Wow. I had no idea. The Raveonettes are actually really good. Pretty in Black
, their third album, is my first introduction to the Danish duo and, so far, it's done nothing short of killing whatever it was I used to expect from them. The Raveonettes first garnered attention in the wake of the garage-rock twosome trend, so I, being the snob I can, at times, be, wrote them off like an unwanted Johnny-come-lately stepchild. But then Pretty in Black
fell into my lap and, as I sit here listening to it, I smile, because there's nothing I love more than watching know-it-all assumptions make an ass out of you andů well, you know.
I also had no idea The Raveonettes were so heavily influenced by '50s rock 'n'
roll and rockabilly. And, unlike a lot of the punk rockabilly sect, it's actually
refreshing. The pair toy with excellent Chuck Berry-inspired guitar tones and
solos, moody surf meandering and classic '50s film-worthy heartbreak moments.
They even dish out an ultra-sexy cover of the girl-group hit "My Boyfriend's
Back," first made famous by The Angels in 1963. Their reverb-drenched nostalgia
trip is full of enough talent and original thought, though, that the result is
respectable and classy, not boorish and (yawn) retro.
Featuring contributions from the Velvet Underground's Mo Tucker, Suicide's Martin Rev and Ronnie Spector
, the album though mostly influenced by sassy '50s and '60s pop/rock also incorporates the edgier, space-out side of bands like Sonic Youth and the Jesus & Mary Chain. Vocal duties are shared between guitarist Sune Rose Wagner and bassist Sharin Foo, giving the album a feel that's at once feminine and masculine, and adding a personable, often heated, duet exchange.
Driven by a pulsating heartbeat beat, dreamy riff and occasional shimmery tambourine
jangle, "Seductress of Bums" is as sweet and innocent as a Buddy Holly ballad,
while "Love in a Trashcan" explores the seedier side of old-time rock 'n' roll
with its wailing, unstoppable Berry-style riff and a hot-and-heavy rhythm section.
Both "The Heavens" and "Somewhere in Texas" feel like sunset-soaked trips through
the desert for their raw, Country/Western acoustic guitar-picking, ghostly vocals,
sluggish tempos, and drumming so large it overwhelms the room.
A more careful look at the album's cover shows the way the letters spelling out "Raveonettes" evoke the title design used for a lot of those '50s King Kong or horror flicks, the way their dress is all mod and vintage and the name, the name alone: Rave On!
I should've known. But, hey, I just love the unexpected.