The Raveonettes with Tamaryn and Twin Killers
10 p.m. Thursday, April 14
Republic, 828 S. Peters St., 528-8282, www.republicnola.com
$15 advance, $18 door
Years before groups like Best Coast, Dum Dum Girls and Nikki & Rich were mining 1960s pop sounds for inspiration, the Raveonettes — the Danish duo of Sune Rose Wagner and Sharin Foo — were carrying the torch for lo-fi rock, making records that sounded like 45-year-old 45s unearthed at a biker flea market. Their new album, Raven in the Grave, which came out just last week, is Scandinavian-chilly, sparse and creepy, but remarkably poppy under all the gloom. It's not hard to imagine the Raveonettes as contemporaries of the Velvet Underground, Joy Division or the Jesus and Mary Chain.
"We're not striving to conjure any sort of specific time period," Foo says. "Our music has always had a dark flavor, even when it was seemingly very bright. This one is thematically pretty dark — a little more going all the way with an emotion."
The Raveonettes' first stateside albums, Whip It On and Chain Gang of Love, consisted of speedy three-minute dispatches from 1966 piped out of a cheap transistor radio: songs about hot rods, motorcycles and cheap girls, fueled by fuzz guitar, high-test octane and little white pills. Their CD covers recalled an age of juvenile-delinquent movies and teen-tragedy songs, while the duo visually conjured images of rock 'n' roll past as well, particularly Foo, whose delicate features and long bangs are a cross between Alfred Hitchcock's icier blondes and the Velvet Underground's enigmatic singer Nico. On Raven in the Grave, her cool demeanor and ethereal vocals are showcased in "Forget That You're Young," a dreamy fugue; as she softly croons "Can I fall awake now?," it could be a soundtrack from one of David Lynch's fever dream-movies.
"We've always been drawn to imagery in music and lyrics," Foo says, "and we loved to watch Twin Peaks."
The band's last major-label recording, 2005's Pretty in Black, was pure girl-group pop featuring lush harmonies, lots of whoa-oh-ohs (some provided by the Ronettes' Ronnie Spector) and even a cover of "My Boyfriend's Back." The follow-up, Lust Lust Lust, was a symphony of beautiful distant harmonies awash in fuzzy guitar — "We'd love to be on the radio as much as possible," Foo says, "but they tell us: too much distortion, too much fuzz." Their 2009 album, In and Out of Control, lost some of the fuzz but found their topics getting darker even as their pop got catchier and prettier. "Bang!" was a paean to an S&M beating and had a bubble-gum chorus ("Kids wanna bop, out in the streets!/Fu-fu-fun, all summer long!") while "Last Dance" was a fetishistic love song about drug addiction ("And every time you overdose/I rush to intensive care/If this is the last dance, if this is the last dance/Then save it for me, baby").
Each Raveonettes album has been quite different than the last, which has upset a few fans — and that's not even counting the band's faithful single release of "The Christmas Song," which was used not only on the teen-soap The O.C. but also in a Radio Shack commercial.
"We're not a buzz band; we're not in fashion and not a fad," Foo explains. "We can reach a lot of demographics. I like that people in their sixties come up to us and tell us it reminds them of music when they were young, and still kids really like it too."
The Raveonettes haven't been to New Orleans for several years. "That's one of the places we're looking forward to going; we haven't been there for a long time," Foo says. "It's so eerie and weird. I love walking around looking at the architecture. It's got a very strong personality as a city. You can't say that about every city in the U.S. we go to."
Foo is less certain whether New Orleans likes the band back, though. "I hope we have a lot of fans down there and sell a lot of tickets," she says. "But even if we just sell 20 tickets, we'll still put on a great show for you."