's hardly inquisitive. It's not rhetorical, either. Jenner doesn't know how deep your love is. He doesn't care. In fact, he probably thinks that's a pretty silly question to be asking.
Besides, once again, it's worth remembering the song's context
. "How Deep Is Your Love?" works well as a single, but as the penultimate track of this album, it serves as a delirious peak. The song's sonic simplicity is welcome after the weird pie-in-the-sky musings of "Roller Coaster" ("Your life's a roller coaster, she said / and I want to get off / it's just hurting my head / I just want it to stop") and the discordant, vaguely creepy "Can You Find A Way?". Both of those tracks are ultimately winning, their natural delivery transcending some of their more immediately befuddling aspects. Those less convincing bits, more often than not, involve the songs' lyrics, which read as inane on paper. Thank god, then, for Jenner's inability to properly carry a tune (although, all things considered, he actually does a good job "singing" here); at least when he wails "sail, sail away, sail away with you" in the album's opening seconds it captures the listener's attention. An inferior vocalist would bring attention to the sentiment's emptiness, but Jenner gives it urgency and feeling. Ditto for "Miss You", which would be more grating than it is were it not for Jenner's brazenly funky delivery of the song's painfully awkward chorus: "Broken dreams and broken faces / I've run all the darkest races / get out of me, respect what I say / get out of me, you heard me every day / oh how I miss you." Mein gott
- but it sounds good on record. Really.
And sure, you could argue - as many have - that The Rapture have always coasted on attitude more than, well, talent. You wouldn't exactly be wrong; there are certainly moments here where the band gets away with shit that other, less confident groups would never even attempt. But that's exactly why The Rapture was ever good in the first place, why Echoes
is, upon further examination, better than that other big DFA record of the 2000s, Sound of Silver
, and why In The Grace Of Your Love
is as enjoyable as it is. From the amorphous free-jazz coda of "Sail Away" to Jenner's matter-of-fact insistence of "I bet you can't get what you want" on "It Takes Time To Be A Man", these guys just don't take themselves that seriously. As they should...n't? We can argue about the significance of the "dance-punk" movement or what Pitchfork keeps trying to call its "demise", but that argument would never be anything more than mindless pseudo-intellectualism. You've taken a course in "the social science of music"? Great. Now, assuming that academic rationale hasn't yet impeded your pleasure centers, let's dance.