The Rakes

Capture/Release

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Out of all the post-punk- and new wave-inspired bands coming out of the U.K. in the 2000s, the Rakes are the closest to straightforward, meat-and-potatoes punk. They set their tales of urban claustrophobia to alternately bouncy and angular rock that recalls the Clash and the paranoid sounds of the Stranglers, and also echo contemporaries like the Strokes and fellow Paul Epworth production clients Maxïmo Park and Bloc Party. Like these bands and their other peers, their relatively simple, direct sound acts as a platform for their personality and lyrics. The Rakes end up being uniquely middle-class: they're almost always witty and smart, but not as arch and arty as, say, Art Brut, and sometimes drunk and laddish, but not nearly to the extent that the Libertines were. What makes the band, and their debut album, Capture/Release, interesting is how the Rakes are less concerned with typical punk themes like smashing the system than they are with finding an identity -- or at least some downtime -- within the confines of a nine-to-five life. Alan Donohoe's sharply written observations use the jargon of the work world to convey both vague dissatisfaction with it, as well as momentary escapes from it with drinking or one-night stands. "Retreat," with its looping, claustrophobic refrain, "Walk home/Come down/Retreat/To sleep/Hook up again/This time next week," captures these feelings of personal gridlock perfectly, while "22 Grand Job" sends up the monotony of a cubicle-drone job with an ironic opening drum roll and a deceptively rousing chorus. Attempts at intimacy are fleeting at best, and linked to finances: on "Open Book," Donohoe laments, "I am overdrawn," and on "Binary Love," "can't you just pretend that we are more than just friends?" is rhymed with "dividends." Ballads like "Binary Love" and "All Too Human" -- a U.S. bonus track that's a surprisingly poignant look at a couple too busy getting ahead to get together -- help justify the Rakes' more polished sound after making the leap from the tiny, aptly named Trash Aesthetics imprint to the fancier digs of V2. However, the band still rocks out more than some of their contemporaries do on "T Bone" and the dub-punk fusion of "We Are All Animals." Equally thoughtful and energetic, Capture/Release shows that the Rakes have a smart, sharp voice that ultimately sets them apart from the rest of their scene.

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