Calling punk an attitude has become an MTV-generation cliché. It's used as a post-mortem tribute to a musician's rebelliousness: Johnny Cash, yo, that guy was punk. But there's more resonance, now, in punk as an attitude than in its descriptiveness of a sound or a scene -- if you accept that Good Charlotte is a standard-bearer of the mosh-pit set, well, then, the sound of punk has become disconnected entirely from what it used to mean.
But the attitude remains. And as far as that goes, the Rapture is the punkest thing going right now. Yes, there's plenty of punk to their highly and too-long-anticipated LP Echoes -- Gang of Four-style, notably, and nowhere more so than on the Rapture's breakthrough song, the cowbell masterpiece "House of Jealous Lovers." You'd never mosh to that song or any other on Echoes, however, and that's what makes the record so groundbreaking. The Rapture has redeemed the four-on-the-floor electronic dance beat for rock -- and if Echoes doesn't get your ass shaking, buddy, your ass is broken.
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And yet . . . the beats may be primal to the Rapture's shake-it-or-else musical strategy, but it's the rock energy that carries the day. It lives in the drums, guitar and bass hooks and front man Luke Jenner's balls-to-the-wall vocals. The band layers one rock influence on top of another -- the arty romanticism of the Cure, Joy Division's apocalyptic leanings, Television's urbane post-punk -- and the techno stuff merely insinuates itself. Rock music hasn't been made for dancing in a long time, and the idea is catching a wave; what makes the Rapture stand out among the bands working its turf is its passion. Echoes is less an album of aesthetics than one of feeling, the kind of feeling both dance and music were invented early in civilization to express. And passion, after all, is just a synonym for punk.