The great thing about musical influence is that it gives artists the opportunity to put their own spin on the sounds they were inspired by. In the past, The Raveonettes have engulfed their songcraft with sounds forged by the likes of The Velvet Underground and The Cure in a splendidly brazen fashion. This aural sponging was excusable because they could crank out some delightfully morose tunes, but consistently depending on a borrowed sound can only bear fruit for so long. Raven in the Grave is the Swedish duo’s fifth LP, and sees their hazy summer vibes undulate into a scruffier, darker shade of pop. It isn’t especially becoming, as the aesthetic touchups end up feeling like a half-hearted attempt to compensate for the absence of inspired music.
On In and Out of Control, the Raveonettes nimbly balanced sunny melodies and up-tempo arrangements with gloomy, desolate subject matter. There were undertones of menace that gave the band’s music a sense of volatility. On Raven in the Grave vague, cloying couplets stand in for stories of drugs, violence and breaking into cars. “The bliss I feel knowing you’re delirious/Makes me feel oh so imperious” sings Sune Rose Wagner on opener “Recharge and Revolt” (rhyming dictionary in hand). When the lyrics are bad, they’re laughably bad, and some of them are barely discernable over the drone.
There are a few bright spots, however. With sugary vocals that cling to propulsive drums and jangling, sihouetted guitar shapes, “Ignite” is one of the few songs with some teeth, and “Forget That You’re Young” is a giddy rush of vim. Overall, there’s maybe an EP’s worth of passable material here. Most of the tracks are bogged down by overly repetitive song structures and flavourless melodies. On the discordant and aimless “Let Me On Out,” Sharin Foo sounds like she’s fighting a chest cold, and “Summer Moon” is too slight to warrant a spot on even a nine-track album. While static and reverb were used in an auxiliary manner in the past, now they’re further to the forefront, and it’s as if you’re surfing between radio stations with poor signal.
The sound that The Raveonettes have built a career on is beginning to wear from repetitive strain, and it’s rearing its head in an ugly way. Raven in the Grave isn’t significantly weaker than any of its predecessors, its flaws are just significantly more obvious.