The Chicagoist will be launching later but in the meantime please enjoy our archives.

The Raveonettes Retro Rock Assault On Chicago

By Eric Hehr in Arts & Entertainment on Jun 24, 2012 9:00PM

The Raveonettes at The Subterranean. Photo by Michael Sullivan.

Black. Lust. Murder. Leather. Reverb. Sunglasses. Drugs. Sex. Crime. Fuzz. Betrayal. Heartbreak. Distortion. The stuff that quality rock ‘n roll mythology is made of, and the kind of stuff that The Raveonettes have sonically and aesthetically spent a decade building a career off of.

The Danish duo, consisting of Sune Rose Wagner and Sharin Foo, released their first EP, Whip It On!, in 2002. Since then, The Raveonettes have incessantly expounded upon their gritty hybrid of golden-age oldies pop sensibility and sinister shoegazer tonality; juxtaposing timeless doo-wop chord progressions and close two part harmonies a la The Everly Brothers with severe electric instrumentation and a shadowy, menacing attitude a la The Velvet Underground and Jesus and The Mary Chain. Beneath the layers of screaming fuzz and intense reverb is a fundamental understanding of rock ‘n roll conventionalism: the look, the sound, and the attitude.

The Raveonettes music has always furthered the continuum of the genre while still adhering to its traditional merits, often times with an almost tongue-in-cheek sense of allegiance; creating ragged, exploitative albums that could double as the soundtrack for a seedy pulp magazine.

Throughout The Raveonettes career - from 2005’s overproduced, glossy Pretty In Black to the self-produced, blown out noise of 2007’s Lust Lust Lust to the polished noise-pop of 2009’s In and Out Of Control to the angsty gothicism of 2011’s Raven In The Grave - Wagner and Foo have paid homage to the dark underbelly of rock ‘n roll and the catchy hooks of pop music; blurring the line between the male/female pop combo susceptibility of Roxette and the chaotic dissonance of My Bloody Valentine, all the while tinkering and experimenting with their animated sound; weaving in and out of 90’s shoegaze, 80’s goth, and 60’s girl groups.

The Raveonettes returned to Chicago last night, playing a sold out show at The Subterranean in Wicker Park as a part of Green Music Fest. Opening the bill was Chicago’s own psychedelic garage rockers, Secret Colours. The pairing was appropriate, given the fact that Secret Colours' impressive discography contains a fair amount of influence from acts such as The Raveonettes, specifically in the guitar tones.

Secret Colours at The Subterranean. Photo by Michael Sullivan.

One of the highlights of Secret Colours set was the vivacious live rendition of “Western,” a spaghetti-western instrumental that contains the kind of heavy genre-orientated tonality that The Raveonettes flirted with on their early albums, such as Chain Gang of Love (2003) and Pretty In Black (2005). The song is driven by guitarist Dave Stach’s haunting, south-of-the-border lead guitar line, which sounds like it fell straight from the fingertips of Sune Wagner himself (or Ennio Morricone for that matter). The sonic sentiment expressed in Secret Colours' songs - such as “Western” - is not far off from the sonic sentiment expressed in Raveonettes songs, such as “Somewhere in Texas.” Both bands also share a common attraction to playfully minimalistic lyrics that are often sexually charged, containing the kind of blunt honesty you could only get away with in a rock ‘n roll song (i.e Secret Colours' "Euphoric Collision" or The Raveonette's "Veronica Fever"). Granted, both bands have their own distinct sound, but in spirit, they are both cut from the same black, leather cloth.

Secret Colours set the tone for the night with their EP3 single, “Faust,” and kept the packed crowd entertained throughout the duration of their set. Perhaps the band was having too good of a time as well, because they tore through their set with rampant energy, ending about 20 minutes shy of their allotted set time. Lead singer, Tommy Evans, filled the remaining minutes by performing an impromptu cover of “Walking With Jesus” by Spaceman 3, getting a few audience members to sing along. By the end of the cover, the whole band had joined back in with Evans, ending both the song and their set with an on-stage synergy that is rarely seen by such a young band.

The Raveonettes at The Subterranean. Photo by Michael Sullivan.

By the time The Raveonettes took the stage, the packed crowd at Subterranean was buzzing with anticipation. When the house lights were killed the crowd erupted into applause, cueing a dense wave of fog to float across the stage. After a few moments, Wagner and Foo - dressed head to toe in black - emerged from the fog with the same theatrical sense of neo-noir presence established by their album covers and music videos.

Joined by a drummer, the three piece created a thick, heavy wall of relentless sound - pulsating 808-drum sounds, vociferous fuzz bass, and reverb soaked guitars. The first half of the set was heavy on recent Raveonettes material - the majority from Raven In The Grave. However, the sedated tempo of the recent minimal-wave Raveonettes material left the audience astray, and when the drummer left the stage to leave Wagner and Foo to perform a few songs as a duo, it didn’t look like the show would ever pick up.

However, when the drummer returned, the night took a vigorous left turn. Dipping into their back catalogue, The Raveonettes fired into a handful of fan favorites, including the retro-infused single, “Attack Of The Ghost Riders.” The set ended with the ominous “Aly, Walk With Me,” which showcased Wagner using every fuzz, distortion, overdrive, reverb, and phaser in his arsenal - testing the limits of The Subterranean house system as Foo held down the solid groove of the cyclical bass line.

Before The Raveonettes left the stage, they announced that they would be back in Chicago in September in support of their upcoming sixth studio album, Observator, and judging by the new material that was performed last night, it’s will be a show that you won't want to miss. Just make sure you bring earplugs.