The Raveonettes

TrackAlbum / EP / Single
Do You Believe HerWhip It On Ep
That Great Love SoundChain Gang Of Love
The Christmas SongColumbia RAVEON 009
Love In A TrashcanPretty In Black
Dead SoundLust Lust Lust
You Want The CandyLust Lust Lust
Bang!In And Out Of Control
Boys Who Rape (Should All Be Destroyed)In And Out Of Control
IgniteRaven In The Grave
DowntownObservator

The Raveonettes photo 1

Sune Rose Wagner and Sharin Foo of The Raveonettes

 

 

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Raveonettes playlist

 

Contributor: Marc Fagel

As noted in my recent Toppermost on the Jesus and Mary Chain, that band’s revolutionary melding of 60s girl group and Beach Boys-styled songs with darker lyrical themes, tucked behind an overwhelming wall of feedback and reverb, inspired countless imitators. The Raveonettes are perhaps the most unabashed (and aesthetically successful) of them all, totally reverential yet putting a fresh spin on the sonic motif.

Danish duo Sune Rose Wagner and Sharin Foo nail the whole JAMC gig right down to their looks, with Wagner looking like the Reid brothers’ slightly-more-Goth cousin, and Foo arguably what one might imagine the Reids would look like if reconstructed as a blonde bombshell. In some ways, the Raveonettes up the girl-group ante, both by having a female co-vocalist, and with an even more direct line back to the sixties influences (their second LP includes a faithful cover of My Boyfriend’s Back as well as a guest appearance by Ronnie Spector). Yet they add their own spin on the music (which over time dropped the JAMC affectations and moved into more shoegaze and dream pop territory), weaving in some twangy surf rock guitars.

Of course, all of this would have added up to little more than the impressive revitalization of another band’s sound if the Raveonettes didn’t bring the material to back up their mission statement; but primary songwriter Wagner has no shortage of killer hooks.

The band’s 2002 debut EP Whip It On and the following year’s LP Chain Gang Of Love are of a piece. Indeed, the JAMC pastiche alone apparently not being enough of a lure, they layer on an additional gimmick, with the EP’s tracks (as proudly proclaimed on the album cover) all recorded in the key of B-flat minor, while the LP’s tracks are all in B-flat major. And while the gimmick runs the risk of the songs on the respective records having a certain lack of musical variety (and, yeah, there’s a bit of sameness that creeps in), the albums have enough stellar tracks to keep them compelling. The EP is highlighted by the deliriously fun Do You Believe Her, as well as the spooky 60s garage band romp Attack Of The Ghost Riders; while the LP offers one of the band’s most perfect stand-alone singles in That Great Love Sound, alongside other stand-outs like the similarly thrashing Let’s Rave On and the beach-ready Heartbreak Stroll.

 

The 2005 follow-up, Pretty In Black, drops much of the wall of distortion, as well as the single-key schtick of the prior records, resulting in a quieter affair packed with 50s-styled balladry and a more unadulterated Phil Spector sound. Pleasantly understated single Love In A Trashcan exemplifies the shift, a pretty straight surf guitar retro pop tune; while Here Comes Mary is essentially an Everly Brothers track with only a bare minimum of updating.

2007’s Lust Lust Lust finds the band stepping back into the distortion-fueled din of the debut, and it’s a stronger album for it, recapturing some of the energy arguably lacking from the more laid back Pretty. Dead Sound is certainly among the band’s finest moments, a reverb-drenched loud-soft-loud dynamic backing another killer hook. You Want The Candy is straightforward power pop sweetness, again with an infusion of distortion propelling it along. The more upbeat numbers are balanced by some quieter, nighttime torch songs reprising Pretty’s softer side.

 

For 2010’s In And Out Of Control, the band mixed up the musical palette a bit, expanding beyond the amped-up surf guitar and girl group sound of earlier work into a more atmospheric shoegazy terrain, while retaining Lust’s fizzy sonics. Lead-off track Bang! is pure, glorious bubblegum, calling to mind the sound of late 80s women-helmed UK pop bands like the Primitives and Darling Buds (an approach revisited in the perky Breaking Into Cars). Meanwhile, the self-explanatory Boys Who Rape (Should All Be Destroyed) takes on subject matter too infrequently touched on in popular music, while dressing it up as deceptively sweet dream pop, with Foo’s shockingly restrained admonition that “those fuckers stay in your head” conveying the same bitter edge as the far more forceful punk blasts from the 90s riot grrrl set. The song (and the accompanying stark video), as the lyrics note, stay in your head. Elsewhere, the buoyantly abrasive Break Up Girls confirms that the Jesus and Mary Chain have not yet left the building.

 

Alas, Control’s reinvigorated sound grows a little wearier on the next year’s Raven In The Grave, mostly lower key dream pop which provides plenty of atmospherics but not many distinctive hooks; only Ignite stands out as another hopelessly infectious noise-pop throwback to earlier glories.

After the workmanlike Raven, successive releases have seen the band plugging away with perfectly respectable, endearing records, mostly dream pop best enjoyed as buzzing background, with a few stray tracks per disc that delve into the transcendent ear candy of early work. 2012’s Observator is highlighted by the relatively poppy Downtown and Sinking With The Sun, as well as the jangly ballad She Owns The Streets; 2014’s Pe’ahi mixes things up with some electronic dance beats and a return of the feedback-driven wall of sound on a few tunes, shining on the bubbly shoegaze of Killer In The Streets and the speaker-shattering Kill!; and their most recent full-length, 2016’s Atomized, mines similar territory, working particular well on the noise-infused Junko Ozawa and the haunting, almost New Order-reminiscent Won’t You Leave Me Alone. That the latter-day albums may lack the killer Toppermost mix-tape-worthy singles of early albums hardly makes them unworthy of a spin, but they’re better geared towards longtime fans than newbies looking for a compelling introduction to the band.

Before closing, I’d point out one other commonality between the Raveonettes and the Jesus and Mary Chain: Both have a prolific history of EPs and B-sides, many of which are equally worthy of inclusion on the proper albums (if not more so). Some of these stream on Spotify and are worth checking out (including an amusing Christmas EP). Most of the earlier B-sides are collected on a sprawling online-only collection (Rarities/B-Sides) that is as essential as any of their long-players (a highlight being 2003’s delightful The Christmas Song, oddly omitted from their Christmas-themed EP). The B-sides have also given the band the space for the occasional cover song, like a faithful dream pop reinterpretation of the Stone Roses’ I Wanna Be Adored.

 

 

The Raveonettes photo 2

 

 

The Raveonettes official website

Sune Rose Wagner – eponymous solo album (2008)

Psyched Up Janis (Wikipedia)

The Raveonettes discography

The Raveonettes biography (AllMusic)

Marc Fagel is a recovering lawyer living outside San Francisco with his wife and his obscenely oversized music collection. He is the author of the recently-published rock lover’s memoir “Jittery White Guy Music”. His daily ruminations on random albums in his collection can be seen on his blog of the same name, or by following him on twitter. Marc’s previous posts include Luna, Jesus and Mary Chain, Feelies, Genesis, Wilco, King Crimson and Brian Eno.

TopperPost #897

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