Sunday, October 07, 2012

Raveonettes, "Observator"

The Raveonettes have always been good at owning their influences.  "Lust Lust Lust" didn't just borrow the best bits from JAMC's "Psychocandy", it copied the blueprint and improved on it.  Same goes for "Chain Gang of Love" one-upping scuzz-pop and early Blondie.

Their last album, "Raven In the Grave", found them in the midst of an identity crisis of sorts.  There were still plenty of bands for them to steal from, and they couldn't figure out who they wanted to steal from most.  Would  it be a reconfiguration of their earlier thefts, or a meld of the safe and obvious with the new and unexpected?  On "Observator", the transition finally seems complete.  There's an added emphasis on melody and harmony (proper torch songs by The Raveonettes?  believe it!) and they've dissolved their influences so deeply into these songs that almost all traces of gimmickry left over from their earlier albums have now disappeared.  It's easily their best album to date, and at just 31 minutes long, their most concise and replayable.  An album this short and this hummable has a way of minimizing its weaknesses, in that they're over and done with before you have a chance to get bored of them or dwell on them.  But in truth, digging for flaws in an album this good is a fool's errand.

"Young and Cold" might be The Raveonettes most sensitive and bittersweet song, and it certainly doesn't hurt that gentle distortion over repetitively strummed acoustic guitar with boy/girl harmonies are basically musical kryptonite for me.  "Sinking With the Sun" and "She Owns the Streets" offer a back to back dose of mid-80's UK indie by way of the Stone Roses and the Smiths, the jangly melodies of the latter making it an obvious choice for a single.  "Downtown" returns to their girl group roots, but adding another flavour of jangly 80's indie rock makes for yet another refreshing combination.  "Til the End", with it's forceful drumming and hissing guitars could almost be an "Isn't Anything"-era MBV outtake.  It's the most gimmicky song on the album, and it's also arguably the weakest, which says a lot about how far The Raveonettes have come.

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