The Rakes - Ten New Messages (V2)
20 Mar 2007
"the rakes have certainly grown up, but it'd be a whole lot better if they'd lighten up too..."; release - '07
The follow up to 'Capture/Release' finds The Rakes in a sombre, reflective mood, no longer dwelling all hours in run down pubs and clubs, bemoaning the small annoyances that make life hell. Instead, the ten tracks here each deliver comments on everything from vanity at the end of the world, to terrorism.
It's partly effective. Opener 'World Was a Mess but His Hair Was Perfect' shows that the neat line in self-effacing sarcasm vocalist Alan Donohoe excels at is still in place. But when he tries to broaden his palette slightly, like on the horrendously ill-advised underground soap opera that is 'Suspicious Eyes', their magic ebbs away all too quickly. A guest vocal-tastic slant on feeling uncomfortable on the tube comes across more as something Kombat Opera might make, and is out of place on an otherwise mostly sturdy set of songs. Fair enough, you either experiment or stagnate, but this is a step too far.
However, taking a step back to the form of their debut LP, 'On A Mission' is snappy, and full of the wonky angular guitars that became The Rakes trademark. While 'On A Mission' is the shortest track at just over three minutes - over half of Capture/Release's track listing didn't make that duration - this could be 'Ten New Messages' downfall; some songs are just too long, though there are exceptions. 'Down With The Moonlight' soars with jangling guitars a lá Franz Ferdinand, while the oddly titled 'When Tom Cruise Cries' - a kind of personal commentary of the events of 7/7 - saunters along without really going anywhere, but at least this time they manage to address the issue without it getting embarrassing.
New single 'We Danced Together' brings to mind early jam - 'Sound Affects' era perhaps - again hinting at The Rakes of old. Like their peers, Bloc Party, this band clearly has issues with city life. But here the niggles are interpersonal - many in the narrator's own head entirely, and not specific to broader themes like gender or sexuality. In some ways this makes them an easier listen, but on the other hand it feels they've become just that little bit too serious. The Rakes have certainly grown up, but it'd be a whole lot better if they'd lighten up too.