It has been five years since The Rapture's last album and, with the exception of the gloriously funky Timbaland produced 'No Sex For Ben', ages since we heard anything new from Luke Jenner and the band.
The Rapture were one of the first artists to release anything through DFA as a label and were certainly first to release a full album in the form of the DFA produced dark and strung-out yet funky Echoes. It was an album that helped plunge post-punk into the limelight.
But a lot has changed since then. Bassist and vocalist Matty Safer has left the band, they have left and then returned to the label that first broke them and most significantly Jenner's mother sadly tragically suicide, with Jenner having his first child and converting to Catholicism shortly after and.
You can feel the impact of these events on In the Grace of Your Love. Whilst previous album Pieces of the People we Love was carefree and celebratory - a collection of songs about parties, cars and music itself - this feels much more grounded and grown-up. With Jenner's father depicted on the cover seemingly effortlessly standing on a surfboard as he rides a wave it feels like The Rapture are in the same pose - willing themselves to land the moves without seeming to break a sweat.
On the whole they manage it. The album is bookended by polar opposite tracks. Opener 'Sail Away' is ballsy, almost arrogant, as Jenner rides the wave of emotion that the rest of us are seemingly excluded from. Musically it's strident, with soaring keys and a vocal that just feels like a continuous chorus. But it feels a million miles from the relative sophistication of Echoes. Whilst the latter was full of references to Gang of Four 'Sail Away' feels like U2 covered by the Killers. It comes off like a confusing compromise.
If the opener is a million miles from the Rapture we fell in love with then the closing track, 'It Takes Time to be a Man' is equally distant but in another direction. A ballad that sees Jenner openly making his moves whilst simultaneously demonstrating his sensitive side, it's punctuated with a surfer rock baseline, jazz keys and brass. For all the change it is a much more welcome entry into the band's catalogue than 'Sail Away' and packs the kind of album closing gravitas that benefitted the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' 'Maps' on their debut.
Elsewhere things are a bit less contentious. Much of In the Grace of Your Love feels midway between the darker first album and funk of Pieces of the People we Love. 'Miss You' is typically of this - the verses stripped back to little more than a thick drum beat and heavy bass. It feels like a contemporary re-imagining of the Rolling Stones track of the same name, desperation seeping from Jenner's vocals. 'How Deep Is Your Love' takes proto-house and rebuilds it around a brass heavy punk funk number.
'Come Back to Me' is one of the best songs on this record, it's song structure seemingly an inverse of the established norm of starting quiet and building to a crescendo. With a looping, dubby start based around a twisted accordion sound it pulls a handbrake turn halfway through into a dark and foreboding re-imagining of what you have just heard, a minimal house conclusion that works by emphasising an alienated longing for something, anything.
After the partied excess of their last album In the Grace... feels reigned in, but in doing so I can't help but feel that The Rapture have tempered their creativity. Echoes felt packed with ideas and songs the band needed to get out. At times In the Grace of Your Love feels a little bit like that album cover - coasting along with little evidence of the effort that making this album must have taken, particularly given the tumultuous period the band have been through.
In the Grace of Your Love is out now on DFA, available from Amazon.co.uk on CD, LP and MP3 [affiliate links].