Five years is a long time. The Rapture’s last album, Pieces Of The People We Love, came out almost exactly five years ago, on the same day Justin Timberlake released FutureSex/LoveSounds. Pieces never found anything like the exalted reputation as Echoes, the band’s previous album, but I loved the thing. Especially heard back-to-back with Timberlake’s album, Pieces felt like some euphoric starry-eyed reawakening of the white-guy disco impulse. Pieces and FutureSex were beautifully crafted party albums, total love-letters to dance music, and it’s pretty incredible that it’s taken either artist this long to come out with a follow-up.
Nobody in the Rapture had to take a break to star in The Love Guru or Black Snake Moan, but the band has been busy anyway, mostly working out its interpersonal kinks. Electroshock-voiced founder Luke Jenner quit the band, then returned again. Mattie Safer, the gawkily suave bassist who’d risen to co-frontman status on Pieces, quit for good. The band stopped and started the recording process a few times. And now that the end result is out in the world, it sounds like … a Rapture album. This is a good thing.
Weirdly, Safer’s departure doesn’t make a huge difference to the album’s sound. Like Pieces before it, In The Grace Of Your Love moves further away from the apocalyptic dance-punk of Echoes toward a sunnier, more psychedelic first single. The dance influences are still there, especially on the dope-as-fuck honking-house first single “How Deep Is Your Love?,” but they’re tempered and muted. Entire songs go by without the slightest hint of 4/4 beat. “Miss You” is a glam-informed stomp. “Blue Bird” and “Children” and “Roller Coaster” are all fizzy psych-garage with little in the way of Derrick Carter influence. Closer “It Takes Time To Be A Man” is a sprawling zoned-out ballad, a calmer and more gospel-informed equivalent to Echoes’ “Infatuation”.
The album still crackles to life most often when its dance influence is strongest, though. “How Deep Is Your Love?” is a hell of a first single, a wild-eyed rager with an out-of-nowhere sax solo that immolates everything around it. (Fun fact: The track shares a title with my favorite Dru Hill song, and its chorus melody seems to be stolen directly from Dru Hill frontman Sisquo’s immortal “Thong Song.” I have no idea what this means.) “Come Back To Me” builds its beat from a chopped-up accordion, and it reminds me a bit of Mexico’s Nortec Collective. The title track rides a scratchy guitar strut and an ethereal synth-bloop. These tracks are the work of a band who’s completely internalized all its dance influences, not one who makes a living by awkwardly forcing genres together.
The whole record keeps shifting and realigning itself, but it still comes together cohesively. Jenner’s yelp is less strained and paranoid than before; he’s older now, and he sounds it. And whatever it took to get the Rapture back together, they sound like three guys making music together fairly effortlessly. In The Grace Of Your Love doesn’t sound like a comeback album; it sounds like a strong piece of work from a band that never went away. And thank God. I don’t think I could handle it if the Rapture came back wack.
In The Grace Of Your Love is out 9/5 on DFA.