- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 25, 2005

The Raveonettes used to limit their noise-riddled songs to one key, three chords and three minutes. But Saturday night at the Black Cat, the Danish group gets to stress the pop in its garage-pop sound.

“People don’t want to hear 17 noisy songs in a row; that’s just too much,” says Raveonettes frontman and songwriter Sune Rose Wagner on tour in Indianapolis.

Mr. Wagner and singer Sharin Foo have always worn their 1950s noir influences on their black leather sleeves; the songs are even copyright to Juvenile Delinquent Music. So even though the new album, “Pretty in Black” (Columbia), has a clean girl-group sound, it also has the bad boys those girls always end up falling for.

Thanks to veteran producer Richard Gottehrer, Mr. Wagner even got Ronnie Spector to sing her trademark whoa-ho-hos on “Ode to L.A.,” a song whose lovely harmonies invite you to “come along and pay the price.”

“It’s such an evil place to get dragged into if you let yourself go, partywise,” Mr. Wagner says.

In what may be a crime against pop, Miss Spector doesn’t get to sing on a cover of “My Boyfriend’s Back,” although her ex-husband’s trademark “wall of sound” shows up at the end. “We were originally asked to do it for a computer game,” says Mr. Wagner, explaining the song’s robotic new-wave treatment.

“The Heavens” plays like a staticky Sun Records single circa 1955. The hard-driving yet dreamy “Sleepwalking” sounds like New Order meets surf rock, though the strongest track may be “Here Comes Mary,” where the Everly Brothers’ “All I Have To Do Is Dream” gets a dark lyrical makeover.

“I don’t want to be just total retro. … The music needs a twist,” Mr. Wagner explains.

Velvet Underground drummer Maureen Tucker adds her trademark sound to a few tracks, notably “Red Tan.” (Miss Foo, by the way, could probably do a passable Nico if they ever cover “I’ll Be Your Mirror.”)

Live, the Raveonettes probably will revert to their noisy selves, at least when they reach for the earlier songs. In addition to older songs such as “Attack of the Ghost Riders,” Mr. Wagner says, they’ll probably start playing Buddy Holly’s “Everyday” again live. “And ‘My Boyfriend’s Back,’ obviously, and we do Eddie Cochran’s ‘C’mon Everybody.’ ” Miss Spector and Miss Tucker will also be onstage, sort of. “We have all the samples and weird sounds on tape.”

Speaking of weird sounds, Mr. Wagner puts out a tentative idea: “Let’s get other people for the next record; let’s get Lou Reed and Darlene Love.”

• • •

For a bunch of suburban Chicago kids, the Redwalls can sound an awful lot like the Beatles (early and late), with one notable difference: “We can play everything we’ve ever written live,” says singer-guitarist Justin Baren from his Chicago home. They play Sunday night at the Rams Head Tavern in Annapolis.

“That’s probably the most recognizable thing, so that’s what people like to say,” Mr. Baren says of the Beatles influence. Maybe, but it’s eerie how Justin and older brother Logan (the band elder at age 22) can give off such an energetic Lennon-McCartney vibe throughout the quartet’s second album, “De Nova,” which is released next month on Capitol Records (yes, the Beatles’ label).

“Rock & Roll” perfectly captures the “Roll Over Beethoven” era in under two minutes, and even the vocals are distorted and lo-fi enough to give the feel of a grubby Liverpudlian club. “Back Together” finds Justin doing a perfect Lennon sneer amid power chords and drums. (Ironically, there’s little Led Zeppelin here despite songs on the album titled “Rock & Roll” and “Thank You.”)

Other classic-rock influences creep into “Robinson Crusoe” in the foarm of a T-Rex guitar vamp, and a lethargic Band rhythm on “Build a Bridge” gives way to gospel organ and harmony vocals that recall the Guess Who’s “Share The Land.” “It’s Alright” pays a quick lyrical homage to “Gloria,” perhaps because garage legends the Shadows of Knight started at a nearby suburban high school.

The closer “Glory of War” is a sparse antiwar song in the Neil Young vein, while the angry-yet-thoughtful anti-FCC song “Falling Down” has a jerky Rolling Stones rhythm. (Mr. Baren sardonically notes that the latter song earned them a parental-advisory sticker.)

Both songs suggest a rather old-soul outlook for such a young group, as does Mr. Baren’s matter-of-fact take on the music business:

“The funny thing about goals: You have a goal to go on tour, you have a goal to be signed, but after you reach that goal, it doesn’t seem like a whole lot. You’re already on to the next goal. … You never really get the chance to look back.

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