Britain’s indie-rock is almost always easy to digest. Clean guitars, efficient use of the country’s punk roots, and adorable accented vocals go down easy. The same, speaking of going down easy, could not be said about the average ale on tap in any given pub found in London. UK’s The Rakes know the lifestyle that revolve around such things, though, as they are quite vocal, lyrically speaking, about bar culture and getting by in the average relationship. The British quartet use the latter themes and a charming brit-rock sound in making the Retreat EP one to surely aid in putting this band on the map. Or at least on this continent’s map.
Strokes fans take notice: it seems The Rakes have listened to Is This It? and applied the album’s somewhat distinct sound in the first two tracks. Paced vocals and drumming in “Strasbourg” bounce fairly unchanged on top of garage-rock inspired guitar strums that almost perfectly resemble The Strokes’ “Someday”. Alan sings more confidently than Julian Casablancas, reminiscing in verses like, “Me and you in West Germany, October 1983/Although the freedom was a lie/And your husband was a spy/Say our words are impotent/They can help us pay the rent/And you were sure there’s nothin’ left/ Except the vodka on your breath” The title track, “Retreat”, speaks of the monotony of getting drunk, hooking up, and so forth, every weekend. Though being a track that stands lower than the other five, the song still keeps the bar relatively high. Palm muted Stratocasters squeak next to slower-tempo, 1-string strikes on the bass, slowly forming into a boisterous anthem where Alan truly shines, ranting pleasantly with his lisped British accent.
“Dark Clouds” will pass your stereo by without much notice, unfortunately mellowing into a shallow, vocal-based binge that underminds the poppy sound found elsewhere on the EP. Though, if useful for anything, it segways seamlessly into the paramount song of Retreat. “22 Grand Job” kicks off with a machine-gun snare attack, setting the tone for non-stop, pop-punk ecstasy that would soon ensue. Influences like LCD Soundsystem, Bloc Party, and The Go Team really rear their heads in this conglomeration of memorable verses, charismatic guitars and keys, and a fully realized progression all the way through. Vocalists Alan and Matthew bat it home with an outstanding bridge-verse that excels with alternating vocal roles. Alas, the song is the shortest on the EP and leads into the most disappointing song on the album, “Something Clicked And I Fell Off the Edge”. The chorus simply consists of howling, the verses no more introspective than my little brother’s diary. The punk edge attempted with the song falls short, bordering on a bad Buzzcocks tribute. Topping the release off is a remix of the title track, aptly titled “Retreat (Phones Remix)” Vocals on the track are more spaced out than on the original version, giving dance-floor enthusiasts more bang for their buck. The guitar titters, though, still relatively intact, digitalized rather, mix with questionable results. It’s a great remix, but it’ll have fans ultimately scratching their heads.
Post-punk revival could never beg for as much mainstream success as The Rakes’ Retreat EP does. Harboring enough “Sound Alikes” to get recognized in the lower spectrum, they more than prove their indie-rock spice is potent enough to get them beyond that. However, more can be seen from the band with their debut full-length, Capture/Release, this is a humble little EP that establishes The Rakes’ place among Britain’s finest modern indie-renaissance acts.