Dance-punk revival, the early-aughts movement headlined by the Rapture around the time Brooklyn “hipster” culture was metastasizing into a national media sensation, is pretty much an historical curiosity at this point. LCD Soundsystem transcended it, Liars left it behind almost as soon as the dust cleared from digging that trench, and Yeah Yeah Yeahs only made it through one EP before becoming the all-consuming rock ‘n’ roll powerhouse they always were at heart. Depending on who’s listening, the mention of Radio 4 either elicits confusion or a slight chuckle. Until Savages brought jagged post-punk sounds back en vogue this year, the likes of Gang Of Four and Siouxsie And The Banshees had long since ceased being fashionable name-drops. It’s crazy to think there was a time when this stuff was considered the vanguard of indie rock. But revisiting the genre’s defining LP, the Rapture’s Echoes, makes it seem a little less crazy.
If you’re looking for a crash course in dance-punk, Echoes, which turned 10 on Sunday, is your best possible curriculum. It’s got all the key ingredients: the disco thump, the incessant hi-hats, the cowbell, the razor-sharp guitar parts, the uncouth braying-hyena vocals. But as much as Echoes embodies the sound of dance-punk, I think the reason it has stood the test of time so much better than most of its contemporaries is because it uses the genre as a launch pad rather than a resting place, a philosophy that would carry the Rapture to two more excellent (and arguably superior) records down the road.
With its creepy squelching synth/plinking piano symbiosis, opening track “Olio” is way weirder and more singular than anything you’d hear from all the trend-hoppers who were throwing hi-hats on top of their power chords. The minimal ballad “Open Up Your Heart” could be Foxygen or any of the ’60s bands that inspired Foxygen. “Love Is All”‘s jangle-wail is just as difficult to fit into a dance-punk mold and even harder to place — a deconstructed, outsider-art version of riff-driven Camaro rock, like the Hold Steady but with Luke Jenner’s gratuitous high-pitched warbles instead of Craig Finn’s gratuitous nasal sing-talking.
Still, even though it covers so much ground, Echoes resonates most when it’s showing all the boilerplate dance-punk bands of the day how it’s done. The jittery, jarring “Heaven” transposes a bracing harmonized gang chorus (“One two three four five six seven/ I’m floating in a constant heaven!”) with verses like a sputtering jalopy nobly attempting to keep rolling along (in a good way). “Sister Saviour” is a pleasurable reminder that the disco that informed so much of this music got by on repetition and subtle attention to detail. The title track is a testament to how much you can accomplish with just one guitar string and one cowbell. And then there’s “House Of Jealous Lovers”, the single that set off the whole dance-punk craze in the first place. A decade later, it still sounds revolutionary, from the screeching feedback to the undeniable bass line to Jenner’s harrowing shrieks. Living through this song was absolutely worth living through the ensuing dance-punk debacle, no matter how many Test Icicles sprang up in its wake.
So: What’s your favorite song on Echoes? Does the record hold up for you? What stage of life does it flash you back to? Do you prefer the original 12-inch version of “House of Jealous Lovers”? Dance your way to the comments section and sound off.