Best tunes of 2012: #17 The Raveonettes “Curse the night”

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My friend Tim was raving to me about The Raveonettes for a few years before I finally got around to listening to them. I think it was their appearance on some late night television show in 2007 that was the gentle nudge I needed. I couldn’t tell you now which show it was because it was so long ago and I likely only landed on it by happenstance while flipping through channels. I distinctly remember that they performed “Dead sound” and finding myself swooning over their dichotomy of harsh and soft tones. I immediately went out in search of the album on which the song appears and found it on the band’s third album, “Lust lust lust”. So started the love affair that continues to this day.

Sune Rose Wagner and Sharin Foo originally got things going as a duo back in 2001 in Copenhagen, Denmark. They had formed a band around themselves for their first handful of albums but had given all that up by the time I caught up with them, realizing that theirs was the only input they truly required. Their dreamy noise created by a mesh of guitars, synths, and drum machines pulls heavily from the wall of sound ethos, triggering thoughts of The Velvet Underground, Sonic Youth, and the usual pack of 90s shoegazers.

“Curse the night” is track three on The Raveonettes’ sixth album, “Observator”, which was conceived by Wagner in the wake of a bender in Venice Beach, California. The album is so named because the songs draw inspiration from his observations of the people and way of life that he was exposed to while there. Our song today was never released as a single but it stuck out for me immediately upon first listen and was apparently important enough for the band to warrant a music video being filmed for it. You can watch this for yourself below. It takes for its backdrops the empty streets of the duo’s home city and the filming of it in black and white certainly fits the song’s atmospheric and lonely mood (though the ending of video is quite the twist that I’ve never quite sorted out).

“Curse the night” is driven by a slow but insistent and unavoidable beat, virtual drummer boys leading the march. The guitars and washes form a fog that gathers and follows in close behind. The words are sung almost as a ghostly lullaby, twin sirens wailing at the night, Wagner and Foo blending seamlessly at the chorus, voices as one, making Foo’s solo on the verses sound all the more frail, childlike, and alone, perhaps a lost youth, abandoned and forgotten, ruing the cold and darkness and quiet of the late night in the city.

“I cry back, I feel the streets say
I’m holding on, someone else escaped“

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2012 list, click here.


100 best covers: #97 The Raveonettes “My boyfriend’s back”

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In October 2005, a video game called Stubbs the Zombie was unleashed upon the world. Being the world’s sorriest excuse for a gamer, it’s no surprise that I have neither seen nor played this game. (I should like to ask fellow blogger Sarca if she’s played and has thoughts on said game.) I assume it takes for its protagonist a zombie called Stubbs, given its title, but of its plot, I know nothing. I would posit, however, that it takes place in or about the 1950s or 1960s, having listened to its soundtrack. Yes, you heard that right. A soundtrack was made for this game (maybe this is a regular occurrence Sarca?) and it’s the music therein with which I am much more familiar.

Released on the same day as the game, the soundtrack boasts twelve covers of classics from the golden age of rock and roll and an original theme, all by indie artists that were popular in the mid-2000s. We have Cake performing “Strangers in the night”, Death Cab For Cutie doing “Earth angel”, and this lovely take on “My boyfriend’s back” by The Raveonettes.

The original number by The Angels is a bubble gum pop number from 1963 complete with handclaps and cheeky backup singers. It is kind of dark looking at it through today’s PC lenses, the singer threatening a guy with assault at the hands of her rather large boyfriend. It would seem that back in the day this guy would be seen as getting his just desserts since he had first harassed the girl for a date but once rebuffed (several times as it sounds), had spread rumours about her. But it’s all okay, you say, it’s a cheerful and fun song. They’re clapping their hands, fer chrissakes!

But then we listen to The Raveonettes’ cover, which also appears on their album from the same year, “Pretty in black”, and the mood is slightly different. Sure, it’s still boppy but the handclaps are replaced by electronic beats, the guitars are roughed up and raw, and Sharin Foo’s vocals are sassy, channelling Debbie Harry and almost insinuating that she doesn’t really need her boyfriend to defend her. It probably goes without saying that I enjoy this version better with all its noise and angst, while still hinting at the era of soda parlours and poodle dresses, but I can certainly understand any nostalgic bliss directed at the original.

The cover:

The original:

For the rest of the 100 best covers list, click here.