Exactly why the Scandinavians have rocketed past the Brits in recent years as purveyors of supercharged, edgy rock isn't exactly clear. In-depth analysis tends to get bogged down right at the off, when whoever first mentions Abba gets clobbered by a comment about long cold winter nights and high suicide rates. I tend to settle for the pragmatic observation that bands like the Wannadies, Motorpsycho and Grass Show know how to rock in weird ways but aren't ashamed of showing their love for the music's rich historical tapestry.
The result, and it's there in spades in Lust Lust Lust (L3 in aficionargot), is music that instantly engages the feet and fingertips, but then, as it seeps in with repeated plays, reveals hidden depths, subtle layers and quirky textures.
This is the Danish duo's fourth album (if you count 2002's eight-song debut, Whip It On, as an album). It's also, after five years with Sony, the band's first indie-label offering — a move occasioned, say the band, by a desire to exercise more control over their music.
There's no denying that Lust Lust Lust is a gutsier outing than its 2005 predecessor, Pretty in Black. With mainman Sune Wagner now in charge of production as well as songwriting, they've restored the swirling, frenzied miasma of repressed rage and sexuality that made their exhilarating debut so vital. Five years, however, have come and gone since then, so Lust Lust Lust also benefits from Wagner's increasing skill as an arranger and Sharin Foo's enhanced confidence as a vocalist.
The twelve tracks here are said to have been selected from 100 demos Wagner came up with in the past two years and, if the other 88 are even in the same ballpark, he can now take a break from songwriting for another eight albums.
The band sets out its stall from the opening track whose title, "Aly Walk With Me," is an undisguised reference to David Lynch's Twin Peaks movie, Fire Walk With Me. As soon as its opening vibraslap hit melts into a filthy sludged-up bassline (underpinned by a rattly line of distortion that any self-respecting engineer would eradicate), you know you're off on a wrong turn, headed for a backwoods shack with blood-rusted chainsaws propped against the rocking chairs on the porch. Indoors, an inbred family waits to welcome you for dinner. Their dinner.
As in any classic horror movie, once you're into Lust Lust Lust, there's no turning back. Logic tells you not to open that locked door down the hall, not to go down those creaky stairs, not to prise up the lid of that man-sized box on the table, but how can you not? Just when you expect the monster to jump out, the Raveonettes hit you instead with the cute Tommy James and the Shondells bassline of "Hallucinations," combining the pop smarts of "I Think We're Alone Now" with the acid-fried pyrotechnics of "Crimson and Clover" before lurching into a nastily overdriven guitar jangle. The track is nailed shut by a percussive thwack, reminiscent of a crowbar attempting to pound an oil-drum full of bolts down to the size of a sardine tin.
All of this, of course, is just the top layer — the sonics. It's when the lyrics start to register that the album assumes its darkest aspect. Is Foo really singing, “In this dream I call life I get so lonesome with you,” in the sweet-sounding "Hallucination"? Yes, she is, and the lyrics become progressively more despondent until she delivers the closing track's poignant couplet: “The first love you can't escape, the second love feels like rape.”
One obvious point of comparison is the Jesus and Mary Chain's classic Psychocandy but, for me, this is the better-constructed album of the two. Wagner's huge slabs of furnace-hot guitar distortion, for example, are always placed for maximum impact, while Foo's erotically wacked-out under-emoting vocals float free over riffs that evoke everything from Phil Spector in "Black Satin" to Eddie Cochran in the zip-along "Blitzed." (To hear Foo at her dreamiest, check her achingly forlorn multi-tracked vocal harmony on "Sad Transmission"). The poptastic "You Want the Candy" is particularly intriguing, being an obvious answer-song to "I Want Candy," a '60s smash for the Strangeloves, written by the Raveonettes'former producer Richard Gottehrer. Are they trying to say they still harbour a sneaking affection for him?
Despite the lack of live drums and bass (they're both computer-generated) Lust Lust Lust feels remarkably alive, with only the awkward drum-pattern of the closing "The Beat Dies" taking a while to settle in comfortably. In the fullness of time, this album may well be remembered as their first truly great moment, the point where the Raveonettes and their myriad influences merged seamlessly into a perfect unity.