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Thursday, 22 October 2009

R.I.P. The Rakes

Today, after half a decade together The Rakes announced their split. I'm not one to write massive eulogies, but throughout their five years The Rakes soundtracked many a time in my life that it would be impossible no to mark their passing here.

My first encounter with The Rakes was through the singles released prior to their d├ębut album. 'Strasbourg', 'Retreat' and '22 Grand Job' were tremendous, attention grabbing shots of post-punk guitars and adrenaline. 'Ausland Mission' also stands as one of the greatest b-sides of the decade. Thanks to the British music press they had an awful amount of hype to live up to and thankfully, in 2005 released the brilliant Capture/Release. As you'd expect it was very warmly received by most critics, blowing the rest of the London rock scene out of the water. Tight instrumentation backed lyrics that detailed the claustrophobia and monotony of everyday lower middle class life in the big city. Closing statement from the record 'Work, Work, Work, (Pub, Club, Sleep)' remains one of the great pop manifestos of 21st Century 'indie' music.

Following Capture/Release the band released a brand new single 'All Too Human', which took the bands sound in a new direction, streamlining it further down a sleek angular route. It was around this time also that I first saw the group at The Leadmill in Sheffield. The place was thankfully packed out, in a way that few gigs these days seem to be and they put on a great performance. The sort that you only see when a great rock band are at their peak.

That's not to say that what followed was irrelevant. Second album Ten New Messages took up where 'All Too Human' left off, and was criticed in some circles for losing the energy that characterised the first album so well. Nonetheless it was a great record with many high points, not least single 'We Danced Together', and 'Suspicious Eyes' which encapsulated the paranoia and tension of post-terrorist attack London whilst introducing us to Laura Marling, as a guest vocalist.

Things went quiet for a while as they recorded their third album in Berlin, hoping to lose their London tag. In the meantime, singer Alan Donohoe managed to make both Groove Armada and Madonna look good by collaborating with the former on a cover of the latter's 'Crazy For You' for a Radio One covers compilation. Said, third (and final record) came out this year, and was entitled Klang. Easily their weakest it's still a charming and scuzzy little rock record, that shows that the group were forging their own path through lo-fi Cold War gutter punk. Seeing as the record sold badly it's no real surprise to see that the band decided to call it quits, claiming that they no longer felt that they were able to give it their all in the live arena in which they excelled.

The Rakes encapsulated their times in more ways than simply their lyrical dissections of their surroundings. A victim of the hype machine and the build-up/knock-down culture, they rose at a time when guitar music was at the peak of it's popularity and followed its decent into obscurity. As this decade closes, and a new one is due to open we leave The Rakes and hope to hear from their various members somewhere later down the line.


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