Copenhagen-based alt-rock adorables the Raveonettes got their start like many rad, weird Euro kids with erections for the USA: They formed an ad-hoc rock band. In 2001, stone-cold Danish foxes Sune Rose Wagner and Sharin Foo hooked up for a rock & roll revival that looked to the first wave of white folks that played the music: the guitar gods, girl groups and garage guys who shaped a certain era of Americana.
Unlike a good many other artists who feed off the past,the Raveonettes stick pretty close to their source material: the collected American songbooks of the 1950s and 1960s. Over three albums, the Raveonettes have mined all of it, really: bad-boy guitar revs, doo-wop sha-la-las and lilting country sweetness. Buddy Holly, the Everly Brothers, the Ronettes and Hank Williams are evidently revered by the Danish twosome, in a way that reads more "conscious karaoke" than "building on the masters." Is what came before only so hallowed because of its nostalgic then-ness? Is the sound of a handclap better in a retro recording studio than a kitted-out modern one? The Raveonettes are not the band to definitively answer such profound questions about this lost era of American music. They just really love it.
The Raveonetttes' concise first release, Whip It On, was played in B-flat minor. While a critical favorite, Whip It On was mostly notable for its catchy imitations. The follow-up, Chain Gang of Love, is a sunnier affair (and was written in B-flat major) that smartly stepped away from full-on kitsch. Pretty in Black (released in 2005) sees the Raveonettes tricking out their production tactics and moving toward more fleshy, layered tracks.
The band is famously adult about rock & roll's nasty bits: Sexuality and violence swagger through their records without a hint of irony. Perhaps the most rewarding element of the throwback gimmick is a distinct lack of the aloofness that plagues not only modern rock music, but also the generation that listens to it.
The Raveonettes perform with Midnight Movies at Detroit Bar, 843 W. 19th St., Costa Mesa, (949) 642-0600; www.detroitbar.com . Thurs., June 7, 9 p.m. $13.
Check out this week's featured ad for Entertainment