The Raveonettes at the Glass House and Detroit Bar
These Danes Cook
The Raveonettes lust noise pop, with bittersweet melancholy
Sune Rose Wagner and Sharin Foo are the Raveonettes, the best and most gorgeously conflicted duo to come out of Denmark since Hamlet and his mother. Their new album, Lust Lust Lust (Vice), sounds like David Lynch producing Jesus and Mary Chain's Psychocandy, its girl-group buh-buh-boom beats topped with the sweetest, saddest harmonies and noise Hope Sandoval and Jim Reid never got around to making when they were shacked up back in the day. Lust makes iconic the feelings of wanting, swooning—"anticipation," as Carly Simon once put it, but it's exactly this indulgence of the fitful state that makes it "span time," as Vinnie Gallo once did.
"The music is very cinematic," Wagner admits via e-mail from Europe, "'cause it's built from inner visions and real-life images. I'm very inspired by photography and movies, more so than music." Obviously. The album's band pic looks like William Reid and Nico, though Wagner insists it's more like Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon.
"Contrary to popular belief, I'm really not that influenced by those amazing bands [JAMC and the Velvet Underground]. I'm more into Sonic Youth and Suicide and girl groups, and I think you can hear that in our music."
But what about the noise (plus a song called "You Want the Candy")?
"JAMC used noise as a continuous element as part of their sound," Wagner says, "but we use noise as solo instruments, which come and go in just the right amount and the right places, like Sonic Youth would do. Ever since I heard Daydream Nation, I was in love with it! It's a huge part of my songwriting. To me, it's just another instrument I've learned to control."
Indulge might be a better word. The Raveonettes' vision, see, is perfectly blurred, looking at the high-noon sun through drooping 3 a.m. eyelids—Americana seen at a distance, on the silver screen, in images as iconic as they are evocative. Likewise, Lust's songs are a sleep-deprived daydream nation of film-noir states of long-lensed longing. "Aly, Walk With Me" is a surly beatbox churn with sibilant chimes and desperado guitar twang, as Wagner and Foo harmonize like John Doe and Exene sippin' on some sizzerp, before popcorn farts of white noise snowball into a sonic white-out. The poor beatbox doesn't stand a chance. Then there's "The Beat Dies," which is as perfectly sad as a Julee Cruise/Angelo Badalamenti 'choon.
How this perfect sadness came about is, if not simple, then Danish enough. Wagner moved to the U.S., wanted to form a band based on '60s groups and artful noise, but found no takers (this is a good half-decade before the indie '80s revival and Stephin Merritt proclaiming Psychocandy the most important album of the '80s Brit-pop era). He moved back to Denmark, where Foo was dating his friend and studying music.
"I made a list of influences I wanted as a reference point, and it included the vocal harmonies of the Everly Brothers, the simple pop songs of Buddy Holly, the drony synth beats of Suicide, the noise of Sonic Youth and the coolness of the Cramps," he says. That led to Whip It On, and, as legend has it, a pushing-50 Rolling Stone editor with a Ramones mop top championed them, the kind of endorsement that killed Marshall Crenshaw's career, but gave the Raveonettes a buzz—maybe too much buzz.
Subsequent records would see the Raveonettes not just indulge their influences, but also hire them. Wagner and Foo put Ronnie Spector and Moe Tucker on their records, then found bassists to do Foo's four-stringing and drummers to back them up. The quaint perfection of the two expat Danes (Wagner in NYC and Foo in LA) crafting quaintly menacing American pop noir started to seem less quaint.
With Lust, though, the Raveonettes return to the form that made them great in the first place. Like the Beatles, it took Wagner a while before he got his "Love Me Do."
"I wrote 100 songs before I thought I had something I wanted to build on, and that was the song 'Lust,'" he says. "After I had that song, the rest was easy and took a few weeks."
And even if the result has been done to death, there's always room for one more dose of it.
"I'm a very nostalgic person, and I love bittersweet melancholy," Wagner admits. "I don't know if the world needs it, but I do know that a lot of people thrive on it."
The Raveonettes perform with Be Your Own Pet at the Glass House, 200 W. Second St., Pomona, (909) 865-3802; www.theglasshouse.us. Sat., 7 p.m. $13-15; and at Detroit Bar, 843 W. 19th St., Costa Mesa, (949) 642-0600; www.detroitbar.com. Sun., 9 p.m. $13.