The Raveonettes: Observator

The Raveonettes
(Vice Records)

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The Raveonettes have been doing their thing – dark, noisy rock ‘n roll with pretty boy-girl harmonies – for nearly 10 years now. Long before going retro was a widespread indie trend, they were easily the best of their kind since the Jesus and Mary Chain.

The band’s latest is Observator, and it basically does what The Raveonettes do. They’ve been in something of a holding pattern since hitting their peak with 2007’s Lust Lust Lust, and each album since then has been something of a retread, but Sune Rose Wagner and Sharin Foo have stayed afloat because they can still craft brilliant pop songs.

The band has a wider palette of sound this time around: audible acoustic guitars come back into the fold, as on the fuzzy and sunny opener “Young and Cold,” and for the first time piano takes the lead, as on the album’s brooding and haunting standout “Observations.” Sharin’s gorgeous vocals seal the deal on “The Enemy;” “She Owns the Streets” is pristine nu-wave melancholy; and the closing “Till the End” is one of the band’s most triumphant rockers.

So consistency in the grand scheme has been on their side – this is an overall fine album that manages to crank out some instant classics. But unfortunately at least half of it is skippable since they’ve done all of this before with better results, and this somewhat overshadows the highlights.

It’s been a real danger to a band like The Raveonettes, who are tightly bound to a very specific sound. After a while, it was almost inevitable that things would get a little samey or redundant. They’ve held out, and are still better than most of their peers. But here’s to hoping they don’t dig themselves deeper into a hole going forward.

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About John Mordecai

John Mordecai is a musician and writer from New Haven, Conn. He was the bassist for Brooklyn-based ERAAS (formerly APSE), and also plays (sometimes) in New England-based Shark and Brooklyn's The Tyler Trudeau Attempt. He also maintains a blog (sometimes) at http://selfsensored.wordpress.com/
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