Sune Rose Wagner
When you’ve had a cult fan base for as long as The Raveonettes have, it’s only a matter of time before some of your most-loyal of acolytes begin branching out and make their own kinds of beautiful noise. In recent times, the musical DNA of Sune Rose Wagner and Sharin Foo has been cropping up with such regularity that it prompted the British music press staple NME.com to declare the Danish duo to be responsible for sparking “America’s pop renaissance.” It was a long overdue tip of the hat which drew comparisons between the Raveonettes’ melodic magic and such modern tunesmiths as The Drums, Best Coast, Vivian Girls, Dum Dum Girls and even British bands like The Vaccines and Glasvegas.
But why take NME’s words for it? The bands themselves are only too happy to give credit where it’s due and explain why the Raveonettes have been such a prominent reference point. “They taught me a thing or two about pop music,” admits Jonathan Pierce of New York indie-pop trio the Drums. “I’ve always been drawn to bands who are driven by a strong concept and The Raveonettes have been doing it consistently, uncompromisingly and unashamedly since their very first EP ‘Whip It On’ (2002). I listened to that record religiously for two years after it came out and still find myself going back to it now. They’re the modern king and queen of melody and mood.” It’s a sentiment that’s also echoed by Dee Dee of Sub Pop starlets The Dum Dum Girls who has also been loyally following our Danish heroes from day one. “They are one of a few bands I took direct kindred inspiration from when I started writing and recording my own songs. They are a constant reminder to keep the teeth of sound intact while courting the pop hook- a recipe I follow in my own work.”
But it is perhaps the testimony of one Mr James Allan that exemplifies the Raveonettes-effect most dramatically. Back in 2004, James was jobless and aimless as he sat in Glasgow’s famous King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut venue drowning his sorrows one Friday afternoon. By coincidence, The Raveonettes happened to be playing the venue that very night and, whimsically hoping that some music would cheer him up, James spent his last bit of cash on a ticket. His money didn’t just buy him a quick pick-me-up, it bought him a new lease of life. “They were touring their ‘Chain Gang Of Love’ (2003) album- a modern day dream-pop masterpiece in my opinion,” he remembers. “I left the venue so inspired. I didn’t give a fuck about getting a job after that. It just further reinstated my longing to be in a rock ‘n’ roll band.” That band turned out to be the all-conquering Glasvegas for whom James became the talismanic frontman. Needless to say, he doesn’t spend too much time worrying about getting a job these days.
If The Raveonettes decided to call it a day tomorrow, we would undoubtedly remember them with nothing but love. But it’s partly down to the fact that they’ve spawned this new generation of talent that the band have strived to move themselves forward with their fifth album. After the best part of a decade honing their instantly recognizable sound and seeing it co-opted by so many other bands aspiring for a similar level of greatness, Sharin and Sune are blazing a newer, darker trail with the brilliant ‘Raven In The Grave’. “I think we have finally hit on something quite important and different for this album,” explains Sune. “This is the first Raveonettes album we've done which doesn't feature the signature Raveonettes surf drumbeat. None of the tunes have any real sunshine to them. It’s all very un-Rave.” “It has a mood of ethereal defiance” Sharin adds. “It’s dark but not bleak, like the single minded determination caused by crisis that is not quite hope but just as powerful. It’s the perfect winter soundtrack just in time for spring”.
It doesn’t take long to hear how the band have superseded their traditional sound. Of course, melody is still key to what the Raveonettes do, but the familiar bombastic beats and squalls of guitar-noise take a backseat during much of ‘Raven In The Grave’. Instead, the album is awash with ghostly synths and chillingly beautiful riffs that leave you feeling simultaneously unsettled and enchanted. It’s easily the most soulful music the band have created to date. But once you scratch that sombre surface and dig a little deeper, you’ll find that ‘Raven In The Grave’ has an even darker lyrical heart. Inspired as ever by their own first hand experiences, many of the songs explore the disheartening finiteness of relationships and the devastating effects they can have when they do disintegrate. “Yeah, there are a lot of those kind of themes,” admits Sune. “‘With Recharge & Revolt’ I was trying to write an epic love song of longing and restlessness, ‘Summer Moon’ is about the blossoming of something beautiful which turns sour and starts deteriorating right in front of you and ‘My Time's Up’ is about the perils of non-commitment to affection and the dangers of short-changing your life.” When you combine The Raveonettes expanded musical palette with this stream of nakedly honest emotions, the end result is an album so compelling and sincere that you could almost live (and potentially, die) inside it.
The Raveonettes evolution won’t stop with the new album either. As the band set off on tour to support their latest creation, their constantly changing live line-up will be bolstered by a two-drummer line up to help ensure that the depth of ‘Raven In The Grave’ is recreated on stage. It’s just another example of how Sharin and Sune are not content to rest on any laurels. The ten years of inspiring music they’ve already clocked up has already produced an undeniable legacy, but ‘Raven In The Grave’ is proof that the Raveonettes are already soaring above all of their past achievements. Catch them if you can.
Hardeep Phull, February 2011.
Taking too long?