Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Raveonettes- the brighter side of feedback

Stephin Merritt is the kind of songsmith that writers love because he's essentially one of them- he was a music scribe before the Magnetic Fields, after all. His songs and more importantly his album concepts are the kind that scribes drool over. That's why 69 Love Songs was a 'masterpiece' which I thought was overrated while the more modest follow-up (simply called i), was more my speed. And now his latest concept is right up front on his album title- Distortion. While it's not Merzbow material, he goes in the direction of Jesus and Mary Chain. It's a cute idea and for me, it would be even better if the songs stuck as much as they did last time. Nevertheless, it's loved by many writers because SM is so damn clever, even though he still won't (and probably will never) match up to the level of a great New Yorker short story as well as the even-smarter John Darnielle (the Mountain Goats), who also does better with album concepts- Heretic Pride is one of the best records I've heard in the last few months.

But if you want to hear that distortion used to cloak ultra-catchy tunes, you don't have to go back to Psychocandy as the Raveonettes thoughtfully provide that for now you. While you could make the complaint that their high-echo sound makes all their songs sound alike (and seem a little retro), at least they're writing catchy, memorable songs, which beats a merely brainy tune in my book. I used to be skeptical of them too but their four and latest album, Lust Lust Lust (on Vice, released in the UK in November but out in the States just today), has at least three killer tracks and the rest goes down your earhole nicely.

The powerful, sweeping, sweet "Dead Song" is an early contender for my list of top singles of the year and you can even grab it for free from Amazon (after you install their downloader). My other favorites on the album, "Blush" and "Blitzed," are more low-key (less grander) but still sound like great forgotten girlgroup standards gone garage. Judging by the disappointing non-distorted show I recently saw the reunited Jesus and the Mary Chain do, they could and should definitely take tips from this Danish duo.


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