The greatest rock 'n' roll has always been about deconstruction to a degree, but, until fairly recently, never at the expense of song craft (or, hell, these days, sometimes even song form). The Raveonettes have always been about the song — and that proud tradition continues on their third full-length release, the duo's first on an indie, self-produced without the aid of legendary pop master Richard Gotterher, who continues to co-manage them. He obviously taught them well in the studio, though, because with the exception of one clinker (the dreadfully droning "Expelled From Love"), there's a big payoff on every track here.
Most frequently compared to the Jesus And Mary Chain, which directly or indirectly also means the Velvet Underground (but much less creepy than the former and less artistically esoteric than the latter), the Raveonettes' scope has always been much larger than that — more like a well-formed rock 'n' pop retrospective; their name, after all, comes from a commingling of a Buddy Holly song with Phil Spector's most famous "girl group" creation. In other words, they're part of a marvelous continuum, a rich tapestry, to steal Julie Burchill's negatively intended phrase, which they have no desire whatsoever to unravel.
The ghostly harmonies of songwriter-guitarist-producer Sune Rose Wagner and musical partner Sharin Foo still enchant, bringing to mind everything from Mercy (of "Love Can Make You Happy" fame) to Nico and Debbie Harry, those being the tip of a very large iceberg. But it's Wagner's guitar that's the true star of this album. He toned down a bit on Pretty in Black, the duo's sophomore release that sometimes went back as far as the Carter Family for some of its roots, but it's back in spades here. Not that he's a technical wizard — thank God for that — but a majority of the songs are all about the riff; that is, the huge hook. The album starts out slightly downbeat, but those guitar hooks reach fever pitch of ecstatic proportions on five of the final six tracks: "Blitzed," "Sad Transmission," "With My Eyes Closed," "The Beat Dies" and "My Heartbeat's Dying." We're talking the sort of riffs that are sad and wonderful, haunting and beautiful, Duane Eddy and Lou Reed all at the same time, the kind that make you feel you could live forever, the fucked-up parts of life be damned. And, along with the infectious "You Want the Candy," "Honey I Never Had You," the closing "bonus" track, is pure pop gold, a smash on the archetypal hit parade in any era, sonic psychocandy, to be sure.
For this rock fan, what Wagner and Foo create goes beyond just archetypal in the Jungian sense. At least on disc, the Raveonettes feel like part of my very being, my aesthetic DNA.
The Raveonettes play Wednesday, March 19, at the Majestic Theatre, 4120 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-833-7272.
Bill Holdship is the music editor of Metro Times Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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