I love the Raveonettes. I didn’t always – I mean, I always liked them, but there was a period of time where my interest wasn’t quite so… rabid. Looking back now I’m really not sure how that was even possible. Whatever, now I am a full-on junkie for their reverb-and-lust saturated sonics, going through intense and often week-long jags with their albums, layering myself with the highs and lows of Sune Rose Wagner and Sharin Foo’s always evolving pop-cum-catastrophe musical leanings that often turn everyday life into David Lynch-esque moments. With the release of their newest album, Raven in the Grave, I took a look back at the rest of their discography and kinda discovered something – a bit of a bi-polar streak that seems to constitute the closest thing to an M.O. the Dannish duo might have. For most of their early career this up-and-down streak isn’t split as drastically between albums as it has been on the last two, In and Out of Control (2009) and now the aforementioned Raven in the Grave. But before I continue, let’s run down the band’s discography, adhering only to studio albums, shall we, as E.P. sometimes consist of left overs, tangents or other errata that might not have been constructed with the same elaborate intentions as studio albums so often are.
Chain Gang of Love (2003)
Pretty In Black (2005)
Lust Lust Lust (2007)
In and Out of Control (2009)
Raven in the Grave (2011)
Now, starting with Chain Gang of Love The Raveonettes make an impression based on their sound first; like delicious candy (metaphor or not) the band’s ultra-sex sound is so pop-sensitive that the moments where heartache eclipses lust can go by unnoticed. Maybe more than any other this album showcases the groups’ influences: The Velvet Underground, Sonic Youth and, of course, The Jesus and Mary Chain. None of these bands are strangers to the darkness that inhabits our world and like them (esp. J&MC) on this first outing The Raveonettes choose to lay into their demons more with loud, often blinding bursts of sonic passion than with tangible remorse or downtrodden lyrics.
Pretty in Black is next and here we get a little bit more of the up-beat Raveonettes – the oldies influence is a bit more dominant here, not just because they cover My Boyfriend’s Back or have Ronnie Spector (former beloved to Phil I-have-an-unhealthy-thing-for-waitresses Spector) as a guest on the album but because ‘Twilight’ sounds more than a little like a homage to the theme from iconic 1950’s television show The Twilight Zone, ‘Love in a Trashcan’ feels like a futuristic cover of a track by some one-hit wonder circa 1960 that never happened and ‘Sleepwalking’ is an obvious riff on the classic formula employed by so many of those same groups with names like The Chiffons, Jan & Dean and The Shangri-Las. Not to go too overboard, all of this Golden-age fun is offset by some darker, more noisy moments and Maureen Tucker and Martin Rev (The Velvet Underground and Suicide, respectively) drop by as well to give a little bit of a Knitting Factory floor grime to the overall sound.
2007’s Lust Lust Lust was where I really sat up and took notice of The Raveonettes in a full time capacity. The lead single off the album, ‘Aly, Walk With Me’ showed a new heightened awareness to their music, with its quasi trip-hop beat and methodical guitar that is beautifully interrupted in the middle for a bridge that basically consists of a lot of carefully manipulated white noise. This was what I’d been wanting and the rest of the album didn’t disappoint either, the band’s sound now all of these formerly composite sounds skillfully streamlined and honed by a “Welcome To Canada” David-Lynch edge that brings on thunder clouds and menacing tickles of paranoia. Despite Lust Lust Lust‘s overall ambiguity insofar as polar disposition there is a brooding sense that like Twin Peaks’ Laura Palmer, Sune and Sharin may be leading dangerous double lives.
In and Out of Control was two years ago and to me it was the first Raveonettes album to seem constantly, blatantly cheerful. Even a song like ‘Boys Who Rape (Should all be Destroyed)’ comes off as toe-tappingly happy, despite obvious serious lyrical themes. And track 7, Suicide? Happy happy happy, regardless of the refrain. Unbelievable! But then again, just look at the cover – by god Sharin and Sune almost look as though they are smiling – perhaps enjoying some kind of lapsed childhood moment as bubbles drift by their cheerful guises.
If 2008 was a good year for The Raveonettes that became reflected on 2009’s Lust then 2010 might just have held terrible things for the group – Raven in the Grave is easily the darkest of the band’s albums. That however, is definitely NOT intended as a warning off because for as dark an album as it is, Raven is equally beautiful. Syrupy, circular guitars ebb inside the walls of noise we’ve come to expect from the band, only here they underscore some truly somber moments. Opening track ‘Recharge & Revolt’ really sets the somber mood with a guitar melody that borders on Disintegration-era Cure, scaling down and then back up the neck with just enough minors to beautifully set-up Sune’s lyrics of regret and broken dreams. Also like The Cure’s ‘Plainsong’*, the track ushers in an album that somehow manages to bring you up by bringing you down, reminding some of us that, as Mr. Cobain once sang**, it is possible to miss the comfort some find in being sad. From there ‘Forget That You’re Young‘ feels like sow motion heartbreak and that heartbreak lingers up to and through album closer My Times Up, a pretty, sparkling soundtrack mash between Smiths-like sentimental reflections and James Hurly-esque, sugar-coated guitar.
All in all another killer album from Sune and Sharin, I can’t wait until (fingers crossed) the next one comes out in 2013!!! Until then, enjoy a video:
* Lead track on Disintegration
** And the late great Jay Reatard later reminded up so effectively