The Raveonettes whip up another whirlwind of racy rock & roll thrills

Hailing from Copenhagen, the Raveonettes are Denmark’s stunning new contribution to the international rock arena. The undeniably hip boy-girl duo is swiftly rising to the same level of acclaim as the illustrious Jack and Meg White of The White Stripes, even rivaling them in their captivating minimalist style. To immerse oneself in the sound of the Raveonettes is to enter the world of retro-cool, quick thrills, black leather and sex. In their music, we hear the racy reverberation of good times and trouble on the edge.

The Raveonettes are Sune Rose Wagner on vocals and guitar and Sharin Foo on vocals and bass. The two became acquainted in Copenhagen through their shared taste for alternative music, a genre which in Denmark has a limited but loyal following. Wagner writes all the songs, but Foo still contributes plenty, working as an equal partner in the production process, choosing songs and working on vocals. 2002 saw the release of their explosive mini-album, Whip It On, followed by their debut full-length album, Chain Gang of Love, which came out in the United States on Sept. 2 of this year.

Whip It On is 21 minutes of strangely exhilarating guitar fuzz. It’s dark, lurid and thoroughly enthralling. It’s the kind of music I like to listen to with my headphones on the subway, its murky yet unrelenting drive matching the underground momentum of trains racing through black tunnels. The album’s eight songs sound conspicuously similar, doubtlessly due in part to the pair’s decision to record the entire album in B-flat minor. The likeness of each track to the next, however, does not detract from the album’s overall appeal, as enjoyment of this music arises not so much from appreciation for distinct melodies as it does from submission to a specific type of sound and energy. One phrase from “Veronica Fever,” a sadomasochism-inspired song about whips and “luxurious sexual attack,” provides a fitting characterization of the Raveonettes’ own “sultry sexy sound.”

With Chain Gangs of Love, Wagner and Foo bring the compelling intensity of Whip It On into the brighter key of B-flat major. This official debut album, in its brief but gripping 33 minutes, recalls the golden age of rock and roll and American pop culture. The catchy songs offer a greater diversity of tune and tempo than Whip It On, but all still ride on straightforward beats and chord progressions alongside beautiful vocal harmonies and ever-present fuzzy guitar. Each track runs under three minutes, creating exciting brevity of sound as the snappy themes follow each other in quick succession.

But don’t let the major key fool you. Though it may not impart the impenetrable darkness of Whip It On, Chain Gang of Love does a fine job of living up to its racy title. In “The Love Gang,” Wagner and Foo’s voices emit seductively delicious tones as they portray young delinquents in love amidst “chains, black leather and sex.”

The faster-paced “Let’s Rave On” propels forward with an energy that is positively dance-inducing as it urges us to “go out and make some trouble.” Meanwhile, the moody “Dirty Eyes” introduces us to “Sado Sue,” “Transi Troy” and Jimmy, who says that “sex don’t sell.” Mixed in with heartbreak, cigarettes and prostitutes, we hear some superbly twangy moments as well as moments that will make us “wanna shake and shout.”

Much of the inspiration for the Raveonettes’ songs developed from Wagner’s experiences living in the U.S. shortly before joining up with Foo. He lived in a wide range of places, including New York City’s Hell’s Kitchen and downtown Las Vegas. This influence manifests itself first in Whip it On and then again in Chain Gangs of Love.

As Wagner says about Whip It On in an interview on the Raveonettes’ website, “Mostly it comes from being very restless and experiences I’ve had in America and things I’ve seen and places I’ve been and that vibe you get when you’re in certain places.”

Above all, the Raveonettes are successful in communicating a distinct vibe. It is a vibe loaded with the thrills of youth, love and driving fast – a rush in its own right, really. Chain Gang of Love’s final track is entitled “New York Was Great.” It’s about getting drunk in New York bars and plucking stars from New York skies. “What a trip,” the songs ends, appropriately.

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