The Raveonettes are one of those bands that you either love or hate. Some see them as derivative and unoriginal, an exercise in studied cool and a pale imitation of the influences that they flaunt a little too proudly. Fans of the band would argue that they breathe new life into a tired and stale genre, taking some of Rock and Rolls coolest reference points and shaping them into something fresh and exciting. But even the most ardent fan would find it hard to disagree that over the course of eleven years and six albums, The Raveonettes have been shuffling the same five chord deck and coming up with only marginally different hands each time.
So it has been shades and black leather, Phil Spector, the Velvet Underground, the Jesus and Mary Chain, honey layered melodies, feedback and white noise, in one variation or another over the course of those eleven years. If that sounds unfair, it must be put in context by this - the Raveonettes do what they do extremely well, perhaps better than any of their contemporaries.
And Observator, their sixth album, may just be the best thing they have released since Lust Lust Lust in 2007. Sune Rose Wagner and Sharin Foo have fashioned an album that seems bathed in a warm and fuzzy nostalgic glow; witness the tender beauty of ‘The Enemy’ with its jangling guitars and saccharine sweet melody. Or ‘She Owns the Street’, as lovely and lovelorn a song as they have ever penned. Of course, it is not all sweetness and light –the overdriven strum of opener ‘Young and Cold’ acts as a gritty backdrop to the beautiful vocal harmonies of Wagner and Foo. ‘Curse the Night’ has that 50s Prom Band feel, albeit with a slightly manic edge while ‘You Hit Me (I’m Down)’ is classic Raveonettes – innocence and darkness in perfect equilibrium.
Observator may not stray far enough from the Raveonettes blueprint to win over the detractors but for the rest of us, this will do nicely. It sounds like a tender paean to a lost and golden music era rather than an attempt to slavishly recreate the sounds of that era. A slight shift in emphasis for the Raveonettes, but just enough to make this record one to cherish.
Review by Paul Page