The Raveonettes and Rae Spoon have something in common. They are both steeped in nostalgia. Trans dude Spoon echoes the early country/folk traditions of Woody Guthrie and Hank Williams with a brash splash of Brenda Lee (Spoon belts it with a squint in his eye and a blade of Alberta grass on his tongue). Sune Rose Wagner and Sharin Foo of The Raveonettes can’t get enough of Phil Spector (and all those lovelorn, beehive- topped, screaming girl groups of the 1960s) and The Everly Brothers’ magical mysterious harmonies.
What makes both of these new releases work so well is that the love of the music shines through. Humour is injected into the deep moody melodies. The albums don’t try hard. They both seem to be a cosmic occurrence (for some that might be a shortcoming). Sure there’s nothing new going on. And yes, you’ve heard it all before. But as the house-slipper wearin’ camp poet Rod McKuen would always say, “Listen to the warm.”
Twenty-two-year-old Albertan Rae Spoon’s third release, Your Trailer Door, is an engaging trip through the big cities, small towns and the humble sexy brain of its star. With his banjo, harmonica and guitar in tow and the help of west coast musician friends (including Aaron Joyce, Diona Davies, Allison Russell and Awna Teixeira), Spoon is a joy to behold. He writes and produces simple songs with simple emotions. He doesn’t have to purdy them up with high falutin’ production values.
On the title song Spoon plays a spirited banjo and sings for his supper. “Bring my heart back/ Bring my heart back/ I’m waiting,” he bawls. “Dead To Me” just may be the saddest campfire song you ever did hear. Spoon sings of love gone bad. Real bad. “Room without heat/ Room without heat/ I’ve decided you’re going to come back to me,” sings the ever-optimistic Spoon.
“Long Road To Nowhere” is Spoon’s crowning achievement. There’s a sexy swagger to this tune (reminiscent of Les Paul and Mary Ford’s dreamy “Smoke Rings”). Aaron Joyce’s brilliant flirty lap steel work plays off of Spoon’s love-crazed matter-of-fact twang. Shelley Okepnak’s drumbeats play the role of Spoon’s fearless heart and coax him through the melody and the tactual emotion. Spoon has a kd lang power in his voice. He hits a note and it flies out of the ballpark. “If you were a grain elevator in my wheat-dependent town/ I’d work all year to fill you up/ I wouldn’t let you down.” The best song I’ve heard so far this year (Amerie’s “1 Thing” is a close second). Astonishing.
Danish retro rockers The Raveonettes’ third release, Pretty In Black, is a lovely crêpe paper box filled with dark bloody valentines. It’s poppier and not as fuzzed up as 2002’s Whip It On or 2003’s beatnik cool The Chain Gang Of Love. But it’s just as revved up in its “leather and lace” production. The male/female harmonies (that recall X’s John Doe and Exene Cervenka) give the album an ambisextrous jolt. Wagner and Foo are packin’ heat.
The amusingly titled “Seductress Of Bums” steals blatantly from the Spector-produced “I Love How You Love Me” (sung by The Paris Sisters). It’s a drunken waltz on a creaky old carousel as Wagner sings, “I love when you squeeze me/ And teach me right.” Foo enters with a chorus so ghostly and kitten-with-a-whip sexy. “Too young to know/ Nightmares of you,” she purrs.
“Love In A Trashcan” has top 10 all over it (1967 top 10 that is). The tiki/surf guitars dry hump the delicious pouty boi/grrrl harmonies. “If you touch that girl you know it’s okay/ People say she’s a whore anyway.” On “Uncertain Times,” castanets, guitars and bass slowly travel among Wagner and Foo’s desert-dry, yet richly romantic proclamations. “And if the atom bomb should end us both/ I’ll be happy to go to the stars with you.”
The Raveonettes are now a band of five and this gives the new album a playful jolt. Richard Gottehrer and Sune Rose Wagner produced the album. They make sure every song drips camp blood. They steal sounds and melodies with great aplomb (everything sounds oddly familiar). Just listen to “Here Comes Mary” and try not to think of The Everly Brothers classic “All I Have To Do Is Dream.” You can’t. They even do a sweet cover of the classic ’60s ditty “My Boyfriend’s Back.”
An inspired list of guests include The Velvet Underground’s drummer Moe Tucker and The Ronette’s Ronnie Spector. It’s a nice respectful touch. Wagner and Foo aren’t biting the hands that feed them; they’re kissing, caressing and licking them. They may even pay for dinner.
YOUR TRAILER DOOR.
PRETTY IN BLACK.