The Raveonettes - Chain Gang Of Love
Even the Jesus And Mary Chain admitted that their debut album, 1985's Psychocandy, relied on but the one trick, being sugar-sweet melodies with a hard-as-nails, biker-cool sound. After it's release, they turned to the more melancholy sound of Darklands and then on to the gutter-blues of Automatic and Honey's Dead so you have to hand it to groups like The Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and The Raveonettes who have based their whole careers on the Psychocandy's forty minutes of music.
Then again, with Psychocandy still considered the best album by the Jesus And Mary Chain, it's not really a surprise that the look through rock's back catalogue throws up a couple of bands years later who have been influenced by a singular work.
Coming on like a biker gang on the cover - Sune Rose Wagner in a peaked leather cap, biker jacket and black jeans with turn-ups, Sharin Foo draped over a motorbike - The Raveonettes hark back to The Wild One and the string of Roger Corman/Peter Fonda movies made in the late-sixties, complete with film-poster fonts and design cues. At that point, one could be forgiven for expecting loose riffing from Gretsch guitars on every track but with Richard Gottehrer (Blondie, The Go-Go's) producing, the shrillness of feedback is quickly offset on the opening track by a pop sensibility that's as much Phil Spector as The Cramps.
Indeed, the comparison to Phil Spector - referring to his Wall Of Sound days rather than this more recent troubles - is a fair one, with the impression being that The Raveonettes have utilised layers of feedback and echo-effects to fill in their sparse guitar-bass-drums sound where once Spector would have had his Wreckin' Crew double up the instruments available to them. Occasionally, the booming drums that open each track bring Be My Baby to mind, sung by The Ronettes and produced by Spector but the way in which feedback crackles between speakers means that Chain Gang Of Love is a long way from being a Philles release from the opening years of the sixties.
Despite the opening song Remember sounding as though Jim and William Reid offered to the band as a gift, Chain Gang Of Love really kicks off with the screaming that introduces second song, That Great Love Sound, which is as much blissful pop as it is surf-rock. The rockabilly of Let's Rave On and Heartbreak Stroll, both of which are held together by the same brittle guitars that thrashed over the Jesus And Mary Chain's covers of Surfin USA, are two of the album's better moments. There are a couple of slow songs to break up the main thrust of the album - The Love Gang and Love Can Destroy Everything - and there's a wonderful use of slashing guitar chords all across Little Animal.
Yet, as good as Chain Gang Of Love is, and there is credit due to Richard Gottehrer for his polished production, the album feels too, well, nice. Sure, there's feedback and plenty riffing on the low-E string but both feel controlled - there's none of the unrestrained squall of the Jesus And Mary Chain's Upside Down and little of the sneering style of The Cramps. Chain Gang Of Love, therefore, feels like a Xerox of the originals but one where the last person on the machine turned the contrast down too low - it feels right but lacks the passion of the recordings it longs to keep company with.
Overall, one can't help but get the feeling that Chain Gang Of Love is a little disappointing. Even at a shade under forty minutes, it feels too long with the absence of variation between tracks meaning that one becomes tired a couple of songs before the album closes. This is not helped by Chain Gang Of Love sounding as though it limps to an ending rather that holding one blinding track to the end to roar out of town on, with both The Truth About Johnny and New York Was Great sounding tagged on after what should have been the last track - the song, Chain Gang Of Love. It's generally a fine album and, as expected, it works better up loud that as background music but a little less care and a lot more sweat would have improved this album just enough to take it from very good to great.