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The Raveonettes: Pretty In Black


The Raveonettes

Album: Pretty In Black
Label: Columbia/Orchard

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Listening to Tommy James And The Shondells' "Crimson And Clover" brings an interesting question to mind: Is it possible that music is pushed forward by lovely craziness and spontaneous invention as often as deliberation and hard work? The song swirls and repeats and distorts itself, then fades away. It sounded like nothing else on the charts it topped in 1968. There are contemporary equivalents as well—check out virtually any single produced by Timbaland for an example—but Sharin Foo and Sune Rose Wagner, collectively known as the Danish band The Raveonettes, don't really worry about the contemporary. They want to make new music from inspired, outré pop moments of the past, creating the sound of hopeless romance from the material of old Motown 45s, girl-group melodrama, garage-band grime, and Jesus And Mary Chain feedback.

Previously, Wagner and Foo restricted themselves, releasing an EP recorded entirely in "glorious" B-flat minor, then switching over to B-flat major for the full-length debut Chain Gang Of Love. On the new Pretty In Black, the restrictions have vanished, the sound has opened up, and the tempos have slowed down considerably. In the past, The Raveonettes' music was mostly a hack-and-slash affair; Pretty In Black opts for a slow burn. "Uncertain Times" begins with an acoustic strum, then layers on percussion and a roadhouse guitar to craft a song that finds room for references to nuclear holocaust. The delicate "The Heavens" sounds like an audition for a David Lynch soundtrack, while "Red Tan" marries a drum machine to a surf riff that's almost, but not quite, the theme to The Twilight Zone.

The presence of Ronnie Spector on "Ode To L.A." points toward the band's dominant influence at the moment: Phil Spector's wall of sound. Wagner and Foo take their favorite noises from their record collections, fit them together, and hope the contraption holds. For now, it's airtight. With every track, Pretty In Black lives up to the idea of what the music of two backward-looking Danish romantics hopelessly in love with rock 'n' roll should sound like.