The Patch

March 3, 2009

I Don’t Like Mondays: The Rakes, Capture/Release

Filed under: hoist the black flag,I Don't Like Mondays,Music & Film — freshlysqueezedcynic @ 10:25 am

So, yeah. I f*cked up.

A mitigation; I’m seeing a counsellor, on account of the whole “being a mental” thing. This Monday focused heavily on a lot of stuff that I don’t talk to anyone about and was incredibly painful to talk about. It left me feeling drained, conflicted, incredibly upset, and really not in any kind of state to do very much at all. I’ll still do the forfeit if people want, since it’s only fair, but I think a day late to start with is a small price to pay on the road to comparative mental health.

If I do it again you totally get to burn my sh*t up. Or whatever.

So yeah, the post will be up today, Tuesday, in a wee bit, rather than Monday. It’s ironic, in that Alanis Morissette not-very-ironic kind of way.

That said, on with the show. Various albums were suggested by my good friends at the Vegetable Revolution, but I ignored them for now, at least. The first album is one I already have, Capture/Release by The Rakes.

The Rakes are one of those post-punk revival bands that popped up in the wake of bands like The Strokes and Franz Ferdinand. Whilst the latter two were fun enough, at least initially, in providing a little danceable nostalgia to the early 2000’s, they unleashed far too many bands that are of no consequence whatsoever; they make no statement that isn’t clunkingly obvious and cliché, no sound that doesn’t ape a thousand better bands. All of the style exists, but it’s like copies made with a photocopier that’s run out of toner; faded, dull, drained.

The Rakes are particularly egregious in this respect. With a lot of the post-punk revival clones, you at least get some semblance of individuality, working within a very limited milieu. They might be hacks, but you can tell there are at least people in there, perhaps not the most creatively gifted, but a group of people trying to make music with the references they have; Kaiser Chiefs’ “Northern cheeky chappy” approach, Bloc Party’s straining, yearning vocals, almost emo at times, Hard-Fi’s po-faced workerist cant. Some bands like to choose to ape a single band in particular, viz. The Enemy’s shameless ripping off of The Jam.

I’m normally not this kind to any of these bands, but that is because the Rakes have made me appreciate the touches of individuality these bands maintain, however slight. This is because The Rakes have no individuality whatsoever. None. It’s undetectable. If there was a musical Voight-Kampff test, The Rakes would have failed it. I suppose in some ways they’re the perfect band in an era where music has become increasingly commodified; The Rakes produce utterly disposable, throwaway music. Comparing mass-produced products to fast food is a hoary old metaphor that’s probably due for retirement, but it still fits. Have you ever properly tasted a Quarter Pounder (Or, indeed, a Royale with cheese)? I mean properly, not just tasting the sauces, pickles, and assorted condiments, but the actual burger itself? You can’t, really, you taste grease, fat, and salt, not actual meat. You’re left satiated for a second, because, hey, fat is superficially tasty and it fills you up briefly. But then you think to yourself for a second and suddenly you realise; “hey, why didn’t I taste any beef? I just ate a fucking burger! Where’s my fucking beef?

That’s how I felt listening to this album. Where’s my fucking beef?

God. One album in, and I’m already doubting whether I’ll get through this. And my sanity. Below the fold, my thoughts on each track, in a quasi-stream-of-consciousness kind of way.

Strasbourg: An anti-communist song.

In 2005.

Truly you are on the cutting edge of political comment.

I mean, I was prepared to be charitable and suggest it was some kind of metaphor, however awe-inspiringly tone-deaf it was, for our own growing police state, the kind of nannying authoritarianism that pisses everyone off except wanky middle-class liberals, but you realise pretty quickly that the Rakes don’t do subtext. They barely do text.

The music didn’t grab me, very basic. Not sparse, basic. Generic. Cookie-cutter. If that song was an instrumental I could not have told you who it was by.

Actually, fuck, I just realised, the fucking Iraq War was happening during this point. And the Rakes are railing against Moscow. Or something. Fuck off.

Really, if you want to delve into a little Ostalgie, musically, I can only recommend the Associates’ “White Car in Germany“. Dripping with ceaseless, creeping, paranoid dread, neatly juxtaposed with Billy Mackenzie’s arch, high-camp vocals, it’s a song to turn up loud when you think you’re being wiretapped.

Retreat: Most people suggest that the worst genre of song (as opposed to genre of music, we’re talking about what the song is about here) is the political song, and it’s certainly true that the crap-to-awesome ratio in that particular genre is incredibly high. But there are enough gems to suggest that the Worst. Song. Genre. Ever. is in fact what I like to call the “middle-class plen-t-plaint”. It’s an ennumeration of how terrible it is living a middle-class life in a modern, developed country; how alienated we all are from our own lives, how repetitive everything is, how all we do is drink, fuck, work and sleep.

(As for the music, the music is having no effect on me whatsoever, and it’s hard trying to find a way to talk about it. The mix is curiously flat throughout most of this album. I think they were going for something sparse, minimalistic, or at least I hope. But they just got flat instead.)

But yeah. Done well, i.e. as a wider critique of society, capitalism and its mores, this kind of song can be very good (see, for instance, Gang of Four’s Natural’s Not In It, or Return The Gift) but of course they put an explicitly Marxist bent on the lyrics; even if Marxism’s not your bag, baby, it’s still a novel take on the idea. And the songs are actually listenable. Yes, even Anthrax. Especially Anthrax, motherfucker.

The problem is, if you’re not going for radical Marxist critique of society and its mores, and just bitching about how you get up, work, drink then fuck, you sound like a whiny, overprivileged bitch. Middle-class life is pretty fucking rad. All privileges, no problems; especially compared to the rest of the world (which is where that radical Marxist critique comes in pretty useful). Being, say, sodomised by an angry bear isn’t dull, but I wouldn’t particularly want a life full of it, and I’d certainly take student ennui over it any day.

22 Grand Job: Even the greatest of us can make mistakes. And I’m pretty fucking awesome, so, y’know, you’ve got no chance. The reason I’m doing this album first is because, as I said above, I already have it. For some unknown reason, I bought this album in late 2005.

Actually, the above is a lie; I bought the album primarily because of this song. A rookie mistake, I know, I know, but hear me out. Excited, waiting for Editors (yeah, ok) and Franz Ferdinand (hey, fuck you), at least two pints down, in the hot fetid air of the SECC, it seemed like a pretty good song. Still throwaway, but danceable. You’ve got a repeated phrase, both lyrically and musically, which makes it something you can chant along to.

I’m consciously defending myself here, of course. It’s not a good song. Again, it’s incredibly flat, boringly so. And again it’s middle class, plen-t-plaint, rat race blubbering. Boo hoo, I am earning money. In the current economic climate it sounds even more obscene. At least it’s short.

Open Book: Oh, you did not just use that cliché. Fuck you. The Mockney accent is hurting me now. “Witching hour”? Are you shitting me? How many clichés will they use? Maybe it’s a Joycean subversion and they’re making a song entirely out of cliché. But that would be witty.

Look, I fucking get it already. You’re alienated. From what? OH IT IS A GIRL. HOW UNIQUE. (unfair, I know, but I’m no longer feeling charitable.) The two chord playing single guitar is beginning to act like a reverse ibuprofen.

The “woah ohs” in the background are also irritating, but it’s hard to get angry at the music. It’s inconsequential. Uninteresting. It inspires ennui. OH THE MIDDLE CLASS LIFE. Yay, more clichés!

“warning signs” “falling through the cracks”.

You are useless hacks, Rakes. Four people – four different people, with different personalities, hopes, likes, dislikes, dreams and aspirations – wrote this song, and NONE OF YOU COULD MAKE THE SLIGHTEST BIT OF IMPACT. I’ve seen less generic things get sued by pharma companies to keep them off the market. Of course, those are of actual use. At the end, the shittiest handclaps ever. (see Broken Social Scene’s “Stars and Sons” for better ones).

The Guilt: “This is a trueeeeeeee story” intones the useless pop muppet. Rake No. 1, we shall call him, because he does not have any actual individuality. (BUT HE WROTE A SONG ABOUT COMMUNISM LOL HE MUST BE INDIVIDUAL) Anyway. I go in hoping its’ the true story of what these faceless automatons are going to do next in their crazed lust for power. Shoot Mark Benton, perhaps.

…No, sorry. No such luck.

As an aside, I realise the Rakes are meant to be taking the idea of a “rake” – the cad, the bounder, the thoroughly unseemly young gentleman, but they’re so devoid of personality I find myself thinking of them as the garden implement.

An illustration of what listening to the Rakes is like.

At last, it’s a bit thrashy, not entirely flat like has happened before. “waking up feeling fucked” but alas, as you can tell from the above lyric, we’re still in that middle class ennui zone, can we pull it out?

Yes. In the worst possible way.

Our protagonist realises he’s in someone else’s bed. “She was overweight”, he says.

…You are not singing this song to tell me you fucked a chubby lassie and now you regret it. I immediately want to give this man a Glasgow kiss with a half-brick in a sock. Does “overweight” (for what given value of “over”?) automatically mean undesirable? Unsexy? Depends on the person. And the fat bird he’s ploughing, of course, but I suspect that our hero is recoilin’ because for once he didnae stick his dick in a stick wi’ nae tits. But I’m uncharitable like that, especially after listening to five Rakes songs. Let’s give him a chance to explain himself.

“It was paradise, in between her thighs, it was quick and nice”

No, really.

“It was paradise, in between her thighs, it was quick and nice”

Aye, but the rest of her, fuck that shit; all that matters is the vagina. I bet she didn’t even come. Why guilt? OH YOU DID NOT JUST USE MAN UNIRONICALLY. And, also, second worst use of horns ever. No buildup, no payoff, no class. (The worst is always, forever, Hard-Fi.)

Binary Love: Trying for an electronic undertow here. Failing, but I appreciate finally trying to mix it up a little. But I have heard this kind of faux-electronica sound before, and I’m not impressed.

“Dividend?” It’s an odd word for a song which is essentially as many electrical references as a schmindie wanker can make. Which is not many and is thus generally metaphors about wires.

So yeah, robosex, I get the conceit. But done so much better. 3 words: Are Friends Electric? Get tae the back of the queue, Rakes.

If “fire rushes through your wires”, you really should get some kind of diagnostic check. Probably the most interesting musically; this isn’t saying much.

We Are All Animals: God, I hate the title alone. Repeat after me, Rakes: Nuance is good. Subtext is not a bad thing.

The drumbeat suggests upbeat music, if not lyrics, suggestive of Fascination by Alphabeat, maybe Footloose. Actually, really reminiscent of Footloose. Is a twangy guitar going to kick in at any moment? Handclaps? (please, God, no, based on Open Book experience).

Ok, so not jaunty.

“We are the animals, we’ve lost our hair, retained some teeth”. What. I mean, what can you say to that. That is the most painfully obvious shit ever. You fucks. I had to listen to that. At least Sam Sparrow made evolution sexy. Fuck. Give the man a prize for least interesting, most overdone philosophical point of the last century or so. And they ran with it straight. You utter, shameless, useless HACKS.

At this point, I would maybe go into a rant about evolutionary psychology, and how we shouldn’t take too much of it as yet, but this piece is long enough already. In short, yeah, we’re animals, but we invented the microwave oven, the bassoon, and Shirley Bassey, so fuck you spider monkey.

Fucker.

But yeah, this is all pretty “Oooh someone’s read the Selfish Gene and being a cock about it” stuff. Being a cock is a perfectly explainable behaviour from an evolutionary perspective, of course. Aw fuck. They namechecked Darwin. I swear, these boys have taken subtext round the back of the bike sheds and spitroasted it into submission, didn’t they?

CLUNK CLUNK CLUNK. That is the sound of an idea falling into the head of a Rake. Then they write a song about it. It is terrible. THE CREATIVE PROCESS REVEALED! Fuckers.

“biology and chemistry reducing our souls, to 4 letters” Actually, obviousness aside, this would be semi-witty; Could the 4 letters be AGCT, or something more obscene? Would being the operative word, if I wasn’t so sure I was reading this into the song to give them some charity points, so po-faced they’ve been so far. Retain control? I do it every day that I do not come round your house and firebomb you, Rakes.

“We’re just mammals, just primates (like chimps or gorrillas)”

Really? REALLY? Did you really think it necessary to tell us dribbling proles exactly what primates are? The thing is, that backing vocal doesn’t even scan all that well in the song, so yes. The Rakes are insulting your intelligence. Or, as shape-shifting lizardmen, assume the necessity of explaining our genetic inferiority. Fucking monkeys.

Yeah I mean you, fuckface.

Bleepy little keyboard in the background annoying the fuck out of me…

NO DOES NOT NEED MORE COWBELL.

NEEDS A SOUL.

Violent: Ohhhh fuck. The Rakes go all reggae/dubstep on us. This is the only alternative sound shameless post-punk revival humpers with no clue can ape (cf. Ordinary Boys, The). It’s simply due to the prescence of 2nd wave ska (Two-Tone to you and me) at the same time as yer original post-punk, not to mention the Clash’s occassional (well continual) forays into reggae and PiL’s absorption of the dubstep sound into their own abrasive post-punk, godluvem. But even good white boy reggae is still white boy reggae, and derivatives get really old, really fast. This being the Rakes, it is laughably derivative. Violence. Bad Part of Town! OH NOES!

Probably fucking deserved to get a kicking.

This is just useless. I cannot care one jot about this useless shit. I hate these people for apparently having no creative streak whatsoever. Yes, violence is bad. Stop fucking lecturing me because someone nicked your shitty jeans once.

T-Bone: This is definitely the drumming that begins Banquet by Bloc Party. It’s shameless rip-off time by the end of the album, hooray! So, guesses as to what it’s about, children. Meat, maybe? There has never been a good song abut veganism, ever. Even Morrissey failed. But I doubt it’s about that. That would be at least an interesting experiment. Will they surprise me?

As I’ve been thinking all this, the intro has gone on for far, far too long. Is it an instrumental? It must be an instrumental. Come on. It’s repetitive and achingly dull, but it must be an instrumental, you’re going to surprise me here, right?

No, no. They are starting a song this far in. I’m bored severely but would have given you props for making it a drearily repetitive instrumental. Maybe it represents Work. or Booze. Or Ennui. Or… nah, those are the only three topics you have, isn’t it? When you’re not focusing on the fat bird’s muff. This is just shit. Weary MCPTP again.

This is grinding me down, and I’m fairly sure this is nowhere near the worst I will get. What have I done?

Oh T-Bone is a person! And he’s scary, apparently. Bit thrashy again, musically, but it’s such a mockery of it. The desperate flop of a dying fish gasping for air, it’s not a symbol of life or vitality, but of inevitable brain death.

Terror!: Oh fuck off. Violent wasn’t scary. Neither was T-Bone. You’re not going to do any better here. Yer basic indie-disco beat. I am not scared of Mexico. Haunted hotel! Oh it’s a dream! Well done Rakes, this has as much integrity as Dallas.

I like trying to include “the news” in the lyrics to try and attach a vague topicality to the fact you’re having a BAD DREAM OH NOES. But hey, “the job in the city won’t matter no more?” Really. This is the 22 Grand Job, yeah? The job you’re bitching about for the whole of this album. Oh for god’s sake just quit! Fly to Bolivia, catch an interesting sexual disease, I don’t care, just STOP BITCHING ABOUT YOUR JOB.

The Rakes are showing us, really, helpfully, unlike their piss-poor lecture on Darwinism, the difference between a unifying theme on an album, something which ties the album together, a recurring motif, and just plainly lacking ideas. Look at your lyrics, budding songwriters. Get out a pen and see if there’s a word that appears repeatedly. Underline it. If it appears as much as “job” does in a Rakes song, burn your lyrics. Start again. Never speak of them again. If a word continues to repeat itself continually in ALL YOUR SONGS it is not a theme, it is your inability to GET A FUCKING CLUE. Or, at the very least, a thesaurus.

But yay! It stops. And starts again. With no change at all. It’s just a pause. All my hope is gone. Aw fuck, and at the end, terrorism paranoia. POLICE STATE? What police state? Isn’t that in Strasbourg?

Work, Work, Work (Pub, Club, Sleep)

Get tae fuck.

Do I even need to explain? This is the purest example of the MCPTP I have ever seen? Pure, concentrated wankery. They don’t seem to be trying any more. The music is languid, listless, more uninspired than usual, than I thought possible. It’s meant to be vaguely upbeat from what I can tell, ruined by the fact that the lyrics are dreary, the mix is flat, and they’re just shit.

They did not just namecheck Wetherspoons. I have lost the will to live.

Yes, I get it, you haven’t changed your clothes. Get a fucking washing machine and stop bitching, Worky McEnnui.

“Just drift along, with no focus on anything”

Finally, they understand what it is to be a song written by them.

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