The newest platter from the ever-hip-but-wildly-inconsistent Gravity Records comes in the form of the Rapture’s Mirror , a not-too-radical departure for the label. Wielding a post-punk sound more akin to the days of P.I.L.’s Metal Box and the Cure’s Seventeen Seconds than the more modern ones of almost-grown-men-in-children’s-clothing falling ‘n’ flailing about their out-of-tune equipment, the Rapture is a struggle of seemingly contradictory elements: in the composition department, abstract angularity vs. hook-laden catchiness; in the performance department, brimming passion vs. cold calculation; in the lyrical department, neurotic nonsense vs. stark simplicity. The fact that the Rapture made an effectively effervescent record out of such contradictions is no small feat.
However, Mirror maintains hardly any semblance of formula(e), and the record is that much better for it. The album begins with “in finite clock!,” an austere piano ponderer that would have fit in well on the aforementioned Cure album. The album’s first full-on band composition, “NOTES>>>,” couples, as its foundation, a persistently whirring siren and a simple keyboard bubble that, elsewhere, would only be found on a lost Suicide record and, as its throttle, punchy drumming and vocalist/guitarist Luke Jenner quivering and wavering “I’m taking notes from the underground.” Coldly subdued and meticulously restrained, “OLiO” challenges the Cure’s “Secrets” and “M” (yes, both from the same aforementioned album) for the most dispassionately passionate power-pop ever. On the keyboard-heavy tip, “FRAMESframesFRaMES” and “AlieNation” could either be lost Gary Numan cuts or just lost in space. All through the title track Jenner sports a guitar lick the Birthday Party’s Rowland S. Howard would be proud of, while drummer Vito Roccoforte sh-sh-shuffles to staccato heaven; what Jenner means by “Alan Vega/suicide/suicide/red, red lights” is anyone’s guess, but at least he’s got good taste. Hell, “Kid 606 ‘In Love with the Underground'” is even a whacked-out jungle-esque remix of “NOTES>>>.” Now how’s that for (lack of) formula?
The beauty of the Rapture’s Mirror , especially in these harshly revisionist times, is that the band genuflects at, rather than pisses on, the grave of post-punk’s past, and in turn, soaks up seemingly un-“modern” sensibilities to create an undeniably fresh record. So far, Mirror is the frontrunner for best record of 1999. (Also, kudos to bassist Brooks Bonstin’s update of Eno’s Roxy-era “hairdo”)