The Raveonettes are true indie pop, as they tackle such subjects as murder, rape, crime, drugs and suicide, but they do leave room for conventional topics such as love and lust. The Denmark duo of Sune Rose Wagner and Sharin Foo draw inspiration from everyone from the Everly Brothers to the Velvet Underground. Musically, they have a swinging ’60s vibe, which is tastefully updated for the 21st century. Formed in 2001, Wagner and Foo have released seven full-length albums and a handful of EPs. I first discovered the band in 2003 with the debut release of Chain Gang of Love. Dreamy harmonies coupled with distorted guitars made them irresistible to me and, apparently, millions of others. The band returns with Pe’ahi, which finds the duo experimenting with new sounds.
While Pe’ahi doesn’t stray too far from the duo’s proven formula, it still has a freshness about it. The album kicks off with a doozy of a tune, “Endless Sleeper,” on which the two mix heavy distortion with their signature two-part harmonies. They continue down this path on the next two cuts, “Sisters” and “Killer in the Streets.”
An unexpected surprise comes with the tune “Wake Me Up,” on which they incorporate a string section that shows a vulnerable side of the otherwise in-your-face songwriters. Among a wash of guitars, “Z-Boys,” is another welcomed surprise, as the crooners use a gentle piano among a Phil Spector-ish wall of sound.
With loads of distortion, “A Hell Below” is classic Raveonettes. They achieve a dream pop timbre with “The Rains of May,” but quickly get back to the signature sound on “Kill!.” The whimsical track, “When the Night is Almost Done,” has a Beach Boys Pet Sounds aura. The album closes with the very appropriate “Summer Ends,” which ebbs and flows between pop and rock.
The Raveonettes are definitely an acquired taste, as they defy being categorized. But the duo seems fine with that, as they utilize their artistic freedom on each recording. Pe’ahi is yet another example of what this band is capable of and shows versatility as they break new ground.