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The Raveonettes
In And Out Of Control Niall O'Keeffe , October 21st, 2009 11:56

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It's a terrible thing when musicians overreach themselves. The Human League provided the ultimate cautionary example when they released their 1984 single 'The Lebanon' ("And where there used to be some shops/Is where the snipers sometimes hide"). A quarter of a century later, The Raveonettes have failed to heed that caution.

Stylistically and musically, the Danish duo's fourth album plots a familiar course: they continue to trade in bubblegum 50s rock'n'roll spiced with two-part harmonies, Spector-esque percussion, Jesus & Mary Chain-style fuzz guitar and B-movie trash-glamour aesthetics. However, they've suddenly decided to ignore an obvious reality: that lyrical profundity has never quite been their forte. The results, inevitably, are cringe-worthy.

For a short while, ambition is held in check. Hyper-melodic opener 'Bang!' keeps things almost comically simple – "You're as cool as ice cream," coos Sharin Foo inside the first verse – and it's followed by 'Gone Forever', a pleasingly wistful pop song about a relationship's end. However, with the arrival of 'Last Dance', events take a turn.

A song about fear of a loved one's death, 'Last Dance' is centred on the line "Every time you overdose, I rush to intensive care..." Foo sings it in an insufferably twee, faux-naif style, over musical backing that amounts to a mere jaunty shuffle. Even if there's a subversive intent at work here, tone and content jar horribly. Yet there's worse to come.

'Boys Who Rape (Should All Be Destroyed)' expresses a noble sentiment in the tritest fashion possible. The song is a saccharine, pop confection replete with barbershop vocal harmonies, and – to hazard a guess – its flippant style would not resonate too strongly with any actual victims of sexual violence. If the medium is indeed the message, spritely doo-wop might not be the best one for this topic. One could also raise a quibble about the song's crashing obviousness. Presumably we'll have to wait for the next album to learn where The Raveonettes stand on genocide, torture and the opinions of Jan Moir.

Sadly, rape is not the only serious issue The Raveonettes ineptly address here. 'Suicide' pitches to render The Samaritans redundant with a yelped chorus of "Fuck suicide!" and, elsewhere, gets inside the mind of a "runaway girl" who's considering the ultimate step: "Your boyfriend's mean, and your mom's a bitch…"

The theme of death is revisited in 'Oh, I Buried You Today', but illumination remains scant. 'D.R.U.G.S.' , meanwhile, teaches about as much about drugs as a repeated spelling out of the word possibly could.

While more than a decade younger than her bandmate Sune Rose Wagner, Sharin Foo is bearing down on 30 now, and her persona remains a purely teenage one, all self-conscious showiness and pseudo rebellion. "I'm breaking into cars," she sneers at one point, and you almost want to weep for her.

Still, the real tragedy of 'In and Out of Control' is that when The Raveonettes ease off on the clumsy social commentary, they at times prove an effective noise-pop unit. 'Heart of Stone' mixes airy vocals with a bluesy form of shoegazing that evokes Swervedriver in their prime, but with added swagger. 'Break Up Girls', meanwhile, opens with an invigorating surge of feedback-drenched riffage, before an endearingly flat double-tracked vocal kicks in. Again we're transported back to the shoegaze era, this time to revisit early Lush. It's a verdant pasture indeed.

The album reaches a dignified conclusion with the languorous, melancholic 'Wine', a song about getting drunk on wine, and it's here that The Raveonettes find their level, as stylish chroniclers of small moments. For all their posturing rock'n'roll rhetoric, this is a band that profits from caution. One thing's glaringly evident: there'll be peace in the Middle East long before this pair manages a profound statement.

alexis
Oct 21, 2009 5:27pm

"Boys Who Rape (Should All Be Destroyed)' expresses a noble sentiment in the tritest fashion possible. The song is a saccharine, pop confection replete with barbershop vocal harmonies, and – to hazard a guess – its flippant style would not resonate too strongly with any actual victims of sexual violence. If the medium is indeed the message, spritely doo-wop might not be the best one for this topic."

Dead on.

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flora
Oct 21, 2009 9:06pm

"Boys Who Rape" is the most insulting song I've heard in ages. Far from compassionate, it's actually extremely insensitive, and to be perfectly honest, I can't help but wonder if it was written to solely exorcise some of Sune's own demons. One thing is undeniable: He clearly doesn't understand the victim's mentality at all. Shame on him for making a travesty out of feminine horror.insulting thing I've heard in ages.

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aromatic_spices
Oct 22, 2009 11:34am

Are you guys for real? I would stop taking things so seriously - and, indeed, literally - and realise there's a playful sense of humour in much of their music.

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Adrienne
Oct 23, 2009 10:45am

In reply to aromatic_spices:

aromatic_spices

I really hope that that is woefully misplaced sarcasm. Stop taking things so seriously? A playful sense of humour? It's a song about fucking rape. Get some perspective and reconsider what you just said.

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aromatic_spices
Oct 23, 2009 3:03pm

In reply to Adrienne:

It's undoubtedly a debilitatingly chilling, calculatingly emasculating idea that shouldn't work but does. The deliberately coy delivery only emphasises the subject matter. It's not to be taken literally, you dweebs.

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Oct 26, 2009 8:21am

It doesn't work, actually. And he has no right to comment about rape.

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Veracity
Oct 27, 2009 2:11am

One of the more indisputable shortcomings of this partnership - though this exercise in megalomania can scarcely be dignified as an effort of two - is their Darwinian unfitness. To expound on this, consider the contrary - Smashing Pumpkins. From Gish to Siamese dream, they refined a raw, decidedly grunge sound, ennobling the rough with a little shoegaze splendor. Then, with Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, the Pumpkins became veritable exemplars of originality - nothing quite like it has before or since be heard.

Perhaps if Sune dwelt less in a self-indulgent, internal place, brooding and refusing at least one compromising secret, he might regard his environment with an evolutionary eye.

Or not; old dogs seldom acquire new tricks.

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Phil Johnson
Oct 27, 2009 4:54pm

Its a pop album !, just listen and enjoy
when marc bolan wrote "its got a hub cap diamond star halo"
he never intended a "profound statement"
If all we ever listened to were bands making profund statements we would be bored to tears

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starla
Oct 28, 2009 3:37am

In reply to Phil Johnson:

Sune would be better off sticking to topics as one-dimensional and substance-free as the syrupy sounds his lyrics "narrate". A master of subversion he is not. His ideas of "contrast" and "tension" are extremely sophomoric--it's almost as he still believes creating a hard/soft duality is simply about pairing a pretty melody against a few (indept, moreso insincere) words that allude to dark subject matter. A few bands have done that well--Garbage did it particularly well--but they delved beyond the "crashing obviousness" that the reviewer rightly identifies as this duo's most flagrant shortcoming. Indeed, it is a terrible thing when bands overreach themselves.

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