Album Reviews: Pretty in Black by The RaveonettesIf David Lynch needs a ready-made soundtrack for his next film, he could do a lot worse than The Raveonettes' Pretty in Black. Where the Danish duo's debut album was a weird study in pretty/ugly juxtapositions, burying sweet '60s-inspired pop tunes under tons of feedback and distortion, this ingenious followup is all about space and restraint. Sune Rose Wagner's bubblegum compositions are stripped down to the bare bones, and often delivered at druggy tempos, their sunny melodies shadowed with layers of reverb. The effect is at once catchy and unsettling, and makes Pretty in Black one of the year's more compelling pop albums.
On a musical level, the Raveonettes aren't really breaking any new ground. Songs like "Heavens" and "Uncertain Times" could have been lifted straight from the Everly Brothers songbook, and the lead single, "Love in a Trashcan," is pure Duane Eddy surf guitar pop. But Wagner and partner-in-crime Sharin Foo make no apologies for their influences, even drawing attention to them with a spooky but note-for-note cover of "My Boyfriend's Back" and a guest vocal turn by Ronnie Spector on "Ode to LA." Wagner and Foo aren't so much original musicians as they are master stylists, and they seem comfortable playing to that strength here.
Pretty in Black's pleasures aren't entirely proto-rock -- "Twilight" has a Blondie-like, almost disco backbeat (give some credit to co-producer Richard Gottehrer, who worked with Blondie) and "Sleepwalking" shows this year's crop of disposible dance-rock bands the right way to cop a Cure riff. But it's Wagner's knack for guitar twang, and the way his vocals clink against Foo's like ice cubes in a highball glass, that make the Raveonettes' sound so timelessly cool. They pull off the unlikely feat of making classic American pop music sound edgy and dangerous again, and -- probably because they grew up in Denmark, sheltered from the numbing presence of "oldies" radio -- they do it with a refreshing absence of hipster irony. David Lynch, are you listening? - Andy Hermann
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