The Rakes - Capture/Release

Filled with more energy, excitement and verve than most of the albums that have been released this year

 

I was just approaching the shed when I heard a loud scream from inside. Not a frightened scream, but one of sheer enjoyment and a loud one at that. It was Richard. I opened the door and he was, quite literally, dancing around in his tweed suit. "It's here! It's here," he yelled at me, "It's fucking here!"

 

"What is?" I asked.

 

"One of the albums of the year," said our dear Lancastrian with a serious face.

 

"Oh right. So what's that then?"

 

"The fucking Rakes, man. Only the fucking Rakes."

 

Ah.

 

"Have you listened to it yet?" I enquired.

 

"Not yet, I've just opened the envelope." He looked so happy.

 

"Good, give it here then." I held out my hand like a cross parent and forced him to hand it over. "You're not reviewing this Richard."

 

"But I..."

 

"Exactly. You'll just say it's the best album of the year and that everyone should buy it and that they're very good lads and shit like that."

 

"Well I .."

 

 "No, you can't do it. You've written the last two articles on the band and it's about time we had somebody else writing about them."

 

He didn't say anything, just handed the album over and then sat down in a huff. There are few sights in the world more pitiful than a huffing Lancastrain in a tweed suit, so I almost weakened and was about to hand the album back to him, but then I quickly thought of a cure for his pet lip, "You can review this new Holger Czukay album instead." His eyes lit up, his smile returned and when I handed the record to him he stood up, smiled and then put the kettle on. He was fine again.

 

We sat in the shed and listened to both albums chatting over tea and Hobnobs all the while. It was a good morning but if I was going to digest the Rakes album properly I was going to have to spend some time with it alone.

 

Almost a month has passed since that morning and I think it's about time I put my thoughts down onto paper or, as it is, into the computer. I've spent enough time with this album to form an opinion and in total honestly, seems as it doesn't come out here in the Flat Lands until the 8th August, I think it's about time I let Richard have a listen to it again. So enough with the long-winded introduction (I'm good at them aren't I) let's get on with describing the album.

In a word: outstanding. Or Stupendous. Marvellous. Wonderful. Pick a superlative, it'll work. Honestly, this is a fucking astonishing debut. So confident, so assured, so hypnotic and so fucking enjoyable it's almost untrue.

 

The three singles kick things off. Strasbourg is the type of song that some would say, "sounds a bit like Joy Division," but it deserves better than that. It contains the type of fast, angular guitar riff that some shitty bands make a whole career out of and yet here it's just the first of many and it's very infectious. If you listen to this in the house, by the time Alan Donahue gets round to the "Eins, Zwei, Drei, Vier" part (at around the 2 minute mark) you'll be heading down the pub in search of a double vodka and a dancefloor. Retreat is good, sorry, fantastic enough to keep you on that dance floor for at least a few more minutes. "Walk home. Come down. Retreat. To sleep. Wake up. Go out. Again. Repeat." It basically vindicates the lifestyle of every university student and I'm sure there'll be many, many people thankful for that. It's also a fucking great tune, which will make please even more of you.

 

The opening triplet is complete with the wonderful 22 Grand Job. Lasting less than 2 minutes it's nonetheless filled with more energy, excitement and verve than most of the albums that have been released this year. The main hook is infectious, the handclaps are marvelous and just you try getting it out of your head.

 

Carrying on, we get the quirky and wonderful Open Book, with its wonderful "Woah Oh Oh's" and finger clicks. The Guilt is the most exciting hangover you've ever lived through and Binary Love is the type of song that driving fast down a motorway at night was designed for. We Are All Animals is a fabulous song. As the song itself mentions, we may have lost all our hair but if our species can keep creating songs as infectious and enjoyable as this then there's hope for us yet. I also love the way Alan says the word 'masterpiece' at one point. You probably will too.

 

Violent reminds me of The Clash somewhat, but it's still an excellent song. T Bone, on the other hand is more than excellent. Lasse Petersen (drums) and "Nice guy' (as we've nicknamed him) Jamie Hornsmith (bass), give the tune the sexiest intro I've heard in many a year. I tell you, if you're not gyrating round the living room by the time the main tune kicks in then you just don't have an ounce of fun inside of you. Imagine if Primal Scream were still sexy and then throw in a bit of the reckless abandon of the Super Furry Animals and you might end up with something near to what the Rakes have pulled off here. Terror! is a great post-punk style workout. Matthew Swinnerton's guitars are so sharp and clear they could slice you in half. The bassline rumbles like all good basslines should and Lasse keeps the whole thing ticking at about 90 miles an hour whilst Alan drones and moans on top of them all to create a wonderful 3 minute package. Work, Work, Work (Pub, Club, Sleep) rounds thing off rather wonderfully too, although it sounds more like early New Order than anything else they've done. It's probably the catchiest and most pleasant tune they've come up with. It'll definitely stick in your head and if Retreat is the song that all students will cling to, then is the song for all those doing a job they hate. I swear you'll love it.

 

So to sum up, the album's a blinder. Exciting and entertaining and whilst sounding familiar somehow seems to feel fresh and invigorating at the same time. The guitar playing is exemplary, the basslines are hypnotic, the drumming is insane and Alan Donahue possesses a vocal delivery that's sharp, distinct and very dynamic. The lyrics are sharp, intelligent and funny and the tunes themselves are truly wonderful. Now I know it may read like I'm laying it on a bit thick here, after all I haven't really said a bad word about it so far so, to readdress the balance somewhat, I think it best that I mention what I don't like about the album, don't you? Well, here goes. Binary Love isn't as brilliant as the rest of the songs and I don't like the way Alan pronounces the word 'gorillas' in We Are All Animals. Due to the tune, he has to shorten it to 'grillas' and I don't think Kong and his siblings would be too happy about that. Why not use the word 'gibbons instead? That would fit better and...erm....that is about it.

 

So there we have it, aside from me being very picky indeed, I can't find anything not to like. I've seen The Rakes play a couple of gigs in the past year and both of them were wonderful, but the album's even better and as much as it pains me to say it, Richard may well have been right. This could be the album of the year. It's most certainly one of them.

 

Words : Damian Leslie