Itâs been five years since The Rapture completed work on their second album, Pieces Of The People We Love, but though it might sound strange, the half-decade that followed may in retrospect turn out to be the most productive and important of their career. This is, after all, a band whose 2003 DFA-produced debut, Echoes, was the focus of an extreme label bidding war and went on to earn Pitchforkâs Album Of The Year accolade, helping to define an entire musical movement and giving the world a timeless classic, âHouse of Jealous Loversâ, in the process. That follow-up, Pieces Of The People We Love, was produced by three of the worldâs finest - Danger Mouse, Ewan Pearson and Paul Epworth - and effortlessly went on to hit the No.1 spot in the Billboard Heatseekerâs Chart. But the party atmosphere it showcased hid the fact that, behind the scenes, there were schisms within the band. âIt was,â as Luke Jenner (vocals, guitar) puts it quietly, âa difficult time for the band interpersonally. We took a detour for a minute, wanting to catch lightning in a bottle twice, and lost ourselves in the process. Things were not as fun as when we started. What we learned from all the major label chasing is that, who cares about the results if the process sucks?ââ
Half a decade on, though, and their third album is evidence that itâs time for a second coming. In The Grace Of Your Love, recorded following the 2009 departure of bassist and vocalist Mattie Safer, is a record every bit as joyful as the bandâs name would have you expect: the sound of a band set free. Though Luke Jenner identifies forgiveness as the dominant theme of the record, thereâs another unifying thread that runs through it, and thatâs the sense of elation at the heart of even the most poignant tracks. Almost every one of the 11 songs on offer here has distinctly celebratory characteristics, and so it seems more than appropriate that the album also sees them return to the DFA fold once more, only a little shy of a decade after they first collaborated with one another. Except that this time itâs the whole label, rather than the production team, behind them.
Talking to the band, itâs clear that events that could have been a real test for them were in actual fact liberating. âIt opened up a lot of space creatively and personally,â Gabriel Andruzzi (keyboards, saxophone, percussion) says, and his thoughts are echoed by his band mates. âI think we all had more room and creative freedom,â Vito Roccoforte (drums) elaborates. âWe were able to stretch out again and push ideas further because of that. We focussed on the process rather than the results. We approached the album in a fearless manner, with nothing to lose.â
And so, as âCome Back To Meâ, one of the albumâs standout tracks, has it, they welcomed back their spirit: into their feet, into their heart and into their head. In a sense theyâd been reborn - âif rebirth is coming full circle,â Andruzzi clarifies, though he adds that, âwe also have the benefit of years of experience and mistakesâ - and their choice of producer helped heighten the belief that they had rediscovered what made them so special. Cassius alumnus Philippe Zdar, fresh from his success on Phoenixâs Grammy Award winning album, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, rushed to work with them after hearing only three demos, and the enthusiasm and passion he brought to the table clearly helped the band, as Andruzzi puts it, âcomplete the process. Philippe has loads of energy, love and a great sense of humour, and encouraged us to experiment fearlessly. I have never felt so comfortable and confident making a record.â
Rocccoforte is again right there by his colleagueâs side, agreeing that, âthis was the first time that the making of an album was totally enjoyable. He really believed in us and the album.â But the benefits of his presence behind the desk were not merely psychological: In The Grace of Your Love is arguably the best sounding record The Rapture have ever made, thanks, Jenner believes, to the fact that he wanted, âto bring out the love in the band rather than focus on the scratchier elements.â And so the recording sessions â which began in Brooklyn at the newly opened Garyâs Electric, and continued at Motorbass, Zdarâs brand new state-of-the-art studio in Paris â birthed a record that connects with both what they love most about music and why they love to play it.
You can hear it all the way through: in the triumphant opener, âSail Awayâ, which cosies up to a disco shuffle while Jennerâs distinctive vocal sets a genuinely massive chorus alight, climaxing with the valedictory salute âI donât ever look backâ. Itâs in âIt Takes Time To Be A Manâ, where the band take the simplest of elements â a David Crosby-esque riff, a ticklish piano line, a gentle hint of funk, a luxuriant sax solo â and craft a classic album closer that allows Jenner to conclude with an equally satisfying, defiantly positive farewell: âI bet you can get what you need / Come on, sugar, and tryâŚâ
And, naturally, itâs there all points in between: in the exhilarating âCome Back To Meâ, which finds Andruzzi using elements of Francoâs âLikambo Ya Nganaâ and taking them to the dancefloor; in the flamboyant âCan You Find A Wayâ and in the sassy swing of âNever Die Againâ; in the pile-driving stomp of âBlue Birdâ and in âRoller Coasterâ, both of which mysteriously evoke the spirit of Chris Bell. Frankly, In The Grace Of Your Love is overflowing with ready baked classics, and thatâs before you even start to think about the title track itself, around whose spidery, Tom Verlaine-esque guitar line Jenner weaves a simple but unforgettably redemptive melody that matches anything theyâve ever done before. You get the feeling that Roccoforte must be being coy when he suggests that, âthere is a lot of heart and soul in this recordâ, because what itâs really got is guts. And in the guts is where it hits you.
Perhaps the most striking aspect of the album, however, is the abundance of sentiment that lies at its core, whether it be âNever Die Againââs ecstatic chant of âYou got me flying / Flying in your loveâŚâ or the candid, almost throwaway âyouâre kindâ hidden in âHow Deep Is Your Love?â And itâs brilliantly illustrated in the cover image, a photo of Jennerâs father seemingly walking on water, chosen for the purest of reasons: âI lost my mother to mental illness, suicide, four years ago. I wanted to acknowledge my love for my father while he is still here on this earth.â As Roccoforte concludes, âthe cover just made senseâ.
God knows, if In The Grace Of Your Love doesnât make Jennerâs father as proud as it justifiably seems to have made The Rapture, nothing will.
"In the Grace of your love" sortie le 5 Septembre 2011