Release Date: Apr 5, 2011
Record label: Vice Music
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Indie Rock, Noise Pop
On their fifth disc, the Danish duo prolong their frigid endless summer, turning out songs full of surf-pop harmonies and film-noir ambience. One or both members are clearly smarting from broken hearts — they've softened their usual lyrics of crime and violence into lovelorn laments like "Let Me on Out" — but the sound feels tired, with bleak tunes like "Evil Seeds" getting lost in a fog of distortion. (Its head-scratching refrain, "Play with fire/Play with you sometimes," doesn't help, either.) Wear a parka to this beach-blanket bingo.
Over a decade long career, it would be fair to suggest The Raveonettes' popularity has neither significantly increased or decreased on any rapid scale since the excellent Whip It On EP landed unassumingly amidst a sea of Strokes copyists and nu metal neanderthals back in the summer of 2002. Some of that is probably due in no uncertain terms to the ever-changing fashions and tastes dictated by the likes of us within the media. The rest has to lay at the door of the band themselves, who've had a distinctly uneven track record for quality control.
After two great albums that redefined and nearly perfected their noisy girl group and razorblades wall of sound, the Raveonettes switch things up on their fifth album, Raven in the Grave. In keeping with the title, the album trades out the fizzy, candy-sweet element of their songs and sound for something darker and gloomier. Sune Rose Wagner and Sharin Foo took over the production themselves, and more than building a sound, built a lingering mood of melancholy and sadness that pervades the entire album.
Hot diggety damn. This business called “Show” is so cut throat it makes San Quentin look like a Holiday resort. Picture Danish duo the Raveonettes. They’ve delivered four scorchio albums of gob-smacking fabness and can they catch a break? Can they heck! Why, you people should feel real guilty ….
The Raveonettes are one of many bands working today who’ve outlasted their initial buzz only to stick to a well-defined aesthetic rather than making inroads into uncharted territory. We’ve seen it before--bands see one of their early albums blow up, build on a dedicated fanbase, then continue to release consistently enjoyable records rather than one immensely exceptional one, becoming an act that comes into town every 18 months without fail until you realize with shock: “How have I seen the Hold Steady five times?” For the Raveonettes, the narrative follows similar: They broke into the Stateside scene with 2002’s Whip It On EP, an effortlessly cool pastiche of biker chic, Spectoresque walls of guitars wrapped around coy pop come-ons, black & white nostalgia and icy beauty by way of bassist Sharin Foo, a guaranteed mainstay of any unfortunate “Hottest Women in Rock & Roll” list. But after an aborted attempt to hit that next tier of indie popularity with 2005’s Pretty in Black, they went back to basics, seeming content to continue playing within the confines of shoegaze and that great love sound.
Danish retro-rockers The Raveonettes have always been a frustratingly hit-or-miss band. For every triumphant pop record they craft (Lust, Lust, Lust) there’s a misguided clunker (Whip It On) somewhere in their catalog to balance it out. The mix of excellent and unsatisfying has created a decade-long body of work with a wholly uninteresting consensus approval rating, the numerical equivalent of a shrugging, “Yeah, they’re cool.” And “cool” is a good word for The Raveonettes.
That title and the emblematic corvid on the sleeve might suggest a band reconnecting with their darkest core. So it’s disappointing when [b]‘Recharge & Revolt’[/b] invokes little more revolutionary than the wet spirit of TPOBPAH. It’s only one misstep in what’s an otherwise engrossing variation on [a]The Raveonettes[/a]’ sound: hazy, dark, [a]The Cure[/a]-ish dreampop with a Lynchian vibe.[b]‘War in Heaven’[/b] sprinkles cold, starry twinkles of glockenspiel over brooding bass, spooky and simple.
The Raveonettes may have written only a handful of distinct melodies in their career, but their presentation has given them the staying power. Their theatrical sense was there from the beginning-- we saw band members Sune Rose Wagner and Sharin Foo sitting on motorcycles on the cover of 2003's full-length debut, Chain Gang of Love, and a movie poster tableau for of 2005's dusky Pretty in Black-- but by their 2009 album, In and Out of Control, they had toned down the visuals and made their most aimless record to date. In concept alone, then, the duo's fifth LP, Raven in the Grave, is a corrective step.
Since their 2003 debut (Chain Gang of Love), Danish indie rock duo The Raveonettes have focused pretty heavily on their image. Their fusion of 50s and 60s pop aesthetic (Sune Rose Wagner and Sharin Foo straddling motorcycles on the album cover) with dark, gothy pink and black color schemes and B-movie poster fonts demanded attention, even when their similar fusion of gothy rock and traditional pop wasn’t quite as slick. As the years have passed, they’ve noticeably downplayed the dronier, Velvet Underground-style psych-rock that they’d previously pushed, instead brandishing a fuzzy alt and goth 80s look back at simple pop melodies.
The Raveonettes are best known for filtering the innocent perspective and tuneful, sunny hooks of ‘50s pop through the noise and fuzz of the Jesus and Mary Chain, which makes it somewhat jarring to hear the Danish duo play goth-kid dress-up on Raven in the Grave. Songs like “Aly, Walk with Me” from 2008’s terrific Lust Lust Lust and “Twilight” from Pretty in Black prove that the Raveonettes can tackle unnerving, mysterious material without losing their distinctive sound, but Raven in the Grave just sounds like the in-store music for Hot Topic. The fascination with death and graveyards plays out as part of an affected costume rather than a logical extension of the duo’s point of view or style.
Fairly rewarding fifth LP from the dark-hearted indie Danes. Mike Diver 2011 Dark-hearted indie Danes The Raveonettes have been there or thereabouts in the middling levels of pop success for some years now. Since breaking cover with their eight-track EP Whip It On back in 2002, they’ve dallied with the affections of a following that’s perhaps waned but never abandoned the duo, despite misfiring second long-player Pretty in Black and 2009’s toothless In and Out of Control.