In the last 12 months, we’ve been literally swamped by rock ‘n’ roll bands from London trying to fill that post Libertines void. Barely a week has gone by without a new group emerging from the capital making some catchy, lo-fi sounds that demand our attention. Some have been great – Razorlight and Bloc Party to name a couple, and some have been horribly mediocre – take The Others or Dogs, for example.
The next band awaiting judgement are The Rakes, who have been building up a steady and devoted fan base in the aforementioned period with some impressive singles and a riotous live show. And on the evidence of this fine debut, Capture/Release, it’s unequivocally clear that they fall firmly into the former category.
What they have presented us with is 11 songs in 34 minutes – all the tracks are quick and to the point, which tends to be an electrifying guitar riff or a great, unforgettable chorus. Not since The Strokes exploded into our consciousness in 2001 with Is This It has a band delivered such a sharp and concise debut.
The latent energy from their live show has been captured, but the whole thing sounds remarkably slick and polished at the same time – for this they can thank producer Paul Epworth, who has been partly responsible for a handful of fantastic records of late – debuts by The Futureheads, Maximo Park and Bloc Party, to name but a few.
But more importantly the material here makes you want to jump up and down, forget your troubles and just have a good time – as you listen to Alan Donohue’s urgent, frenzied vocals and Matthew Swinnerton’s intricate guitar notes on the likes of Strasbourg, 22 Grand Job or the finger clicking, verse-chorus glory of Open Book, you’re often transported to that dingy, sweat ridden venue, full of warm beer and over enthusiastic fans. Or you’re just in your bedroom secretly dancing away to yet another one of their mighty hooks. It may not be re-inventing any wheels, but as far as the previous criteria goes, it’s certainly up there with the best records of 2005.
Much has been made of their quirky social commentary, their tales of the daily grind in their hometown of London – and indeed, the lyrics provide entertainment that stretches far beyond the half an hour or so of music. Single of the year so far Retreat, a jittery masterpiece and also a perfect three minute pop song, speaks of the monotony of going out every night, not wanting to be left out of the social loop (“I don’t want to miss out on anything/might as well go out for the third night in a row”).
One-night stands are also covered on The Guilt, a jerky, Libertines-a-like punk romp (“I found paradise, in between her thighs, it was quick and nice”), and pub brawls also get a mention on album highlight Violent (“Was it your genes? Or lack of money?” goes the incendiary chorus). It’s safe to say that many of us have had first hand experience of many of these themes, which will ensure that The Rakes become the new, hip soundtrack to our dark days.
All in all this is a rather fantastic, fun filled and massively enjoyable debut album that should transport The Rakes to the premier league of British indie. We can now officially stop lamenting the demise of Pete ‘n’ Carl, here we have a more than worthy alternative. Buy this record, go to their shows, start adoring them – this is the beginning of one hell of a ride.