Back in my college radio days, it was commonplace for the fellow jocks (DJs to those who don’t know the term) to scrawl on any promotional poster in the station. On a Black Rebel Motorcycle Club poster, one Sharpie vandal had written, “Raveonettes = J+MC Theft Done Right!” To the penman’s credit, it was probably meant as an insult to BRMC, who never sounded much like Jesus and Mary Chain anyway, so I don’t know what the gripe is. But it was kind of a back-handed compliment to The Raveonettes. I can’t think of any bands who plan on being famous for aping another band’s style. And having heard a few Raveonettes singles, I could honestly agree with the marker miscreant. They did sound a lot like Jesus and Mary Chain. And though their songs were nice enough, they were ultimately forgettable and unremarkable blips on the nü rock radar.
Suffice to say I expected Pretty in Black, the Copenhagen duo’s third full-length, to be yet another three-chord noise rock record in the key of B. As it turns out, it’s only marginally close to the stripped-down noise rock of before. They’re still borrowing liberally from The Jesus and Mary Chain, but more from the less feedback ridden singles of the Automatic and Darklands era as opposed to the ear drum destroyers of Psychocandy. There is also a song on Pretty in Black called “Here Comes Mary,” which instantly makes me think of “Here Comes Alice.” But that’s only on the surface. The sound coming out of the speakers is a slightly different story.
The Raveonettes throw us rockers for a loop by opening the album with “The Heavens,” a reverb-laden cowboy ballad instead of a heavy-hitting single like “Attack of the Ghost Riders.” And from there, it’s quite apparent that things are a little different this time around. Track two is yet another ballad, “Seductress of Bums,” which finds the duo playing a sort of doo-wop waltz with still more reverb. The single, “Love in a Trashcan,” however, is a surfy, peppy rocker that goes easy on distortion yet still kicks ass. The following track, “Sleepwalking,” finally finds the band returning to the louder rock sounds of yore, which will appease Raveonettes fans. And since it’s surrounded by quieter tracks, it stands out that much more.
Dubiously included on this set, however, is a cover of the Angels’ “My Boyfriend’s Back,” that really didn’t need to be here. Yet, there is still enough good material that lets us forget about this misstep. The Raveonettes Jesus jones hasn’t been shaken as of yet, it’s just moved into a different era. Meanwhile, they’ve adopted a newfound 1950s revival that few other bands seem to be doing these days. Pretty in Black is a fine record by a band that’s maturing with each release. Something tells me that by the time they put out a singles collection, it’ll be one of the most awesome collections in rock.
Jesus and Mary Chain – Darklands
The Kills – No Wow
Ride – Going Blank Again
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.