I’m seriously thinking about suing Sune Rose Wagner — who looks almost too much like Rufus Wainwright to rock — and Sharin Foo — who looks almost too much like Nico to remain standing for five minutes — for delivering a bit too much on their “This is WHIPLASH Rock ‘n’ Roll” promise on the cover of the new Raveonettes’ album Chain Gang of Love. I definitely think I have an excellent chance of winning, especially considering Mike Brady bit the dust a few years ago and, even if some hotshot young lawyer tries to pull that same briefcase trickery on me, I feel I’ve seen that episode enough to know better.
Let’s ramble ignorantly for a wee bit on the Doppler Effect. I swear to god, Steve Albini has some major competition in the dynamics competition at this year’s South By Southwest Festival (or CMJ, etc.). When I first picked up this album, the first track puzzled me a bit because I cursed my CD player for lacking supreme volume due to the song’s curiously leisurely pace, and then WHAM! — track two, “The Great Love Sound.” Not since Lou Reed’s recent “Fire Music” has my brain been so deliciously scrambled and beaten by the sublime power of stereo. I stepped onto Elm St. at the exact moment the chorus detonated inside my head, and no one can yet convince me that I hadn’t been sideswiped by a Buick.
Speaking of Lou Reed, he’s famously stated that there are only three chords in rock, and he’s spent his entire career trying to find them. Well here’s a cute little nugget about the Raveonettes, in case you’re unfamiliar — they seem to have found the key, so maybe Uncle Lou would like to take a gander inside the realm of B flat Major, in which the entire album has been recorded. This is an inside joke for Raveonettes fans, because the last EP used exclusively B flat Minor, and its sleeve promised that the LP would use the aforementioned key. Now I’ve seen some critics spotlight this ploy as schtick-y, which it is, and pretentious, which it is not. In fact, the entire concept is so hilarious that it amazes me that the songs actually work because, of course, music theory is an oxymoron, particularly in rock ‘n’ roll. Just ask Billy Joel, who is a moron and who’d try to validate it, or Iggy Pop, who’s also a moron, but in an intentional way so that he could explain the absurdity of it all.
No one ever called Lightnin’ Hopkins or Johnny Cash inept, but they only knew three chords on guitar, and Chuck Berry always played licks any idiot could replicate. Anyway you’d like to put it, the Raveonettes are playing true roots rock. Even the lyrics suggest some of that old time rock ‘n’ roll, as Bob Seger, another moron, would put it. At first I couldn’t tell if lines like “Jimmy says that sex don’t sell / I think he’s just oh well” were somewhat of a salute to the deliberately banal yet seductively clever lyrics of early rock or if the Danish language barrier restricted them from anything more lucid. Then the Raveonettes hit you with “in bars drunk we knew it all,” and nothing is quite more blissfully articulate than that — except, maybe, “I gotta go home and sleep it off.” What else is there to say after nine Danish Marys?
Me: Motorcycles, heartbreak, alcohol, sex, prostitutes, leather — the list goes on. Is there anything else you could possibly want in a 33 minute album of schizophrenic guitar noise? Lou Reed: “Speed speed, New York New York” Me: “Yeah yeah, Lou, but the last song is called ‘New York Was Great.'” Lou (deadpan): “How cute.”