If there is one thing that hasn’t changed within the past thirty years, it is this: Rock and roll will never die. What Neil Young & Crazy Horse predicted on the wingtips of their legendary 1979 album Rust Never Sleeps seems to hold up with each passing year. Not just American bands have embraced this message, as well. The longevity and brilliance of rock & roll’s simplicity has struck chords far and abound over the Atlantic Ocean to Europe and the easternmost reaches of the world. While this may not seem like a fairly new musical convention, Danish duo The Raveonettes’ fourth record, In And Out Of Control, takes what rules rock & roll creates and adds some more sugary sweetness to round out rock’s rugged remnants.
Consisting of primary members Sune Rose Wagner on guitar and vocals and Sharin Foo on bass and vocals, The Raveonettes tackle many different topics, ranging from lovable hunky-dory summer love to full on aggressiveness against sexual predators. What sets the Danish duo apart from their contemporaries, however, are their production techniques, as well as their intellectual execution. In And Out Of Control starts off with “Bang!” and showcases Foo’s bubblegum-dripping vocals over a simplistic twanged guitar. Wagner’s catchy songwriting is highly noticeable here, especially during the chorus: “Kids wanna bop/ out in the street/ fa-fa-fa-fun/ all summer long.” While they channel their love for Americana in the 1950’s with the realms of the 21st Century, The Raveonettes certainly do not shy away from their influences and create a properly crafted pop rock song, complete with sugary sweet “oohs” and “aahs” following on their musical coattails.
What proves to be a nice, subtle introduction to Control quickly turns dark and bleak right away. Tales of loneliness and lost love on “Gone Forever”, drug addiction on “Last Dance”, and the strong anti-rape overtones on “Boys Who Rape (Should All Be Destroyed)” channel The Raveonettes’ ability to intertwine crafty pop music with soul-blackening material. On the surface, these three tracks possess catchy, intricate chord progressions and danceable, elegant beats. The dark underbelly, however, pulls itself up over a few listens and certainly takes the listener off guard, especially in “Last Dance.” Wagner’s dark sensual imagery plays off his rock and roll personality very well. While combining elements of the shoegaze movement, Phil Spector-era girl groups, and bare bones production values, The Raveonettes carry onward with a sultry summer sound that can’t be mistaken for anything other than pure happiness.
Following this group of dark and personable tunes are the surf rock send-up “Heart Of Stone” and the tearful love ballad “Oh, I Buried You Today.” While both of these tunes signify a great deal of charming pop sensibility, it is here where the album starts to become a bit redundant and relies on their rock & roll worship. This is evident on the album’s weakest track, “Suicide.” While musically the song is constructed well, the lyrics come off very juvenile and weak, which seems to bog down the musicality of the song itself. Foo sounds great on the chorus, but the verses could have definitely been rewritten, which is a shame due to the sheer shoegazing power of the chorus alone. This same musical breakdown can be given to the song “D.R.U.G.S.” as well. While the song is structurally done well, lyrically it falls flat and begs for a thorough rewrite.
The album ends with the bare bones guitar twanger “Breaking Into Cars”, arguably the album’s best song “Break Up Girls!”, and the loner throwaway “Wine.” What rounds out the end of Control lies simply in the band’s instinctive belief to finally get their influences right. While the beginning of the album starts strong, the middle dips way lower than the beginning promises. However, The Raveonettes show true promise on “Break Up Girls!” by combining their love of affable punk rock, girl group vocal harmonies, and twanged out sprawling guitar work. In conclusion, “Break Up Girls!” proves to be the track that sounds virtually nothing like the rest of the album, and that could possibly be the next musical frontier the band could explore.
As mentioned before, for how straightforward this record is, it’s far from a happy one. Dark elements are everywhere, but for the duo’s fourth record, it’s a lively one. While certain elements miss their mark, The Raveonettes from time to time get it right and craft a bouncy, downright interesting record for the year. They’ve got the ability to craft a great record sometime in the future, but here it’s evident that they’re still in their discovery phase.
In & Out of Control