Fairly rewarding fifth LP from the dark-hearted indie Danes.
Mike Diver 2011-04-21
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. To these ears, their fifth album returns Sune Rose Wagner and Sharin Foo to their out-of-focus roots, every hook hidden by a mist of feedback and disorienting distortion. But there are hooks in the mix, somewhere, be assured of that.
Whether there are enough to fully right the band after wandering from the winning formula of 2003’s debut LP Chain Gang of Love, though, can only be answered individually. (Not quite, says this opinion.) Opener Recharge & Revolt makes a strong case for return-to-form recognition, wailing guitar fired blindly while vocals arrive in ghostly fashion, diaphanous atop the roar of six strings through an ailing amplifier. That it manages to sound somehow broken, yet perfectly in tune with this band’s better work, is evidence of The Raveonettes finding some of that first-record magic under a rug somewhere.
But what becomes clear, fairly quickly, is that Raven in the Grave lacks sufficient diversity across its nine tracks to really stand as a new dawn for its makers. It feels more like a consolidating affair, picking up scraps from past records and stitching them together in a way that, while hardly fresh, is certainly entertaining in small doses. Of course, some bands base their entire careers on effectively writing the same song over and over again – but Foo and Wagner’s material is so lightweight that it doesn’t have the body to impress through pure doggedness. Inevitably though, there are great songs here – as there have been on every Raveonettes album, albeit in varying quantities.
War in Heaven is a sinister saunter through the back alleys behind wherever The Horrors hang out when not terrorising kittens or acting out scenes from The Mighty Boosh. Evil Seeds is a pounding effort that wrings real drama out of a skeletal arrangement, menacing guitar and keening vocals combining to stab at the emotions. Ignite could be The Cardigans on an overcast day. And Summer Moon is a delightful mid-set drift into an attractive ethereality rarely explored by the pair. Inconsistency sees certain tracks fall by the wayside once the listener’s gone around a few times, but despite an all-pervading gloom that dominates tonally, and pacing that rarely gets the pulse racing, this is certainly the best Raveonettes record since 2007’s keyboards-dominated left-turn LP, Lust Lust Lust.