Review Summary: Decidedly modern music with a songwriting heart firmly aligned with their retro predecessors.
With track titles like “Gone Forever,” “Suicide” and “Oh, I Buried You Today,” fans of the Raveonettes could be forgiven for thinking the Danish duo of Sune Rose Wagner and Sharin Foo had a bad year after the release of 2008’s Lust Lust Lust. It only takes about forty-five seconds into opener “Bang” for those concerns to vanish, however, about when Foo’s pixie-ish vocals declare “kids wanna bop, out in the street / fa-fa-fun all summer long” as the power chords reach sugar overload. Of course, the palpable sense of excitement and happiness is obvious from the beginning, as “Bang” is perhaps the Raveonettes most refined, direct stab at blissfully optimistic pop ever. It’s absurdly catchy and the feelings of joy it sends out are practically impossible to ignore, vibes that set the tone for the record to follow.
Lust Lust Lust was an interesting record, one that showcased the Raveonettes’ undeniable ear for a pop hook but tended to suffocate them in waves of the fuzz and distortion the band is known for. In and Out of Control, on the other hand, allows the couple’s golden ears to shine through – from “Bang” to closer “Wine,” it’s an unvarnished look at what the Raveonettes do best. They’ve always taken inspiration from the great power pop groups of the past, from the Go-Go’s to Blondie to Buddy Holly, as their cover of “My Boyfriend’s Back” proudly acknowledged, but with a heavy dose of modern distortion medicine reminiscent of the Jesus and Mary Chain or the Velvet Underground, and In and Out of Control strikes that balance perfectly.
They wear their influences on the sleeve, certainly, but at the same time never allow their own voices to become overwhelmed. “Last Dance” mimics a ‘50s pop-rock torch song you might have heard at your prom, if you were a baby boomer and the house band had somehow gotten their hands on a dozen different distortion pedals. “Heart of Stone” is coated in so much reverb and bouncy echoes that it sounds as if it was recorded through a time warp, but the band wisely allows the song’s signature riff to shine through and the gorgeous melody to remain on top of all the mess. And “Boys Who Rape (Should All Be Destroyed)” will probably be the most straightforward public service announcement you’ll hear all year, not to mention one of the best songs. Cleverly masking some of the most scathing lyrics on the record (side note: In and Out of Control is easily one of the most unlikely records to deserve a Parental Advisory sticker; check out some of these lyrics!) with a charmingly spritely performance by Foo and the kind of infectious chorus that makes the title seem like a love anthem. Wagner’s flawless solo near the end sounds like it was recorded in 1968 and puts just the right touch on a song that defines split personality.
The momentum is sadly stunted, however, with the out-of-place ambient ballad “Oh, I Buried You Today,” which meanders around Foo’s ethereal vocals but never really goes anywhere. Marking the middle of the record, it only emphasizes the album’s top-heaviness, In and Out of Control’s most glaring issue. First single “Suicide” is a highlight, a four-on-the-floor chorus and sparkling guitar work understating perhaps the album’s thesis: “get your foot in this trashy world / empty-hearted bus by your side / lick your lips and *** suicide.” From there to the soothing comedown of “Wine,” it’s a series of songs that are either melodically uninteresting (“D.R.U.G.S.,” “Breaking Into Cars”) or out-of-place filler seemingly included only for the sake of reminding us that, yes, the Raveonettes are still noise rock (“Break Up Girls!”).
Then again, perhaps the second half of the record disappoints because the quality of the first is so high. The Raveonettes have never been wildly popular even among the indie scene, and it’s possible it was due to their earlier inability to decide whether they wanted to be a noise band or a pop duo. But with In and Out of Control, they prove they can have it both ways, making decidedly modern music with a songwriting heart aligned firmly with their retro predecessors. And with three-minute gems like “Bang” and “Suicide,” the Raveonettes have their best shot in years at breaking through.