Timing is everything in the cut-throat world of commercial pop, especially when your product invites comparisons with other like-minded artists who are releasing their own work at the same time. When Universal delayed The Rapture’s 2003 major label debut, “Echoes,” for more than a year it missed out on the rush to embrace dancepunk as the next big thing. So while it ended up on most critics’ Best 10 lists, it didn’t sell well, and perhaps as a result the New York quartet’s equally long-simmering follow-up, “Pieces of the People We Love,” arrived in stores last fall with little if no fanfare.
Though it contains fewer funky heartstoppers than the debut, “Pieces” is a better album in the same way that Talking Heads’ “More Songs About Buildings and Food” was a better album than “Talking Heads ’77.” The group’s rubbery rock sound is less monotonous, and the songs are more playful and less beholden to whatever dance music cliches fired their imagination in the first place. Though still propelled by high-energy percussion arrangements, the tracks mainly engage on the strength of their loopy ideas. “She said, your allegory is far too blunt,” shrieks Luke Jenner, surveying the club scene. “I said, this ain’t no lobotomy.” David Byrne couldn’t have said it any better.
In concert, The Rapture can get monotonous, what with everyone on stage hitting cowbells and hopping around like lemurs, but it’s nice to know they believe their audience is capable of thinking and dancing at the same time.