The Raveonettes The RaveonettesObservator
“Raven In The Grave” was an odd album. Its reception was lukewarm, but it did showcase a daring The Raveonettes, moving away from the direct songs of “In And Out Of Control” and sounding much darker, denser and cinematic. It wasn't exactly a reinvention, but it was a step forward, avoiding the beaten path. For their new effort, “Observator”, Sune Rose Wagner wanted to capture the spirit of the West Coast, tired of the hustle and bustle of New York, his home for the past few years. At the same time, he suffered a back injury, which had him in pain, deeply depressed, and addicted to alcohol and benzodiazepines. So he went to Venice Beach, near where Sharin Foo lived, but the results weren't as he'd expected. Over time, the Dane saw the light at the end of the tunnel, and he decided to go ahead with the record. He called his old friend Richard Gottehrer, with whom he hadn't worked since “Pretty In Black”, seven years ago. This gave the duo the confidence they needed to finish the job in just seven days, at the Sunset Sound Studios, a choice that resulted from Wagner's obsession at the time with The Doors (he feels the band recorded their best work there).
Like its predecessor, “Observator” leaves mixed feelings. It's even less dark, but there still aren't the instant hits they used to put on their albums (no trace of a whirlwind track like “Recharge & Revolt”). We have to wait until halfway through the album, for “Sinking With The Sun”, before we hear The Raveonettes bright and energetic, on a piece that openly embraces the C86 sound. They take this musical discourse to the extreme on the candid “Downtown”, which will appeal to the fans of The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart's debut. And they finish the album with the marvellous “Till The End”, which surprises, coming from such a dark place. They're pieces that will keep their all-time fans happy, but the really interesting stuff is in the mid-tempos. That's where we find the surprises, after ten years in the running: the piano, an instrument they had never used before. It's first featured on “Observations”, but don't think the result is schmaltzy. In the hands of the Danes, the instrument becomes yet another means to bless the songs with a certain lugubrious tone, which becomes a fatal combo in the company of lyrics like “to live like other people I never think I’ll do / And so my love I give into this dark”. It also plays on the acoustic “Young And Cold”, the track that sounds the least like the band's usual repertoire, embracing a very West Coast-like sound. You can hear it was conceived in those days of depression and drunkenness, as the guitar vaguely sounds like folk, though the characteristic vibration of their pieces is still there. And the tragic piano of “You Hit Me (I’m Down)” forms a counterpoint to the garage guitar, stressing the fact, once more, that they will never forget about The Jesus & Mary Chain.
Some might miss a real single on “Observator”, and it may lack noise and a certain kind of bad blood; elements that could be found, in bigger or smaller measures, on their previous efforts. On the other hand, it's a varied album, in the sense that it dares to go beyond the limits of fuzz-pop, their comfort zone. It’s evocative, thanks to beautiful ballads like “Curse The Night” (one of the highlights on the LP, where Sharin and Sune's voices best go together) and dream-pop lullabies like “The Enemy”. Furthermore, it's pleasant and flowing enough to not let the 34 minutes of duration turn against them, making you want to play the record again. That is, of course, if you're already a fan. At this point, they're not going to win over any new ones.