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The Raveonettes – Pretty in Black (Columbia)

The new Raveonettes album is a result of singer/guitarists Sune Rose Wagner and Sharin Foo throwing out the rules of the distortion happy “Chain Gang of Love” and the film noir garage rock of “Whip it On,” on which they only used three chords in B-flat major and B-flat minor (respectively). The noisy distortion and fuzz-filled bass lines have been noticeably replaced by acoustic and twangy surf guitars.”Pretty In Black” is a more varied and ambitious work of alternating male-female harmonies (Seductress of Bums) that go from hypnotically dreamy surf punk jams (Sleepwalking, Twilight) to nostalgic balladry (If I Was Young, The Heavens).

“Love In A Trashcan” is a hook-filled, rockabilly style jam written about girls going after guys in bands. “Somewhere in Texas” is a memorable and dramatic song that recalls a spaghetti western movie. “You Say You Lie” follows in a similar manner with more emphasis on surf guitar solos. Sharin Foo takes a more prominent role on “Pretty in Black” than on the previous releases. On “Ode to LA,” Foo’s sweetly delicate lead vocals are accompanied by Ronnie Spector’s distinctive voice to produce a shimmering and memorable tribute to ’60’s girl groups. There’s even an amusingly low-key take on “My Boyfriend’s Back,” which was written by the band’s co-producer Richard Gottehrer for the Angels in 1963. The Raveonettes’ version is backed by a drum machine to produce a poppy new wave sound to go with their own trademark girl group nostalgia.

“Uncertain Times” begins with delicately pretty acoustic guitars, and builds from Wagner’s poignant lyrics and wistful vocals with soaring guitars. “Here Comes Mary” is largely based on the Everly Brothers “All I Have to Do Is Dream” and takes a minor key turn to match the track’s haunting theme of suicide. “Red Tan” opens with the heavy staccato drumming of the Velvet Underground’s Moe Tucker and then rolls along in signature Raveonettes nostalgia fashion with summer-themed lyrics and Phil Spector style sleigh bells. That’s not all for guest performers, also featured on the album is Martin Rev, keyboardist of the pioneering electro proto-punk duo Suicide, who plays on “Uncertain Times,” “You Say You Lie,” and “Here Comes Mary.”

With all the guest appearances and combinations of styles from all different eras, the Raveonettes still manage to sound fresh and original. Some might complain that they’ve lost the garage rock edge that they had on “Whip It On” or that they’ve become overly obsessed with those ’50’s & ’60’s styles that most bands no longer care about resurrecting. Sune Rose Wagner and Sharin Foo (and company) are merely producing more listenable and catchy music that happens to wear their influences on their sleeves.

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