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The Raveonettes: An Overdue Love Letter

Posted by May 9th, 2011 No Comments »

Back in 2009, Nada Editor Matt Ashworth asked if I wanted to write a preview for an upcoming show at Neumos that featured one of my favorite bands, the Raveonettes. I said yes (actually I remember typing “Hell Yes!”)

As fate would have it, I ended up not making it to the show and the article was never posted.

Why, you ask? It was the combination of Ashworth’s health issues and my wife and I receiving a healthy dose of the swine flu from our nieces.

These factors not only dashed my hopes of seeing the duo live, but they smashed the hopes of literally hundreds of our faithful readers from being annoyed, yet again, by ramblings.

The piece that was supposed to run in November of 2009 is below, in preview of the Ravonettes’ upcoming show at Neumos on May 13.

About six years ago, in an effort to extend my CD collection I chose (unwisely) to join the BMG music club. (I must have been the one of the last people to join BMG because it no longer exists.)

If you are over 30 you probably remember the constant BMG promotional pieces that showed up in the mail. They would hook young music nerds with offers of “12 CDs for a penny with only 6 CDs to buy at ‘regular’ price over the next 2 years.”

Wanting to get the most from my 2007 BMG membership, I opted for a special deal that netted me about 20 albums.

After filling in the holes to my Sonic Youth collection and picking up some copies of lost favorites (Beck, Nirvana and even some latter day Soundgarden) I was in need of one more CD.

As I scoured the catalog, I bypassed well known “buzzbin” bands that never caught my attention (Interpol, Arctic Monkeys) and opted for a band with a great name, hoping their music would also be something special. That band was the Ravonettes and the album was Chain Gang of Love.

When it arrived with the menagerie of Sonic Youth albums I tucked it away with a stack of unopened CDs. Listening to too much Sonic Youth can give you an appreciation for anything else, though, so I moved on to other obsessions over the years. Chain Gang of Love stayed static and collected dust until last summer, though, when, in an effort to digitize my life, I came across it and gave it a spin.

In the upbeat “Let’s Rave On” the Danish duo sings “Let’s Go Out And Make It Happen, Let’s Go Out And Meet Some Strangers” with a cadence that proves English is not their native language. Another hint that the band is not from our shores is the album cover, which features the duo in James Dean-era leather outfits. It’s this approximation of American culture as seen through the eyes of sophisticated Europeans that gives the Raveonettes a fresh, new and even revolutionary feel.

Raveonettes girlThroughout Chain Gang..., and even more so on subsequent releases, the Ravenottes’ music draws parallels to fifties Motown groups like the Ronettes and features harmonies that recall  the Bee Gees and the Everly Brothers, but the lyrics and attitude set them apart from anything that has come before.

Singer Sune Rose Wagner never shies away from a four letter word either. “Fuck” seems to be his favorite, though he doesn’t use it to convey anger or overt sexuality, but in more of a “look at me I’m in a band and I can say bad words, this is awesome!” kind of way.

It’s the first time I’ve heard a band take devilish delight in casually saying (not screaming) the word “fuck,” almost as if they are subtly trying to corrupt innocent young rock fans. Wagner even sets these F-Bombs off by preceding them with romantic sentiments and talk of other pretty things, giving them that much more impact.

During a visit to local record store in 2009, I spied a copy of the Raveonettes’ new album In and Out of Control. “How had I missed the release of this latest treasure?” I wondered. Was I losing touch with the state of popular music or had Fierce Panda / Vice records done a poor job getting the word out? I did not pontificate on this question for long.

As soon as the first song began to play and the chorus kicked in I knew the band had again captured the unmistakable vibe I first heard on Chain Gang… When track four, “Boys Who Rape (Should All Be Destroyed),” was finished I started it over again. Taking a tragic situation and turning it into a beautiful revenge song just about sums up what this duo from Copenhagen do best.

If you want to feel like you are listening to something new and important  please join me in Capitol Hill on Friday, May 13 when Neumos and KEXP present The Raveonettes & Tamaryn.

Oh, and since BMG is no longer offers 12 for 1 penny, why don’t you support the nomadic maybe Wagner and his lovely bandmate Sharin Foo by purchasing a CD directly from them. May I suggest Chain Gang of Love?

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