"We are not scared of being blunt about what the references are in our music," said The Raveonettes frontwoman Sharin Foo. "For instance, if you look at our name, The Raveonettes, it's a complete direct reference to The Ronettes and Buddy Holly's 'Rave On'. So, in that sense, we're pretty clear about it."
The Ravonettes were part of the retro-Rock revival. Strip it down and make it fresh again. But a lot of time has passed since the late '50s and the early '60s when the DIY/garage approach was first in vogue. There's more in the pot - chord progressions and standard song structures have been messed with to an infinite degree. Not only that, technology has allowed musicians to dispense with the usual line-ups.
The Copenhagen duo of Sune Rose Wagner (guitar/vocals) and Foo (bass/vocals) used Pro Tools and drew from influences as varied as Buddy Holly, Velvet Underground and Sonic Youth, to create their debut, the eight-track "Whip It On." Released in late '01, it actually had a greater impact the following year. All the songs were less than three minutes, had no more than three chords and were all in b-minor. Despite their commitment to a single key, the Raveonettes hit on a captivating sound. For live shows the group added Manoj Ramdas (guitar) and Jakob Hoyer (bass).
Critical acclaim and high energy concerts won the Raveonettes a U.S. deal. The group (with Ramdas and Hoyer in tow) relocated to New York where they worked with noted producer Richard Gotteher on '03 release "Chain Gang Of Love." Two years later the group returned with "Pretty In Black."
In '06, Blender magazine named Foo one of Rock's hottest women - well, yeah! Also on the list was the widow Cobain (aka Courtney Love), Joan Jett, and Liz Phair.
The Raveonettes released their fourth album, "Lust Lust Lust," in '08. And just a year later, on the day before Wagner's 31st birthday, they unfurled "In And Out Of Control." The album was co-written and produced by Thomas Troelsen. Both "Last Dance" and "Suicide," were featured on Gossip Girl, the CW TV show.
Then came '11 release "Raven In The Grave." Several tracks were English re-recordings of songs found on Wagner's solo album. Despite this, and generally positive reviews, he felt the set was a disappointment because the song structures were "quite unusual compared to everything else (The Raveonettes have) done."
Featuring the singles "Observations" and "She Owns the Streets," The Ravonettes unfurled "Observator" the following year. The album was recorded in seven days at Sunset Sound Studios in Hollywood.
'Raven In The Grave' used a lot more in the way of synths and strings so this time, I found myself using multi-layered guitars to make up for that," explained Wagner. "We also had the benefit of working with Richard Gottehrer (Blondie, Go-Gos) again, which we haven't done since 'Pretty In Black'."
The title refers to "one who observes or takes notice" or "one who makes a remark." "(The album is) a collection of observations that occur in life and as I've learned, life happens everywhere," added Wagner.
2003 Chain Gang of Love
2005 Pretty In Black
2007 Lust Lust Lust
2009 In And Out Of Control
2011 Raven In The Grave
The Raveonettes' calling card is a pop-Rock hybrid with a dark edge. Adding contemporary embellishments to a basic Rock style, the Raveonettes are in the White Stripes sandbox. "Whip It On" has animated Rockers "Attack Of The Ghost Riders" "Do You Believe Her" and "Veronica Fever." "Attack Of The Ghost Riders" owns a brain/insane lyrical motif while "Do You Believe Her" rides power chords and the line "she says she'd like to die alone someday." These songs have an appealing pop accessibility while shifting through minor chords and ominous lyrical content.
With the retro motorcycle cover "Chain Gang Of Love" looks like it might be a '50s revival. But only the title track, with its reverb-drenched guitar, harks back to that bygone era. Rather, the album presents guitar distortion and a wall of sound approach with near flawless execution. Things get jammed into gear on "That Great Sound Of Love" and "Noisy Summer." While the dense sound contrasts with the catchy percussion, things are generally kept simple and to the point. Several songs, like the album's best track, "Let's Rave On," "Heartbreak Stroll, "Little Animal" and "New York Was Great" have a spirited drive to them. It's all about sex, heartbreak and love - in that order. Even the acoustic moaner "Love Can Destroy Everything" manages to connect.
"Pretty In Black" has some great moments but it sure starts slow. "The Heavens" is a lazy acoustic number that is followed by "Seductress Of Bums," a song that sounds like it was recorded while sitting on the corner of a bed with a reverb heavy guitar. But the album picks up with a trio of rousing Rockers, "Love In The Trashcan," "Sleepwalking" and "Somewhere In Texas." Another fun song is the '60s influenced "Ode To L.A." which sounds like it could have been recorded by the Mamas & Papas way back when. Get past the opening tracks and you've got another great Raveonettes record.
With a title like "Lust Lust Lust" you'd think it would be a lot more fun. For a group that once jumped on songs and gave them a spin, like a cat by the tail, this melodramatic set is a disappointment. There are usual dour, atmospheric moments ("Aly, Walk With Me") and big theatrical pieces ("Hallucinations") but they don't add up to much. "Lust" is an appealing blend of '60s spy movie soundtrack and '80s wave. And the group does snap into action on "You Want Candy" and "Blitzed." But it's too little, too late.
The Raveonettes return to their core strength and irresistible sound on "In And Out Of Control." "Bang!," '60's girl-group power-pop and "Last Dance" a shot of pure upbeat romance ("save the last dance for me") proves the point. In between is the set's real gem, the catchy "Gone Forever."
"Suicide" is not anywhere near as dark as the title would indicate. However, "D.R.U.G.S." and "Boys Who Rape (Should Be Destroyed)" are startling jolts. But on "Breaking Into Cars" and "Break Up Girls!," they take things less seriously.
On "Observator" the Ravonettes are their usual minor-key gloomy. But they throw open the curtains on "Sinking With The Sun," a driving uptempo track. Breathy vocals, chilling harmonies, ethereal arrangements, with pop touches ("Observations," "She Owns The Streets" and "The Enemy"), mark this appealing, guitar oriented set.