With a name inspired by a Buddy Holly tune, a look copped from the Andy Warhol Factory and a squall more than a little reminiscent of the Jesus and Mary Chain, this Danish duo certainly has exceptional taste. Guitarist Sune Rose Wagner and bassist Sharin Foo look good in black, and they know how to wring dastardly-sounding feedback from their instruments. They strike the right poses and steal from ultra-slick sources, and manage to construct some tremendously imaginative, fun passages. The problem, and it’s a doozy, is that the idea of the Raveonettes is much more exciting than the reality, which can be fun but is also sometimes dull, a conglomeration of unswerving dissonance, echoey rhythm tracks and reassuring twee-pop quaintness. In other words, the good, the bad and the snuggly.
The group’s debut restricts itself to three-chord / three-minute songs, all of them in B-flat minor and expresses as much about the duo’s ideals as their inevitable limitations. Forced into a monotonous, screeching construct, the eight songs on Whip It On have no choice but to blend into each other, leaving absolutely no room for variation or surprise. Both members’ flippant, wake-me-when-it’s-over vocal delivery sucks the impact out of the music, and the melting-pot possibilities of this mope-surf-punk thing are squandered to repetition and a lack of ideas. “Attack of the Ghost Riders” strives to marry the lighter side of Sonic Youth with the twangy reverb of ’50s rock instrumentals. The union isn’t wholly successful, but it’s encouraging. So is the urgent pace of “Do You Believe Her” and the pogo beach blast of “Beat City.” It’s nothing the Reid brothers haven’t already done better and abandoned, but the Raveonettes give it a good go. Too often on Whip It On, however, they should have tried harder.
Co-produced by Wagner and Richard Gottehrer (Blondie, Go-Go’s, Bow Wow Wow), Chain Gang of Love switches to B-flat major (oh, the artistic growth!) and is instantly more likable. Just as shallow and disposable, but certainly more ear-popping. There are plentiful allusions to rockabilly and the waning hits of the early ’60s, leaving “That Great Love Sound” proud to be a bouncy pop song and “Noisy Summer” a hand-clap fuzzfest that lives up to its name. Wagner and Foo make like Paul and Paula in the girl / boy swoon of “The Love Gang” and “Little Animal.” Never mind that the latter’s namesake “always wants to fuck” or that the wall o’ feedback surrounding every track is painful at times: this is innocuous stuff with uplifting harmonies and a sunny disposition. Half the songs benefit from this newfound change in attitude (and don’t forget the key change!), while the rest still can’t rise from the monotonous mire. Wagner and Foo are still not as cool as they think they are, but they’re definitely getting closer. Rave on, Raveonettes, rave on.