When first looking through the liner of R.A.P.‘s new compact disc, 2, I felt like someone was trying to play with my mind. R.A.P. isn’t a rap group, as its name might suggest, but an alternative rock band. And instead of looking like a stereotypical rock band, the picture in the disc jacket portrays a group I would expect to be singing a song by the Doobie Brothers. Thankfully, first impressions aren’t always everything.
R.A.P. (originally called Rāpuļi ar putniem) is a four-member band that has been playing together since the mid-1990s. Members include singer A.D. (Artis Varionas), bassist Masters (Artis Rozītis), guitarist Štro (Aleksandrs Štro) and drummer Gatis L. (Gatis Lagzdenieks). 2, the group’s third album, was preceded by the 2001 album Feel? and the 1999 album Vanilla.
In Latvia, the group’s song “Nekas vairs nav tā” not only held a spot in Radio SWH’s Top 40 for 22 consecutive weeks, but was also ranked as the most-played song across the nation’s radio stations. Only to confirm R.A.P.‘s growing popularity, in 2002 “Nekas vairs nav tā” received the award for Latvia’s best modern rock song.
The album includes 13 tracks in English and three “bonus” tracks in Latvian.
The beginning of the first track, “Looking Stone,” holds promise. The elements of rock are present: a riff from a bass guitar starts out, the lead guitar enters and takes over, soon followed by drums. It’s good, really good. The singing adds on, and everything seems to fall into place.
But when I listened to the lyrics, which, while serious and belted out in an alternative rock manner, made no sense: “…Walk on by, shove and flee, Happen still to call your name, Looking small, all night long, Laughing tall, she saw what?…”
Don’t we all experience this scenario at some point? I was left thinking, “They said what?” Minus the lyrics, the song is acceptable.
The rest of the album wavers between alternative rock and what I would label as “light metal.” The music stays consistently excellent, reminding me of a mixture of American groups such as Linkin Park and Incubus. My favorite tracks—for purely instrumental reasons—from the main part of the album are 7 and 12. Track 7, “Touch in the Night,” starts out with a kind of tribal-sounding instrument. Its riff is then transferred to bass guitar and is heard throughout the entire song. My only regret is that the original instrument is not used again.
Track 12, “Scabs of the World,” is instrumentally fulfilling. The song is anything but boring, as the center of interest of the track switches from bass to vocal to lead guitar to all instrumental and vocal. The vocals, however, don’t stand out. Nothing’s wrong with the voice—the talent and angst are clear. Unfortunately, in this and other songs, the vocals don’t seem to be the focus of the songs. They’re hard to hear and don’t jump out enough to be appreciated. It seems like they’ve been added only to provide a bit of icing to the cake that is the instrumentals.
However, after listening to the three bonus tracks, I was left with the impression that vocalist A.D. is more comfortable singing in Latvian. And—big surprise—the lyrics made sense. Another thing that finally made sense is why R.A.P. was ranked so high in Latvia with “Nekas vairs nav tā.” It’s a perfectly developed rock song. The music is not too fast, nor too slow. The consistent tempo is easy to get into and makes your head bob. The vocals aren’t off the wall and insane. They’re calm and soulful, and when put together with the somewhat “screamed” vocals of the chorus, they left a happy humming in my brain—an alt-rock warm fuzzy. If R.A.P. keeps putting out songs of this caliber, then for them viss vienmer būs tā.
Platforma Records, 2003
On the Web
R.A.P. (originally called Rāpuļi ar putniem) is a four-member band that has been playing together since the mid-1990s.This the group’s official Web site. EN LV
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