Musings on music delivered when I dig myself out.

The Rapture -- Echoes
Universal/Strummer; 2003

As children, we were told to share what we had. It was with great reluctance that we would give up our favorite toys, watching with considerable envy as our grade-school chums had all the fun.

The same sort of story can be told of the independent music world, we're willing to share our artists, but only after they're pried from our grubby little paws. The latest group we're grudgingly giving the mainstream is The Rapture, a dance-punk four-piece bursting from the New York scene.

Their much-anticipated album Echoes reaches their largest audience to date. Sharing -- especially with this many people -- will never be the same.

Echoes opens with the gooey synthesizers and pulse-setting kick drum of "Olio," an open invitation for listeners to shake their assets. Vocalist Luke Jenner howls in pain about a romantic separation, singing, "Through the pain, I was watching as the sound hit my ears / We don't fit any more / We don't fit any more," like a stressed-out Robert Smith. The backbeat rhythm of the piano and click-clack beats of the high hat brings the song to its climax, with the potential to work the listeners into a sweaty frenzy.

Without any warning, the album shifts into the beginning of "Heaven," in which the band creates a striking vocal harmony while belting out nursery-rhyme lyrics. The singing is cut short by two snare hits and is replaced by piercing guitar slides and dizzying basswork. The song's bridge is carved down to solo drums while the guitar and bass take an abbreviated break, returning with a startling fierceness.

Even after two amazing dance numbers, The Rapture shows no signs of letting up. "I Need Your Love," is a playful synthetic romp across a disco-beat dance floor, aided by the skronk of Gabriel Andruzzi's saxophone and the DFA production crew's squiggly keyboard lines. The jittery guitar sound of the album's title track exudes nervous energy, the only consistent factor in the song being Matt Safer's basswork.

An insect-like drum cadence starts the buildup of Echoes' sassiest song, "Killing." Jenner's sneering vocals are superimposed on a cocky, DFA-programmed drum machine beat, giving the song a great deal of immediacy.

Despite the greatness of the other tracks, it's on "House of Jealous Lovers" and "Sister Savior" that The Rapture proves its superiority over a burgeoning dance-punk scene. "House of Jealous Lovers," the album's first single, has all the tension of a bomb squad tossing around explosives in a game of hot potato. The guitar and bass battle for sonic dominance; Jenner, the consummate cheerleader, eggs both challengers on with his yelp of "Shakedown!" Drummer Vito Roccoforte injects cowbell and handclaps into his percussion regimen, pleasing his post-punk audience.

"Sister Savior" is easily The Rapture's most accessible song, the progeny of the group's teamwork with DFA on the drum programming and Safer's engaging vocals. The programming smacks of nostalgia, borrowing deeply from the sound of '80s synthpop heroes Duran Duran and Depeche Mode. Over a throbbing keyboard metronome, Safer sweetly expresses his desire for "one last late night" with his "sister savior" -- a sentiment strong enough to make the lovers on the dance floor hold each other just a little closer.

Echoes is as strong a sophomore outing as The Rapture could have hoped for -- a feel-good dance album without a hint of pretension. Echoes presents a great deal of intra-album diversity, offering both digital dance-punk and whiplash funk without any hesitations. If every album released were as good as Echoes, perhaps the underground music scene would be more generous in its sharing habits.

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