Raven in the Grave
While the critically (and later commercially) successful White Stripes recently broke up, that “other” male-female minimalist rock duo the Raveonettes released its fifth full-length, Raven in the Grave. Both bands formed around the same time and both employed schticks to great effect. Detroit’s White Stripes based their aesthetic and sound on the number three (i.e. they only wore white, red, and black, and only used drums, guitar, and voice for their songs). Denmark’s Raveonettes were quick to point out that they recorded all eight songs of their debut EP, Whip It On, in the key of B-flat minor. They switched to B-flat major for their first full-length, Chain Gang of Love.
But that’s where the similarities end. The White Stripes paid homage to dirty blues throughout their catalog. The Raveonettes have worn their affection for ’80s shoegaze masters The Jesus and Mary Chain on their sleeves — until now. Raven in the Grave replaces the familiar surf beats and squalls of guitar noise for ghostly synths and eerie guitar riffs. Sune Rose Wagner calls the album “the perfect winter soundtrack.” That’s true, if you like your winters woozy and somber. Raven in the Grave is also short, unlike winters in the Midwest and Scandinavia. The nine tracks slink in the opposite direction from the last two albums — the bright arrangements of In and Out of Control and the fire and, well, lust of Lust Lust Lust.
Like Edgar Allan Poe’s famous poem “The Raven,” this album explores lost love and restlessness under a bleak backdrop. The lyric “when the pillars of love are blown apart/ I stumble through the rubble and decay” from the opening track “Revolt & Recharge” exemplifies the entire record. The buzzing single notes on top of fuzzy guitars are the closest musical amalgam to the Raveonettes previous work. The first single “Forget That You’re Young” seems to be the only song that doesn’t lament a disintegrated relationship. Sharin Foo insists “I know that you’re young” every few seconds under a gurgling riff and echoed notes, while Wagner repeatedly asks “Can I fall awake now?”
That’s the right question for the languid Raven. The only mid-tempo track, “Ignite” stays at a steady pace with a driving beat that’s absent from the rest of the album. The album’s title comes from a lyric in the most diverse song “Evil Seeds.” Creepy piano notes start the track and shift into swooshing tones and muted chords. Right before a solitary guitar finishes, Wagner whispers “I’m gone like a raven in the grave.” Ya gotta give the Raveonettes credit for sticking their necks out into the cold and trying something new instead of staying with their tried-and-true lo-fi dream pop. Hopefully, winter won’t last too long.
The Raveonettes: www.theraveonettes.com