The Velvet Underground’s secret weapon was that, beneath their poetic ambitions, intellectual cynicism, and La Monte Young-inspired sonic experimentation, you could always sense the beating heart of a New York doo-wop group. Sure, Lou Reed wanted to be Delmore Schwartz, but he also wanted to be Dion.
A similar dynamic explains the charm of The Raveonettes. The Danish duo uses white noise and distortion with more aplomb than any group since the Jesus & Mary Chain, but there is always a girl-group naiveté competing with the feedback.
The tension between the post-punk detachment of their sound and the teen simplicity of their song structures creates something greater than the sum of its parts. When The Raveonettes covered the Angels’ “My Boyfriend’s Back” for 2005’s Pretty in Black, you knew from the
eerie detachment of Sharin Foo’s vocal that major bloodshed was coming, the same way you worried when you heard Roy Orbison’s voice in David Lynch’s Blue Velvet.
With Lust Lust Lust, The Raveonettes continue to prove that they have no use for clarity. Drums sound like overheard transistor-radio clicks, and the guitars are a glorious wash of squeals. Half the songs roll by in an amphetamine blur (“Dead Sound,” “You Want the Candy”) and the others stagger by in a barbiturate haze (“Expelled From Love”). Considering how narrow their musical base is, it’s remarkable how many different influences The Raveonettes evoke. At their most upbeat, you’re reminded of the late-’80s British punk-pop band The Primitives. And “Sad Transmission” is essentially Dion’s “Runaround Sue” with a prescription for prozac.
For Foo and guitarist-singer Sune Rose Wagner, love equals death: “In this tomb I call love/ I get so lonesome with you or without you.” Only the doomed obsessiveness of lust keeps them going, and they never tire of writing about it. But it’s hard to complain when they give us a slice of depression as haunting as “Aly, Walk With Me,” a spaghetti-western goth epic that’s probably their finest-ever track.