The Raveonettes have been doing this modern day Lou Reed/Nico-meets-Shangri-Las-meets-1991-shoegaze thing for over a decade now, and despite them now being one of those ‘Are they still going?’ bands with their chart bothering days (well, top 75 days) firmly behind them (apart from in their Danish homeland where they continue to be a top 10 concern), they continue releasing records - surprisingly, Pe’ahi is their seventh.
2005’s Pretty In Black album and accompanying single “Love In A Trashcan” both remain career high points, and it’s a template that has been steadfastly adhered to ever since. The only real deviation from the kohl smeared glamour, surf twang riffs, Jesus and Mary Chain white noise and girl group pop was their much maligned and under-rated 2009 album, In And Out Of Control, a long player packed with candy coated razor blades. Removing the disaffected fuzz of previous material showed a band capable of hiding their usual subjects of sex, drugs and death amongst joyous pop. See “Bang” from that album, the encapsulation of a sun drenched day, using the teeth aching sweetness of “Sugar Sugar” by The Archies to mask a chorus of “Kids wanna fuck, out in the streets, fa fun fun, all summer long”.
Since then, their subsequent albums (2011’s Raven in the Grave and Observator just a year later) have continued in a similar vein to a collective feeling of ennui, so this latest record sees them marking a return to the sound of their earlier material. Named after a Hawaiian hot spot for surfers, appropriate considering their predilection for 1960’s surfer sounds, Pe’ahi ditches their 60’s girl band aspirations and steps away from unpure pop to revisit the C86 fizz and Mary Chain clutter of earlier material. By cranking up the noise, they come up with their most abrasive sounding release since 2007’s Lust Lust Lust.
It’s a move that provides some worthy additions to their canon; “Sisters” and “Z-Boys” are forlorn moments of brutal beauty, some of their most upfront pieces of music to date which combine aggression with pretty melancholy. The trip hop beats of “Wake Me Up” are accompanied with dramatic sweeps of orchestration and some of Sharin Foo’s sweetest vocals to date, whilst the dazed and glitchy “When the Night is Almost Done” is a reverbed seeped epic moment which covers all of the usual typical topics with just one couplet: “When the love dies/do we die too? I wasted my time with you tonight/I wish I could see behind your eyes”.
When Sune Rose Wagner (who does everything here, bar Foo’s bits) collaborated with fellow Dane Trentemøller last year on an overblown Middle Eastern piece of electronica called “Deceive”, the possibility of new material going down this route was exciting prospect, especially with it perfectly complimenting his feminine breathy coos. Unfortunately there’s none of that here, they made another Raveonettes album, and that’s all Pe’Ahi is. If you’re already a fan, then you might find this is all you require of them, but if you expect a band this far down the line to be taking a few more risks, Pe-Ahi, despite being entertaining, cries out for something we haven’t heard from them before.