The Rakes – Ten New Messages (2007): Review

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Produced by Jim Abbiss and Brendan Lynch
Label – V2

The Rakes debut “Capture/Release” from 2005 had all the genuine jerky familiarity of the classic Post Punk sound of late 70s Buzzcocks, allied with singer Alan Donohoe’s dry stories of ordinary life, of boring jobs, and hard partied weekends. Whether his “Ian Curtis in seizure mode” dancing was a little too studied for some, the music was to say the least exciting, spiky and acidic enough to make an impression on punks from all generations. As with any follow up, the Londoners believe that there needs to be an evolution, a step towards development which can route the band forward, and The Rakes have elected watered down musical refinement, a thematic (not concept they insist) connection between songs. Things kick off strongly with the sparse, danceable opener “The World Was A Mess, But His Hair Was Perfect”, a perfect example of The Rakes ability to keep it simple using the light punky guitar leads and snappy dance rhythms, with Donahoe’s musing of the shallow weekend club land crowd, ignorant of global calamity. Sadly, the zesty opener is one of the few highlights from a very lacklustre affair; too polished for The Rakes shambolic magnetism, with songs that lose the chirpy boy about town demeanour, like they’re weary and gathering within their four piece shell.

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For similarities, both musically and critically, one only needs to suggest the uninspiring Strokes album “First Impressions Of Earth” which, like “Ten New Messages” catalogues a band on Autopilot, particularly on the relationship breakdown tracks. “Little Superstitions” is a poor Maximo Park pastiche that’s not assisted by Donahoe’s bored vocal. “We Danced Together” is a timid effort to match their former label mates Bloc Party, and a desperately poor leadoff single. There are rare moments of progression, particularly “Suspicious Eyes”, which was originally written shortly after the 7/7 London terrorist attack and views Tube travel through the eyes of a nervous young Muslim (performed by rapper Raxtar), and a young mother with child (performed by singer Laura Marling), making an interesting fusion between the different vocals. Gritty reality is a byword for The Rakes music, but “Ten New Messages” lacks the black humour that brought us “22 Grand Job” and “Work, Work, Work (Pub, Club, Sleep)” and for large parts of the album Donahoe and the band sound defeated by the everyday trials that had previously formed a basis for their erudite wit.

Ultimately, “Ten New Messages” is a disappointment, lacking the raw excitement of their debut. It ranks alongside the massed line of sophomore mediocrity that often follows an exciting introduction.

6/10

Track Listing
1.”The World Was a Mess But His Hair Was Perfect” – 5:02
2.”Little Superstitions” – 3:51
3.”We Danced Together” – 3:53
4.”Trouble” – 3:16
5.”Suspicious Eyes” – 3:48
6.”On a Mission” – 3:06
7.”Down with Moonlight” – 3:56
8.”When Tom Cruise Cries” – 4:48
9.”Time to Stop Talking” – 3:38
10.”Leave the City and Come Home” – 3:45

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