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Buy the Raveonettes' debut album 'Whip It On.'

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Double Your Pleasure: Sharin Foo and Sune Rose Wagner of the Raveonettes break on through.

Raveon D'etre

Three chords never sounded so good--the peculiar attraction of the Raveonettes

By Michael Alan Goldberg

IT WAS December of 2001 that the Raveonettes took a vow of chastity. But don't shed any tears for this Danish duo--they're not quite so deprived. At least not in that way.

Rather, in recording their debut album, Whip It On, Sune Rose Wagner and Sharin Foo took their creative cues from Denmark's Dogme 95 film collective (of which Dancer in the Dark director Lars von Trier is the most prominent member) and its infamous "Vow of Chastity," a strict set of rules governing the filmmaking process. Only hand-held cameras and natural light can be used; no superficial action is allowed. The rules are meant to foster originality and raw truth. Likewise, the Raveonettes' studio game plan was about as inflexible as Tony Soprano at a yoga class.

"We were like, OK, all the songs have to be in the same key; they can only have three chords; they can't be longer than three minutes; and we can't use high-hats or ride cymbals," says singer/bassist Foo. "You have to challenge yourself and go beyond the traditional rock setting if you want to make something interesting."

Well, even if that approach plants them in the same monochromatic neighborhood as the Ramones and AC/DC, the Raveonettes' Land of B-flat Minor proves to be a pretty fascinating locale. Actually, Whip It On is like a recklessly fast ride through some sketchy industrial section of town at 3am in the back seat of a muscle car driven by a drunk and deranged Dennis Hopper.

Wagner's burning guitar riffs--demented fuzz-and-reverb psychobilly one minute, dissonant feedback squalls the next--lurch forward with the aid of murky drum-machine beats and Foo's melodic low-end grooves, a stylish and propulsive combination that imagines the Cramps, Girls Against Boys and Sonic Youth at a 1964 Black Rebel Motorcycle Club convention. And above this tense sonic maelstrom, the duo's anodyne harmonies hover in cool contrast. More Reid and Sandoval than Lux and Poison Ivy, Wagner and Foo offer lyrics drenched with the type of tawdry thrills that have fueled decades of B-movies and trashy dime-store novels.

Released in Europe last year, Whip It On wasn't an instant hit with the hometown crowd.

"People didn't like it at all when it came out," she laughs. "But I'm patient with the Danes because we're always a bit behind. Now we're back to simple rock & roll again, but I guess at the time they were still in that emotional Coldplay phase."

Of course, the whole "New Garage" thing has been as much of a curse as a blessing for the Raveonettes. Yeah, it helped them get a U.S. record deal, a huge lift from major media outlets and some choice stateside tours with Interpol and, currently, the Mooney Suzuki. But they've also been slagged as photogenic Scandinavian trend hoppers who rate style over substance. And as a male/female duo who appear to be a couple (they're not), with recording philosophies and pulp imagery that toe the gimmick line, it's hardly a surprise they've garnered comparisons to a certain Detroit-area two-piece outfit.

"It's just people simplifying things," Foo sighs. "That's the thing about this new revitalization of rock & roll--people are already getting fed up with it. But, I dunno, we're not so worried, because we just write really good songs, and that will always count in the long run. One day, people won't have to put associations with us, because they'll know who we are and what we stand for."

Many bands have proven that self-confidence and stubborn adherence to a musical vision can add up to long-term survival and success. But Foo admits that in the name of growth, she and Wagner will alter their vows. Slightly.

"We just finished our next album, which is all songs in B-flat major," she smiles. "A whole new side of the Raveonettes!"


The Raveonettes, The Mooney Suzuki, White Light Motorcade and Longwave play Sunday (April 6) at 7pm in the Basement, located inside Benson Center at Santa Clara University. Tickets are $5. For more information, call KSCU at 408.554.KSCU.


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From the April 3-9, 2003 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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