The Rapture, Koko, London<br/> The Automatic, Astoria, London

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The Independent Culture

They may only have chosen "Move On Up" as intro music because it got them going, but you could not help but wonder if The Rapture had ulterior motives. Curtis Mayfield's call to arms reminded us of the power of pre-electronic music with a title that hinted that The Rapture's intention was to climb above the fray.

"We're the mighty Rapture," nerdy bassist Mattie Safer smirked as the band emerged. "We've come to reclaim the punk funk crowd," added guitarist Luke Jenner, keeper of the New York group's most chiselled features.

The 2003 album Echoes had opened the door for a raft of guitar bands to play danceable grooves, though two years of touring took its toll. The four-piece needed time to reconfigure their relationships and deliver Pieces of People We Love, an album that fans have greeted with relief even if it has not fired the wider public's imagination. On stage, Safer led with panache, providing a perfect fusion of funky twitches and rock attack. A newly galvanised "Sister Saviour" was less gothic anthem than a white soul take on Donna Summer.

With Echoes, the band earned critical plaudits, while Franz Ferdinand and The Killers sold the records. A new generation of bands could achieve the same feat, but this should not bother The Rapture. They have ridden one storm and are now walking on sunshine.

A band has to be woefully short of ideas if they cover a song completely outside their range, yet that is what Welsh wonders The Automatic were reduced to on their final tour of a busy year. It soon became clear keyboardist Alex Pennie is no rapper, but to take on something as familiar as Kanye West's "Gold Digger" was pushing it. Even though this was only a bit of fun for sleepy Cowbridge's finest, it became another jarring moment in a lacklustre set.

This time last year, the band members were giving up higher education to pursue their music careers. However, their debut album Not Accepted Anywhere, which earned them a gold disc, was not a rewarding experience live.Their party piece "Monster" lost its charm as the four-piece rampaged through it at ear-aching volume. While on "Gold Digger" singer Rob Hawkins played flute, so the unpleasant effect was Bon Jovi meets Jethro Tull.

The Automatic have the makings of a hugely successful band, as long as they work on more compelling ideas. Perhaps a course in songwriting would not have been a bad idea, after all.

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