The Raveonettes - In and Out of Control
“Night falls like a black leather jacket and melts into the sidewalk like a sleeping drunk” (Debbie Harry, ‘The End of the Run’)
Back. In black. Would you have it any other way ? Even though, deep down, a part of me finds The Raveonettes’ predilection for all things 1950s American rock ‘n’ roll (a lovingly appropriated lexicon of leather, bikes, boys, girls, gangs, drive-ins, drugs, cars) faintly silly, its barbed nostalgia provides more comfort than shame. ‘In and Out of Control’ offers a multitude of reasons why The Raveonettes are still worth championing.
For those of you not yet initiated into the gang, The Raveonettes are Sune Rose Wagner and Sharin Foo, natives of Denmark relocated to NYC and united by their delicious rendering of classic Americana via a tumult of distortion, Velvets-influenced laissez-faire and an expertly daubed topcoat of general f***ed-upness. It’s invariably exhilarating and exhausting in equal measure and, since their arrival in 2003 with the ‘Attack of the Ghostriders’ EP and the ensuing ‘Whip It On’ mini album (every song played in B-flat minor – respect), the duo (fleshed out to a fiery four piece onstage) have been a constant and vital reminder that bands who forsake the overdrive pedal in favour of crap haircuts, festival anthems and poor shoes may well live in bigger houses. But they choose to sacrifice a mainline to the heart and spirit of rock and roll and signal, ultimately, a lack of empathy, elevation and schooling in the finest of arts. But hey, kids ! That’s just my opinion.
For converts and dullards alike, their fourth album signals, after the blitzed minimalism of 2007’s ‘LustLustLust’, a return to the fleshed out sounds of its predecessor ‘Pretty in Black’. In fact, The Raveonettes are still some way from being even vaguely light-hearted, but their committed take on their chosen genre registers this time around on a couple of levels we’ve not seen before. For a kick-off, ‘In and Out of Control' is an extremely approachable beast; tickle this one’s chin and you might not get your arm chewed off. Less ‘Beat City’, say, and more ‘Ode to LA’. Not a bad thing at all.
Opener ‘Bang!’ warms the valves with ferocity and intent – “Bang ! You’re so vicious, baby !” A blinding start and a pointer to what appears to be a bigger part this time around for Sharin, it bounces around with something approaching glee, delivers excellent “Ooh-ooh’s”. ‘Gone Forever’ puts them two up in the first five minutes. It’s seriously good, Sune on lead vocals, the pair uniting on the chorus and the damn prettiest hook they’ve given us in quite a while.
After that, things get silly. ‘Last Dance’ should either be released as a single or, more sensibly, ‘offered’ to Girls Aloud for it comes bundled with a chorus that has ’Hit’ lipsticked all over its mirror. (And is that a Farfisa solo in there somewhere ?) ‘Boys Who Rape (Should be Destroyed)’ offsets its delicate and ambiguous tract with Sharin’s marsmallow-lite vocals and a melodic bent that toys with 50s pop mores : “… should be-be-be-be-be destroyed !” She skips around this one like Emily the Strange at a make-over party.
There’s more. ‘Heart of Stone’ takes the riff from previous stone-cold classic ‘Somewhere in Texas’ and up-ends it with louche disregard for the past. You hit the half way point, breathless. We’ve been here before. There’s usually a couple of barnstormers tucked away at the end but getting to them can be trying. Not this time. Sharin’s noir lullaby ‘ Oh, I Buried You Today’ remodels Bobby Vee’s ‘Love You More Than I Can Say’ with a Badalamenti twist. If ‘D.R.U.G.S.’ is maybe just a little too perky for its own good, ‘Breaking Into Cars’ offers up a return to the kind of twanging rifferama that characterised a lot of the early stuff. The soaring chorus – “You spin me round and round until I crash into the stars, I’m breaking into cars …” – is enough to drive a man away from the drink.
Diehards desperate for the kind of sternum removal once provided by the likes of ‘Attack of the Ghost Riders’, get their kicks on ‘Break Up Girls!’. Its opening three minutes make Neil Young’s ‘Arc Weld’ sound like The Associates. Awesome. Expect unhealthy elongation when they play it live. Spectral lullaby number two, ‘Wine’, closes things on a kind of hush.
Worth confirming : ‘In and Out of Control’ shows The Raveonettes still operating on a Members Only basis but getting your name on the list has never been easier. To be absolutely straight about matters, those of us alert to the dust devils in the detail see this opening of their sonic arms as only a good thing. But the reasons why we love them so – cool as f**k, immensely canny songwriters, intelligently respectful of the genre restoration they’ve made a vocation - remain. The pounding nihilism of the beat-box, the beautifully scuzzed-up guitars, the way Sune and Sharin’s harmonies shimmer and float like smoke rings in a prohibition drinking den, all of these components and more lend themselves to The Raveonettes’ grandiose plan. ‘In and Out of Control’ is, yeah, if you must have an answer today, probably their best album to date, certainly their most accomplished. Monochrome, mercurial, magnificent. Same as it ever was. Thank f***.