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The Incompetence in Contrasting Happy Music and Depressing Lyrics Award

By Skip Perry | 17 December 2009

The Raveonettes :: In and Out of Control
(Fierce Panda/Vice; 2009)

Cheering up a depressing lyric with a bouncy melody is one of the oldest tricks in the book for a reason: it’s effective. Winsome music can distract from unsavory subject matter at the same time that a sneaky dig or lament adds heft to something whimsical and jaunty. It’s the ultimate indie rock hedge.

But that doesn’t mean that some artists don’t screw it up. Robotic drum machine cadence aside, the Raveonettes’ In and Out of Control mostly recalls post-shoegaze Lush: fuzzy guitars, a mix of sonority and dissonance slanting heavily to the former, and a female vocalist singing about uncomfortable topics. Unfortunately, the Raveonettes are not nearly as smart as Lush. There’s nothing inherently wrong with singing about rape (“Boys Who Rape [Should All Be Destroyed]”) or suicide (“Suicide”), but the in-your-face track titles are just the first hint of the group’s utter lack of nuance. When Morrissey sang about the privilege of getting smashed to bits by a ten-ton truck, or when Liz Phair’s “Fuck and Run” threw in a brutal line about “even when I was twelve,” it made you think. Sharin Foo just makes you cringe with lines like “those FUCKers stay in your head” and “lick your lips and fuck suicide.” For this to work there should be something subtly sinister about the jaunty music and something subtly happy about the lyrical content, and we get neither. Instead, it’s just perky vocals with bland, pretty melodies and occasional moments of emotional gravitas that come off either as glib or as non sequiturs. I’ll “fa fa fa all summer long” to “Bang!” though!