“Bang! You’re so vicious, baby.” Now that’s how you start a record. We know we’re in Raveonettes territory from those opening chimes, and frankly, I can’t think of a better way to spend the season. The leaves are starting to fall, there’s a chill in the air, and rock’s most melancholy Danes are back with album number four. The follow-up to the magnificent Lust Lust Lust, In and Out of Control has a lot to live up to.
It’s perfect that the Raveonettes hail from frozen Copenhagen—their sound is seriously chilly. Take the icy charms of second track “Gone Forever”, which has all the romantic warmth of a dead fish. It’s not that the Danish duo is ironic or disaffected; it’s more a question of musical inclination—they like it cool, and they like it sharp. Though the Raveonettes takes their cues from classic girl groups like the Ronettes and the Shangri-Las, their sound is anything but straightforward nostalgia. By mixing My Bloody Valentine feedback with dance beats and retro winks, this duo combines so many different influences that they manage to sound completely unique.
While this isn’t the best time for girl group fans (only partly because of Phil Spector), the Raveonettes don’t seem to follow the whims of fashion. There’s barely a hint of trendy electronica here (well, excepting the cheesy rave intro of “D.R.U.G.S.”), just good old fashioned pop music. And thank god for that, because it gives us moments like the unbearably beautiful “Last Dance”—a paean to a drugged-up lover that stands in the great tradition of “Leader in the Pack”. It could make a single tear fall from the manliest eye out there, or, more correctly, the most disenchanted hipster. It’s the perfect example of what this band does best—a gorgeous melody on the surface, hauntingly dark lyrics at its core.
It’s what the following song, “Boys Who Rape (Should All Be Destroyed)” wants so badly to be, but it’s a dismal failure. Think of the Raveonettes as rock’s perfect storm: when all the factors come together (wicked beat, biting lyrics, dreamy vocals), then everything is perfect. When just one element is missing (like on the dreary filler “Oh, I Buried You Today”), it all comes apart. But the vast majority of songs are sublime, be they the shrieking “Break Up Girls!” or the fuzzy, ephemeral “Suicide”. Even if the fabulous Sharin Foo’s vocals do most of the heavy lifting, multi-instrumentalist Sune Rose Wagner knows how to hold his own. And so even though the Raveonettes might be only a duo, they manage to feel much larger. Take the spacey, My Bloody Valentine riffs of “Wine”, or the glimmering dance music of “Heart of Stone” as proof. Those tracks are anything but sparse.
Despite the title, the Raveonettes are never out of control on this record, and that’s what keeps most of In and Out going steady—even if it’s ultimately the sole weak point. This isn’t an album with spontaneity as a core value; at times it sounds manufactured, manicured, so glossy it practically shines. But that’s something of a minor quibble, especially in these hands. The Raveonettes don’t have to answer for authenticity; they’re the definition of effortlessly cool. Instead, they can focus on sheer musical vitality, and that’s exactly what they do. They are artists in complete control; if you’re looking for raw, unrestrained power, well, look elsewhere. The Raveonettes aren’t reinventing their formula with In and Out of Control, but with pop this lovely, they shouldn’t expect to hear any complaints.