Proof that one fantastic single is all it takes to make a band's name, the Rakes burst onto the London music scene in 2004 with "22 Grand Job," a pithy punk satire of crappy entry-level office jobs. Various stories swirled about how the band -- which featured vocalist/guitarist Alan Donohoe, guitarist Matthew Swinnerton, bassist Jamie Hornsmith, and drummer Lasse Petersen -- got together, ranging from elaborate tales of meeting on a flight to Amsterdam to the more plausible explanation of being childhood friends. The Rakes played a few local dates before unleashing 22 Grand Job, which was released as a limited-edition 7" by Trash Aesthetics, also the early home to Bloc Party. The single also appeared on the Fierce Panda compilation EP On the Buzzes. The band spent that spring and summer recording and supporting like-minded acts such as Bloc Party, the Others, and Art Brut. In the fall, the Rakes released their second single, Strasbourg, on City Rockers and embarked on their first tour. After signing with V2, the band rang in 2005 by gigging and working on their debut album. The singles Retreat and Work, Work, Work (Pub, Club, Sleep) anticipated the released of Capture/Release in the U.K. in summer 2005. Dim Mak released Retreat as an EP in the U.S. that fall, coinciding with the Rakes' first stateside tour. Capture/Release arrived in the U.S. in spring 2006. An EP of remixes in 2007 preceded the band's second album Ten New Messages, which appeared that spring. The band returned with the noisier Klang, which was released in the U.K. in spring 2009; the week before the album's U.S. release that fall, the band announced in a statement that they were parting ways.
© Heather Phares /TiVo
© Heather Phares /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released March 22, 2009 | [PIAS] Cooperative
The German word for "sound," Klang is a fitting title for the Rakes' third album -- and not just because the band recorded it in Berlin. These songs have a lot more sound to them than the relatively muted Ten New Messages, and the bandmembers turn up the volume on their emotions as well: "You're in It"'s jerky rock kicks off the album with the pungent refrain "Sometimes you can't smell the shit till you're in it," and as singer Alan Donohoe pours out his raging id, singing about sex and drugs and being in hell in a stream-of-consciousness smear, he sounds as wound up here as he sounded deadpan on the band's previous album. In fact, a lot of Klang feels like a direct reaction to Ten New Messages' more studied sound, especially on more unhinged moments like "Shackleton," another high-strung rant. Collaborating with producer Chris Zane (who has also worked with Les Savy Fav) inspired the Rakes to rock just as hard as they did in their early days, but with more precision: several of these songs could have appeared on Capture/Release, especially the "Strasbourg"-esque rave-up "The Final Hill" and "Bitchin' in the Kitchen," a sharply observed track about hanging out in the kitchen at parties that plays like a sequel to "Retreat." No matter how much the Rakes tinker with their sound, smoking, drinking, working, and going out are still the guideposts of their world, along with Donohoe's world-weary wit, which is especially trenchant on the paranoid, slightly self-loathing "The Loneliness of the Outdoor Smoker" and "That's the Reason." And while the single "1989" is Rakes-shaped enough to reassure longtime fans that the band isn't changing too drastically, it doesn't just stay in a poppy punk comfort zone. The band attempts some adventurous storytelling as Klang comes to a close, particularly on the charmingly awkward love song "The Light from Your Mac" and "Muller's Ratchet," a wry complaint from a father to his lazy son. "No one here likes a smart-arse," Donohoe sings, but the Rakes are smart enough to try new things with each album, and Klang's sharp guitar pop balances their previous directions with flair. © Heather Phares /TiVo