So I love the Raveonettes! They have to be one of my top favorite bands of the past decade or so. (Maybe I will make a list for the end of the decade… I imagine they might come in second behind Les Savy Fav.) I think their music is a perfect blend of pop music and noise — a combination that a lot of my favorite bands go for but rarely so smartly. They are not original at all but they have perfected a formula that has a long, hip, tradition dating back as far as the Velvet Underground. I always think that Raveonettes songs are basically prom themes for the hippest high school ever.
On the other hand, their live show doesn’t impress me as much as their albums. I’ve seen them a number of times, and the only time I was really blown away was the the first time I saw them as an “electric duo.” Their full band shows have been a little too noisy, and they have weird effects and backing tracks that really detract from their performances (see also: The Kills, who were far worse at the same offense). It’s a bit frustrating, because Sune Rose Wagner is a brilliant guitarist and even Sharin Foo is a solid musical performer.
But I actually think they were pretty great at the 930 Club on a miserably cold, rainy Friday night. Sune and Sharin were actually right behind me in line when I entered the club; the person checking IDs asked for theirs and they were like, “we don’t have them with us, we just have these badges” and they were allowed in. I sort of nodded at them; if we’d had time to chat I would’ve requested the only song on the new album that I really like, “Heart of Stone,” but they played it anyway, along with most (all?) of the new album.
Speaking of the new album, I am not all that crazy about it. It’s ok. I thought the previous one, Lust Lust Lust, was fantastic. The new one, In and Out of Control, is too polished and pop-sounding. The obvious single, “Last Dance,” sounds like it could be sung by Garbage or maybe M83. It’s a decent song but I don’t think it plays to their strengths of dark mysterious songs with reverb-laden western swing riffs. Then there is a super annoying song called “Boys Who Rape (Should All Be Destroyed).” So it will not go down as my favorite Raveonettes record. It’s not bad though.
Despite some technical problems (sigh… backing tracks…) I think the sound was really good at the club, with the vocals pretty clear despite the high-volume noise. I was able to give up my resentment at the drum tracks and sound effects and just enjoy the performance. It was heavy on the new album with a few songs from Lust and very few old songs and I thought it was fun all around. The bassist and drummer were solid and there were a couple new songs that sounded better live than on the record (again, I think the album is too polished).
I’m not sure what the solution is to the backing-track “problem.” A keyboard player? A person sitting on stage with a laptop? There is no satisfactory way to do it… I think the only awesome thing to do is have a couple more members of the band who play unexpected instruments like trumpets and such, adapting laptop parts to actual instruments. But it is a lot cheaper to just play a backing track and I know the economics of the music industry, including niche bands like the Raveonettes.
Here’s a song from Lust Lust Lust, “Ally Walk With Me”:
I saw about half the set by openers, The Black Angels. I knew this band a bit — a few years ago I gave a decent listen to them via the internet, and I kind of liked their song “Black Grease” (the song that they were playing when I got inside the club), but there are so many similar bands that I wasn’t that interested in seeing them and found them pretty unremarkable. The last song really ruined their set for me, a totally retro psychedelic song that sounded straight out of 1970. I like psychedelia to an extent but not such a retread… I was left thinking of those awesome Sleater-Kinney lines about “you come around sounding 1972 / you did nothing new with 1972 / where’s the ‘fuck you’ where’s the black and blue?” I’d rather see my old chums Dead Meadow or the pretty rad Warlocks than the Black Angels again.