The Rakes – Retreat EP

The Rakes
Retreat EP

We’re running out of band names. Not only that, some pretty horrible bands are cutting in line and taking some of the best ones. It’s a veritable fight to the finish, and it’s every man – or band – for itself. There’s no list to ensure that the poseurs don’t get first dibs, and there’s no rule to how long a band can actively work under a certain moniker. I mean, wouldn’t it be a hell of a lot easier to just make everyone within a certain genre share? For instance, couldn’t The Rakes be called something like Talking Heads #437? It would be easier for categorical purposes, and it would be conservative of us as music fans to steward the endangered quality band names. Maybe bands could register for a new band name, but, if the name sounded too much like a predecessor, the band would be tagged accordingly.

What prompted this pretension, you may ask? Well, it may not have solely been Retreat, the new EP by The Rakes, but it was probably the straw that broke the camel’s back—five straws, and one remixed straw, that is.

Retreat is surprisingly easy to pin down. It doesn’t, however, presume to be anything more than what it is. It doesn’t help The Rakes’ case that the past few years have seen a rather comprehensive rehashing of arty post-punk and dance rock. No one wants to spill the obvious references. The Rakes traverse territory recently occupied by radio darlings like The Killers, Franz Ferdinand, The Hives, The Strokes, and Bloc Party. These are, of course, simply the closest-known relations: the immediate family. This all happened before a little over 20 years ago.

The opening track, “Retreat,” doesn’t really do The Rakes any favors either. The song’s construction is undeniably similar to numerous chops on Silent Alarm, which only came out a little earlier the same year. “Strasbourg” and “Dark Clouds” don’t recover much of the lost ground. Starched and clean guitar tones are represented without hesitation. Songs are held together by their tight, crisp packaging. Bass and drums dialogue in a careful syncopation. Vocals consist of a monotonous melody countered by choruses of sputtery sophomoric squawks. The Rakes are unfortunately short on anything that could be construed as evocative on the first three tracks.

“22 Grand Job” and “Something Clicked And I Fell off the Edge” branch out a bit, offering some catchy guitar work and vocal varieties without really challenging the inescapable 25-year-old associations.

The Rakes really can’t be credited with too much of anything. Their songs aren’t bad. They’re just far too invested in their influences to really take on an entity of their own. They display moments of notable musicianship. The songs have an endearing swagger to them in a tongue-in-cheek sort of way. However, they don’t boast possession of anything urgent. The Rakes will be well-received with audiences, but they haven’t, as of yet, created anything worth trudging the river for years down the road.