Danish retro-rockers The Raveonettes have always been a frustratingly hit-or-miss band. For every triumphant pop record they craft (Lust, Lust, Lust) there’s a misguided clunker (Whip It On) somewhere in their catalog to balance it out. The mix of excellent and unsatisfying has created a decade-long body of work with a wholly uninteresting consensus approval rating, the numerical equivalent of a shrugging, “Yeah, they’re cool.”
And “cool” is a good word for The Raveonettes. They’re hiply dressed, attractive people who take nice photos and brandish spooky light shows on tour. But that cool factor doesn’t change the fact that they create a wildly specific brand of rock ‘n’ roll that will sometimes bore you if your idea of an interesting listening experience is anything that deviates from a broken-record obsession with Velvet Underground-Jesus-and-Mary-Chain-Phil-Spector-fuzz.
It’s perhaps no surprise, then, that the band’s fifth full-length, Raven in the Grave, is a decidedly mixed bag. (Another unsurprising thing worth nothing? The Raveonettes release a new long-player every 1.5-2.5 years like clockwork.) For every inspired, upbeat rocker (“Recharge & Revolt”), there’s a listless foot-dragger (“Summer Moon”). For every throbbing, shot of adrenaline (the aptly-named “Let Me On Out”) that peps things up, a meandering guitar jam (“War in Heaven”) takes the wind out of the album’s sails. Raven in the Grave is consistently inconsistent, just like its makers. But on the upside, The Raveonettes are due for a killer sixth album. At the rate these guys are going, you can count on that year-end contender sometime around November 2012.