The Rakes, Cardiff University Solus - 11/05/06
There is, to all intents and purposes, a golden rule to playing live: you open with an anthem, play another one mid-way through your main set, and finish it all with another. On tonight's evidence, The Rakes have learnt this golden rule, opening with the 90-second ode to status anxiety, 22 Grand Job, dropping anomie-toned, O.C.-featured, chant Retreat mid-way through and finishing it all off with the punk rock (and FIFA 2006-used) Strasbourg. This implies a key point about The Rakes though: how far they've come in the past twelve months. About this time last year they played to a mildly enthusiastic Barfly crowd as part of Xfm's (sadly failed) experiments with this fair city. Since then they've troubled the chart three times, and managed to whore themselves out to various student-friendly licencing opportunities. Not that this means they've sold-out. Oh no, The Rakes have grown into something more confident and popular, whilst maintaining that dirty, distorted energy that so many bands seem to leave behind in the equally dirty, grimy toilets of the indie club circuit.
Whilst The Rakes seem to anchor their set in 'classic gig' way, they seem to have (thankfully) ignored the usual consequence of 'classic gig' formula: that things have a tendency to drop between these high-points. This is because the band are relentless. Everything is played at breakneck speed, so that the crowd is constantly pogoing around for their lives, even to the more reflective tracks like Binary Love and We are all Animals and the new stuff that no-one really knows. And whilst those not at the front are furiously jumping around as their lives depended on it, those sandwiched into the railings at the front are doing their utmost to immitate Alan's trademark dance moves.
If you asked me to remember the set-list, I couldn't. It was that good that all of the songs seemed to bleed into each other, although I remember being pleased when they played (personal favourite) Violent. There also has to be a passing comment on the rather ace support from The Young Knives, apart from all I can remember about them now is that recent MTV2-friendly sngle Here Comes the Rumour Mill is just as good live as on record, and that the singer looks like Mark from Peep Show with longer hair.
So then, ladies and gentlemen, The Rakes have grown in stature and status and, on tonight's evidence at least, cornered the ears of the current batch of undergraduates around the country. If they could quickly write a song about the lecturer strike, they could well have a number one on their hands, but then again, they're a bit too cool for that. Even if I still maintain their guitarist looks like (the genial) Stan Cullimore from The Housemartins...