The Raveonettes’ “Lust Lust Lust”

Feb 20, 2008 12:46pm

The Raveonettes busted out of Denmark in 2002 with their E.P. “Whip It On.”  Originally, the duo of Sune Rose Wagner and Sharin Foo had the idea to give each album a concept…or at least a key. Every song on “Whip It On” was played in B-flat minor.  It was a nice experiment, but ultimately it didn’t make for that enthralling a listen at all.  Such limits made every track sound pretty much alike.  But the group got by on their technique and their obvious inspirations.  Schooled in American pop from the fifties and sixties, their heroes were evident.  Their name alone brings to mind Buddy Holly, but the Beach Boys and the sixties girl groups also must’ve had a strong effect on them as well.  Take that and add a massive wash of guitar noise more akin to the British shoegaze music of the eighties and nineties.  They had obviously spent a lot of time listening to the Jesus and Mary Chain and My Bloody Valentine.  Ultimately, though, “Whip It On” wound up being a somewhat forgettable and gimmicky record.  However, the next year, the band set things right and made a profound impression with their debut full-length “Chain Gang of Love.”  Again using the one-key strategy, they truly delivered on their much-hyped promise.  The reason why this one-key technique worked the second time around was because they chose a much brighter key, opting to go with “booming B-major.”  It turns out major songs can actually be catchier, and the single “That Great Love Sound” was a knockout.  Fast forward two years to their third release “Pretty in Black.”  Abandoning the one-key strategy completely proved to be a great move.  At the same time, they decided to remove almost all the noise-pop guitar static, thus making them sound more like their early rock and roll idols.  The album worked well, even if it wasn’t the powerhouse that its predecessor was.  Single “Love in a Trashcan” was a grimy slice of surf-rock. Elsewhere on the record found Sharin Foo taking on lead-vocal duty for the first time for a nice cover of “My Boyfriend’s Back,” and another track featured a much talked about guest appearance by Ronnie Spector.  Now, three years later, the band has released “Lust Lust Lust.”  They’ve relocated to New York and re-applied layer after layer of ear-bleeding fuzz. Thankfully they have still abandoned the one-key approach. Having ended their relationship with Columbia Records, they are now signed to Vice in the U.S.  It’s a nice fit considering that puts them side-by-side with other indie buzz-bands like Bloc Party and the Stills.  The album opens with “Aly, Walk With Me,” a spooky piece of gothic surf music.  It’s set off by a drum loop which sounds like it owes a little bit to the Jesus and Mary Chain’s “Reverence” and “Sidewalking,” and evolves into something truly dark.  As Wagner pleads with the title-character to walk with him, you sense that he may not have the best intentions.  You get the feeling all might go well for Aly.  Nevertheless, it’s a mind-blowing track.   It should gain them plenty attention.  It’s explosive. “Hallucinations” is built around a Holly-esque guitar-line with some interesting doses of atmospheric maneuvers.  “Lust” is a quiet track by Raveonettes standards, and with its boom-bap drum-loop, minor-key and surf influence, it is also somewhat menacing.  Wagner and Foo’s voices almost always sing together in unison, harmonizing with one another.  Here they both sound sad, thus giving the track a reflective, mournful tone. “Dead Sound” starts off appropriately with a few seconds of muted ambient fuzz, and then works itself up into a full go-go workout.  When the chorus comes along the beat disappears completely to make the presence of a sweet bell-like keyboard line.  It’s definitely another highlight.  “Black Satin” sounds like another surf-lullaby covered in occasional liberal doses of amp-static and feedback.  It’s a formula which is the duo’s calling card and it has served them well.  You could say something similar to describe “Blush.” “Expelled By Love” brings back the sad quality as crashing guitars chug out a minimalist, almost machine-press like beat.  “You Want Candy” seems to purposely want to give you the association between the Raveonettes and the Jesus and Mary Chain.  If you are a JAMC fan, you might remember that their 1985 debut was called “Phychocandy” and the band also had a single called “Some Candy Talking.”  Wagner seems to be playing this association up even more in the album’s inside band photo.  In previous albums, he has looked impeccably groomed, whereas here, he has let his hair grow long and let it get messy in all directions, thus making him look like a possible lost brother of Jim and William Reid.  “Blitzed” is another slice of sugar-shock, fuzzy surf-party-a-go-go.  “Sad Transmission” takes a beat that sounds like it’s lifted from a Motown classic and puts some almost Everly Brothers-type harmonies over it.  (If one of the Everly Brothers was a woman, that is.)  The Raveonettes live in a genre-bending world where rockabilly and shoegaze can collide at will.  It not only shows that they know their history, it also shows that they know how to borrow the best parts from their heroes.  The walking almost trip-hop beat of “With My Eyes Closed” makes it a highlight.  Not only that, it’s one of the most singable tracks on the album.  “The Beat Dies” sounds exactly like its title.  Foo seemingly takes the lead in what sounds like a eulogy/funeral song.  The major key makes the track pop, though, thus making it all the more beautiful.  The U.S. edition of the album which hit shelves this week features two bonus tracks, “My Heartbeat’s Dying” and “Honey, I Never Had You,”  both of which fit the mood of the rest of the disc well.  They don’t feel tacked on.  “Lust Lust Lust” is not as scandalous as its title would have you believe.  Indeed it is a collection of mostly sad songs, with the duo continuing to hone and perfect their formula. The best song is definitely up front, but the whole rest of the album is worth the price of admission. Since images of sadness and death prevail, it may be a breakup record, but it’s hard to tell exactly.   This album equals their best work, “Chain Gang of Love,” but shows more depth by not having the key-limitations. There is more musical experimentation here than ever before.  If you were one of the listeners who believed the crazy hype that the rock press wrapped around “Whip It On” in 2002 and were then deeply disappointed, it may be time to check out the Raveonettes again.  If you like old-style rock and roll but think it needs more fuzz and sonic density, this might be the album for you.

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