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The Raveonettes:: Pretty In Black (Album Review)

For their second full-length album, Pretty In Black, The Raveonettes ditch the Next Wave fuzztone distortion and three-chord Ramones formula of Whip It On and Chain Gang Of Love for a more accessible pop sound. The album opens with an acoustic Elvis-inspired ’50s prom night serenade, “The Heavens,” though their signature dark themes still pervade (see also the suicide caper “Here Comes Mary”). Singer/songwriter/guitarist Sune Rose Wagner and singer (formerly back-up singer/bassist) Sharin Foo trade vocals on “Seductress Of Bums,” which Wagner calls a cross between Beyoncé and Bobby Vinton…uh, yeah. With aspirations of becoming the world’s biggest rock band, it’s no surprise things are toned down here, both musically and lyrically: the profanity is tempered on “Uncertain Times” and the absence of electric guitars leaves much of the album limp (an unfortunately faithful rendition of “My Boyfriend’s Back,” originally written by Raveonettes producer Richard Gottehrer, is just plain flaccid). Rather than achieve their lofty goal by recording an entire album’s worth of buzzing pop/rock confections like 2002’s “Attack Of The Ghost Riders” and 2003’s “That Great Love Sound,” the Copenhagen duo has made the equivalent of Garbage’s poppy beautifulgarbage. Even Wagner’s wartime fears on “Uncertain Times” are retro: “If the atom bomb should end us both/I’ll be happy to go to the stars with you.” It’s not until “Ode To L.A.,” featuring Ronnie Spector, and the ’50s sci-fi meets French techno of “Twilight” that things start sounding remotely (post)modern. (This is the kind of music David Lynch probably listens to while reporting the local weather on his website.) It should be noted that what Pretty In Black lacks in vigor is made up for in variety…now if only they could find a way to fuse the two, maybe The Raveonettes would make an entire album as good as their singles. (Sal Cinquemani)