“This is Whiplash Rock’n’roll from the Raveonettes” announces the cover of Chain Gang of Love, striking the right note of self-mocking bombast and Girl on a Motorcycle raw cool. The Raveonettes come off like a combination of Brigitte Bardot and the Jesus and Mary Chain: Psychocandy in furs.
Combining neat, clean songs with offhand lyrics, vocal harmonies and an all-important understanding of the profound effects of feedback, Chain Gang of Love whets the appetite for something bigger and more cinematic next. Whilst this is a cracking debut, it is often too whimsical and almost modest. The album is all sparse, organised fuzz and Shangri-la melodies. The sound is heavily engineered, heavy and melancholic. It kicks off breathlessly, ‘Remember’ opening with the line ‘and I never think you’ll get it’, the tune going straight into the vocal hook as if picking up in the middle of a conversation that veers from the profound to the mawkish without skipping a beat.
The album evokes the spirit of the Pixies, Phil Spector, Bo Diddley and the House of Love to create a bastard 50s combination of power and refinement. They then throw twisted leather sex and observational Lou Reed New York cool into the mix, touching base offhand with just about every keynote proponent of thin but layered melody. Tunes evoke particularly White Light/ White Heat Velvets, but without the muscle.
The major issue here is the lack of a killer track. ‘That Great Love Sound’ and ‘The Love Gang’ have great tunes but are just not dirty enough. For all the power chords and close harmonies, the album is pleasant rather than memorable. Interesting, thoughtful, fragile even – just not doing enough to make me not want to return to the brothers Reid to hear it done properly – although any reason to make you dig out your copy of ‘April Skies’ or ‘Sidewalking’ should be celebrated.