The Raveonettes are one of those bands that, every year or so, releases a solid album to little fanfare. Any indie rock devotee has heard their name; few care. And really, fanfare would be a bit much to expect—all of the Raveonettes’ albums sound the same. With their 2003 debut Chain Gang of Love, the Danish duo hit upon a winning formula: they mixed the hazy, distorted guitars of The Jesus and Mary Chain and the hooky melodies and close harmonies of Phil Spector’s girl groups, and appearing to take the “if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it” approach, they’ve altered the recipe little in the years since. Reliability, consistency, and predictability do not rockstars make, and so Sune Rose Wagner and Sharin Foo trudge along. Despite the predictability of the band’s sound, Raven in the Grave is the latest in their lengthening line of great albums, and it may be their best yet.
At nine tracks, and 35 minutes long, Raven in the Grave is as spare and gloomy throughout as its title suggests. With references to death appearing on nearly every track, the lyrics at times read like your 14-year-old sister’s journal entry after a Hot Topic binge. But even this brand of middle school macabre is forgivable, mostly because the ever-present hum of feedback often obscures the lyrics. The opener, “Recharge & Revolt,” is an immediate high point. It’s obvious that the Raveonettes are tweaking the formula and expanding their influences ever so slightly; this catchy song sounds like Wavves meets the Pains of Being Pure at Heart. “War in Heaven” continues the album on a more introspective note, and “Apparitions” would fit in perfectly on the Cure’s Disintegration—somewhere between “Lovesong” and “Lullaby.”
Like many albums, Raven in the Grave loses some ground around the halfway mark. On “Summer Moon,” Wagner and Foo get bogged down in their own despair. When they intone that “this perfect thing is dying,” they could well be referring to the album, as the dismal “Summer Moon” fades into the utterly forgettable “Let Me On Out.” Fortunately, “Ignite” is waiting around the corner to save the day; it’s a peppy track that provides the energy to propel Raven in the Grave to its finale, and closer “My Times Up” brings the album to its dreamy and melancholic conclusion.
Though Raven in the Grave is a fantastic album, it’s unlikely many people will hear it outside of those who, like me, pick up every Raveonettes release. The band will most likely continue to play half-filled shows at medium-sized venues for God knows how many more years. But they definitely deserve better. Is it really that bad for a band to stick with what works? Constancy may not be the most exciting of qualities, but in an era in which few of our rock idols seem capable of getting it together long enough to release two decent albums in a row, it’s time for consistency to make a comeback. And when it does, well, the Raveonettes will probably still be around.