When the Rapture came out with Echoes in 2003, the New York City band let us outsiders in on a little secret that hadn’t quite made it past city limits yet: Dancing at shows was OK. In fact, it wasn’t just OK—it was required. I learned this when I saw the band play a college show with Black Rebel Motorcycle Club (what the hell happened to those guys?) in 2004. The blissfully manic dance-punk music made bodies gyrate and thrash like they meant it, none of this shoulder hunching, methodical bob on the downbeat bullshit that the dubstep kids are doing these days.
And then came the follow-up in 2006, Pieces Of the People We Love, which was, you know, fine but nowhere near as explosive and exciting as Echoes. (Granted, it was damn near impossible to top an album so lovingly smeared with that trademark DFA dance dirt, but this is tough-love time, so no excuses.) Now, after five years, the band is back with a new album, but it’s not just any new album—it’s a new one with the lords of the dance at DFA.
In The Grace Of Your Love opens with lead singer Luke Jenner squalling “Sail, sail away” into the void, out of which a disco beat and zooming synthesizers rush to meet him. It’s a joyous start to an album whose big rhythms hide a lot of lyrical sorrow. That the album tends toward themes of hurt feelings, being in dark places and carrying on is not surprising, considering that during the band’s hiatus, it nearly broke up and Jenner’s mom committed suicide. Achieving any levity in an artistic work following those world-flipping moments is a downright miracle, but the Rapture does it. Even though Jenner closes the straight-up rock number “Blue Bird” by repeating the words “I’ll see you on the other side,” the Darkness-style (another 2003 band!) falsetto he uses in the first half of the song counteracts the sadness at the end.
There’s a lot of heaviness swimming around this album, and though some songs, like “In The Grace Of Your Love” and “Miss You,” play it lower and slower than your average dance jam, this is still a lively record. “Never Gonna Die Again” works some saxophone into its bass-led groove and plays with minor tones that give the song a spy-movie sense of danger, like the theme from Goldfinger. The bright synth-pop of “Children” sounds a lot like a Starfucker song (or do Starfucker’s songs just sound like Rapture tracks?), and “Can You Find A Way?” mixes synthesizer popcorn with ghostly electric guitar calls. But it’s the album’s “How Deep Is Your Love?” that gives us the Rapture we met on Echoes. There’s brass, there’s a sludgy undercurrent, there’s even a little cowbell. “Hallelujah, hallelujah,” Jenner bellows from the eye of the beat storm, and then again on the soulful piano closer, “It Takes Time To Be A Man.” Well, hallelujah, gentlemen. It sounds like it’s OK to dance again.