Though it's called Retreat, this EP -- which collects songs from the Retreat, Strasbourg, Work, Work, Work (Pub, Club, Sleep, and 22 Grand Job U.K. singles -- is actually the Rakes' first foray into the U.S. As those last two singles' titles show, the band is fixated on the grayness of the workaday world, alternately railing against its limitations and blotting it out with after-hours hedonism. Call it cubicle punk: though songs like "Retreat" offer brooding indictments of a boxed-in, work-all-day, party-all-night lifestyle, they don't pretend to have any answers or alternatives, either. Though the Rakes flirt with dance-punk on occasion -- most notably on "Dark Clouds" and the remix of "Retreat" by Phones, the alias of ubiquitous British nu-wave producer Paul Epworth -- the band's sound isn't quite as flashy or distinctive as some of their contemporaries. Indeed, on "Strasbourg," they sound more like the Strokes than any of their fellow countrymen. Most of the Rakes' originality comes from their energy and way with storytelling, which is at its best on their first single, "22 Grand Job," a sharply drawn sketch of office life and losing a girl to a guy who makes more money. Unfortunately, the re-recorded version that appears on Retreat is slower, slicker, and not nearly as fun as the original version that Trash Aesthetics released. Unlike Bloc Party or Maximo Park (two other Epworth-produced bands), a polished production doesn't really suit the Rakes -- they end up sounding a little too respectable and middle-management for their own good. However, on the EP's title track and the creepy, stomping "Something Clicked and I Fell off the Edge," they still retain some of the scrappy charm of their early days. Retreat is still a good primer on the Rakes' sound, though, and it's nice for American audiences to get their hands on these songs without having to shell out for import singles.
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AllMusic Review by Heather Phares