If you like your pop music with a side of juxtaposed sarcasm, I highly suggest you check out the latest release by “The Raveonettes.”
I picked this up last week to write a music review for the Independent. In hindsight, it probably wasn’t the best project to take on during a heavy exam week, especially since I had no prior knowledge about anything the band had released, hate most pop music with an unreal passion and must have spelled ‘Raveonettes’ RAVENettes at least 20 times before I finally found any decent information on them for my review.
I’ll be honest-I was expecting the absolute worst. I heard ‘rock’ and ‘pop’ thrown into one unholy description, and automatically expecting my ears to start spewing sludge the second I fired up i-Tunes. But, as you might have guessed from the sheer fact that I’m still going on about it seven days later, I really just can’t get enough of it.
I’m not even completely sure if this fits into any one particular genre…at first listen, in fact, it might appear as though the Danish rockers mistakenly commit several unforgivable musical sins in the opening track alone.
Don’t get me wrong: it’s certainly pop. But somehow, it manages to rise high above the repetitive drumbeats (obviously mechanized) and wispy falsetto in order to produce something atypically, well…substantial.
Okay, so the dynamic duo is obviously still recovering from the sonic migraine that was their 2008 release “Lust Lust Lust.” However, “In and Out of Control” is solid proof that they’ve grown up a bit-consider “Lust Lust Lust” their partying frat boy days.
I guess you could say that now, they’ve triumphantly passed out of rock rehab. They’re no longer just throwing sounds together to see what sticks, but have sloshed together a curious dosage of 1960s tambourine rock with girl-group pop hooks that somehow, despite the chaos, fits together in one nice little anarchistic pattern.
I’d say that the band’s newfound focus on songwriting has helped them out tremendously here. This time around the block, it’s all about the message…not machines.
While I consider the opening tracks to be a little musically monothematic (which could very well be the point), raw lyrics are essentially what carry the tracks past the rut of pop anonymity. Inside every synthetic sugar ballad lies a muted cry for help.
“I won’t forget you in the night I drink my head off,” drawls Wagner on “Gone Forever.” “Memories of you and I…help me, help me, please.”
It’s a recurring theme that runs through the album like a fluid thread from start to finish…childlike honesty disguised by childlike backing tracks, power cleverly disguised by perky power chords.
Similarly, The Raveonettes manage to make playful nursery rhymes out of provocative themes…and that, I say, takes talent.
Take the chorus of track four (bluntly named “Boys Who Rape Should be Destroyed”).
How does one make a song about the torment of rape into a concert-ready pop hit? Easy: just add chanting (“B-boys-b-boys who rape should…be-be-be-be-be-destroyed”). Meanwhile, a song about drug abuse comes pre-packaged with the rhythmically solid recitation “D-R-U-G-S.” If you can’t appreciate the irony, please don’t show up at one of their shows and start pogo-ing to a song about overdose.
From toddler-like music box synth effects, however, alarming moments of honesty surge to the surface on screaming guitar jams, while mumbled, sometimes incomprehensible vocals conceal revelatory lyrics that disclose why the vocalist screens his most disturbing emotions with pure sugar.
The guitar sounds like it was remixed from a track off a vinyl record from the late 1960s. The sound, in those rare moments of musical frenzy, is really decades old, falling somewhere in the curious void between blues and Smashing Pumpkins-brand grunge. The chorus cues out rollicking riff in a candid explanation for the vocalist’s inability to express his pain musically. “You know the reason I can’t hurt,” Wagner says. “I got a heart of stone.”
Hmm. Maybe all that pop stuff was just a cover-up.
My fellow Seawolves, I urge you to give this one a listen. Unless you’re already accustomed to cheery chants about bad breakups, sexism and suicide, I can almost guarantee that “In and Out of Control” is unlike anything you’ve ever heard.
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