NEW YORK — The Raveonettes, a fairly fabulous new Danish band that's currently the object of much music-biz buzz, played a brief showcase set at the Mercury Lounge on Monday night, for a roomful of A&R and promo guys from Columbia Records, which recently signed the group. (Their debut EP, Whip It On, has just been released here on an indie label, the Orchard.)
The four-piece band opened in its usual fashion, with a barrage of undifferentiated guitar noise, over which the core duo of Sune Rose Wagner and Sharin Foo delicately harmonized the old Buddy Holly hit "Everyday." Nobody'd ever heard anything quite like this — and biz vets like these have heard just about everything, believe me. By the time the band started whomping out its own material, the hype-hardened crowd was all but dancing in place. That's how good the Raveonettes are.
Okay, label staffers are paid to demonstrate enthusiasm for newly signed acts. But a much broader, nationwide excitement about this distinctive group seems very likely. Its richly melodic songs and relentless, punk-beat rhythms demonstrate a deep connection to rock and roll in all its forms, from Everly Brothers harmonies and rockabilly propulsion to surf-guitar flourishes and grand echoes of the old Phil Spector "wall of sound." Layered with the aforementioned squalling guitar noise, the result of all this stylistic interplay is completely here-and-now.
Guitarist Wagner, who writes the songs and brings the noise, has in the past spent considerable time living in New York and Los Angeles, where he failed to find players who shared his unique musical vision. There are no monster riffs in his songs, and there's very little room for guitar solos. In addition, each batch of his tunes is written in some strange key (B-flat minor on the EP, glorious B-flat major on the upcoming Raveonettes album).
Returning to Copenhagen, Wagner hooked up with Sharin Foo, whose honeyed voice melded perfectly with his more assertive leads. (Foo, a Scandinavian blonde in the classic, sent-from-heaven mold, is part Chinese; her grandfather opened Denmark's first Chinese restaurant.) Although she was strictly a singer, not an instrumentalist, Sharin was encouraged by Wagner to take up the bass. His songs, he explained, were built on simple chord progressions; she could probably master them pretty easily. And she did.
Wagner and Foo laid down the eight tracks that would become the Whip It On EP in his bedroom, on a computer equipped with a Pro Tools recording program. As you can now hear, each song is in the two- to three-minute range, and each one sounds like a classic, driving-around radio hit. You must check this out for yourself.
Having just wrapped up their debut album with producer Richard Gottehrer (famed for his '80s work with Blondie and the Go-Go's), the Raveonettes have now returned to London, where Wagner and Foo both live. They'll be back in the new year for a CMJ tour with the Mooney Suzuki (which should be a great garage-stomp show). The album'll be out in the spring. You'll be hearing more, for sure.
-- Kurt Loder