Album Review: The Rakes
Facts about this album:
* The Rakes are Alan Donohoe, Jamie Hornsmith, Lasse Petersen and Matthew Swinnerton.
* Alan Donohoe explained The Rakes’ decision album to record third album ‘Klang’ in Berlin saying “The London music scene is so dull – it’s like wading through a swamp of shit”
It starts at pace: a tight rhythm over which snakes a twitchy guitar line. It’s followed by a mentalist yelping, “Sometimes you can’t smell the shit ’til you’re in it!”. Thank fuck the real Rakes are back. They worried us with that fun-free second album, ‘Ten New Messages’, but after regrouping, it seems their energies have returned.
Recorded in a former communist-owned studio in East Berlin, ‘Klang’ has a clarity of purpose, its songs structured with military precision. It seems The Rakes needed to escape the bloated, depressed stupor of these failing capitalist shores to rediscover what they do best. Namely, smart-minded punk-pop for the proletariat to riot to. This first song, ‘You’re In It’, is musically whippet-quick, but what’s most welcome is it shows frontman Alan Donohoe has his vim back. He’s rediscovered the comic/tragic persona we all loved, that of a sane man trapped in an insane society who can’t help but get caught up in the delirium. Aghast at a girl “being sexual, it’s just a ritual women do to get men” he then cries, “I’m so horny!” and says he wants to go to Hell for “the sex and the drugs”. In the next verse he puts on a silly posh voice to mock complaints about “commoners and foreigners”, frets about things going “terribly, terribly wrong” and ends up musing on the English’s communication problems (“we’re not very emotional, we’re not American”). Donohoe’s real talent is in showing the panic at the heart of society, and the music’s nervy poppiness supports his lyrical conceits brilliantly.
‘That’s The Reason’ and ‘Bitchin In The Kitchen’ are whistleable snapshots of the perils of pulling, but even better is ‘The Loneliness Of The Outdoor Smoker’, a ‘22 Grand Job’-style rollicker which mocks the media myths of being rock’n’roll, man, while still sympathising with its reflective central character. ‘The Woes Of A Working Woman’ is about… well, guess, and introduces a nice bit of piano. Conversely, ‘Shackleton’ blusters with feedback and drum rolls as a working man unleashes his frustrations: “The money I’ve slaved for will be blown in one glorious night”.
It’s as if Pulp have merged with The Damned, the album both steam valve and mirror for this odd, depressed and sex-obsessed nation. It ends with ‘The Final Hill’, which talks of revolution, declaring, “We’ve been fucked by the institutions, we ain’t got nothing to lose, man”. The obvious sarcasm gives little hope, but as a consolation The Rakes’ Progress is brilliantly back on track. Martin Robinson