The Raveonettes & Razorlight
28 October 2003, Manchester Academy 3
It frankly isn't easy to go out into a dark and wet Tuesday night in October, for the fifty minute drive down to Manchester, to see a band you've seen already, only a few months before. I did have doubts. One was some of the sound from last time. It was unrelenting and featured some military-standard feedback notes. I did buy the albums, but in a way it's the idea of their 'thing' which is more appealling than the reality, which can seem a little unvarying on record. But. I remembered the rest of that experience, the warm enveloping fuzz wrapping itself around me. Uh this is beginning to sound like a back-to-the-womb thing, but it is addictive.
Oh by the way I apologise about these rubbish photos. I got one or two nice ones before and I guess that made me complacent. Maybe the light was different, I dunno. Think of them as 'mood' pictures.
I came in before the second act in the line up, Razorlight. Boxer Rebellion were supposed to be on but one of them had had an accident. I hadn't heard of them and I hadn't heard of Razorlight either. They've been going a couple of years, a couple of singles and no album as yet, but it looks like they're getting record company encouragement.The why of that is probably lead singer Johnny Borrell. You'll find tales on their websites about him toting around a lyric book, and it does show, in some unusually literate - though not too wordy - songs, convincingly out of his head. He did feel forced to introduce some of them, not very clearly, which was odd when the songs themselves were perfectly expressive. We got a long tale with one of them to do with a house being demolished I think it was, it was complicated, but what followed was actually pretty impressive. He projects very well, though maybe overdoes the hands-around-the-face stuff (worrying reminders of PJ Proby and Alvin Stardust), but he already has a strong voice. And some decent songs. They're a funny bunch, hairstyles ranging from shaven through Steve McQueen brutal via shoulder length to long flowing locks, straight out of a Garnier Fructis ad. And that guitarist (the Steve McQueen guy, on the left above), an engaging guy, committed to his craft - but your 'aah-ing', mate, it's scary, I'd kind of want to warn off any small children. Promising. I'd say, if you spot them on a bill anytime soon, get in there early and see them.
Stupid rock clichés which make you shake your head and sigh Number 17:- Coming on dressed up with some ludicrous impractical encumbrance which quickly gets discarded. In this case this was the otherwise thoroughly estimable Johnny Borrell who for a minute or less had this huge Dr Who-style/boa constrictor of an orange scarf around his neck and much of his head. Mind you, The Raveonettes dressed up, in uniform, which was a novelty to me.They were all (well, the three front people) in burgundy(?) shirts which added to the abstraction of the performance.
Performance; yeah, I feel at times they're trying to construct an art piece as much as anything. There's all that stuff about the key - the Whip It On album was recorded in "glorious" B flat minor, while the new one, Chain Gang of Love, delights in B flat major. Well I don't know about the key, but I will say that there's much more going on in the new songs, some very complex layered treatment. Uncompromising; as before there was this sound sculpture being thrown around us but the elements - voice, guitar, feedback etc - were much better balanced. On a medical note, I'd inadvertantly found myself much nearer the speakers than I'd intended but when I found they'd left the surgical instruments back at home I was happy to stay there.
On the bottom layer there are these perfect pastiches of Sixties pop ballads, sung with angst or passion or plain sexy breathiness. Okay I do have Sharin in mind. In fact she was much more in evidence in this show than before, both in the singing and in talking to us. One comment she imparted was that "In the States, they think this song is called 'Little Angel', but we know better"; yes, that's the one called Little Animal, in which a classic sounding teen pop song delivers to us an unmistakeable four-letter lyric at the end of each verse.
One song was dedicated to Johnny Cash. What Johnny would have thought of it all boggles the mind. Another song got sung with beer poised by arm crooked over the microphone (left - later in that song). Sune is cool or reserved and doesn't say much to us. I don't think the glass of beer thrown over him late on was called for (see note about the idiots, below). But he performed well and I hope isn't offput from their next appearance here - supporting The Cooper Temple Clause(?). This show has tipped my mind, into wanting to see that.
I'd like to see them open up, relax from this Dogme attitude or whatever it is. I heard some very interesting things going on in some songs, which I didn't pick up on in the album. There are more good things to come I'm sure. But I sort of hope they don't include deconstruction of actual Sixties rock'n'roll numbers, like we had here with Eddie Cochrane's C'mon Everybody.It wasn't just that you'd never have recognised it without hearing the song title at intervals; while I respect their artistic right to have a go at something like this, for me it was the wrong thing to do to that particular song, especially when they're so eminently capable of writing their own authentic material. Which really does work better.
Stupid rock clichés which make you shake your head and sigh Number 31:- Swearing at the audience. Blimey. It just goes to show, you can all be in the same place at the same time and have a completely different experience. I really don't know what was going on over on the other side at the front, but first I saw Mr Guitarist mouth some Anglo-Saxon at somebody, and then when they finally went off, deliver two fingers - well, one finger on each hand, so it wasn't the complete Anglo-Saxon experience (funny how foreigners never pick up on our two fingered effort). Sune still came back and gave us an oddly meek little smile and wave, so... maybe the other guy reckoned it hadn't been quite gritty enough.
Stupid rock clichés which make you shake your head and sigh Number 1:- Encores. Okay, this isn't just a rock thing, but anyway. What the hell are they for, really? I can see they have a place in entertainment generally, and with a lot of rock acts even, but not something like this.When you've been painting the environment with a very special sound,you then go off in totally non-spontaneous fashion and you wrench the audience, or those who have really got into what you're doing, into a totally different place. When they came back on Sharin made a comment about being sorry about it being boring...? What did that mean? Was it simply self-deprecating? Ironic? We knew there had to be an encore because Attack of the Ghost Riders was only out earlier this year and they hadn't played it yet. But honestly, The Raveonettes don't need this convention. Come on guys, why not finish the thing and leave it there?
So. I wasn't bored. I know that the guys and gal are an acquired taste for a lot of people (sadly, it never even entered my head to try and gather a gang for this one) but they repay listening. And live, it's a massive acid-stripping experience. I guess they'll only ever be for the puritans amongst us but I'm glad there are at least some dedicated individuals doing this. I know my hearing will need attention slightly sooner than I'd have liked, but... many thanks.
Here is Razorlight's official site. It has all the usual features supported by souped up code, which as here tends to mean smallish windows and rather slight advertising-blurb style writing. I note there's an invitation to join their street team. I'm not going to mock that entirely, after all I had a curious dabble myself, but I would have to warn them that while it's great for kids, it's not really very cool in a rock stylee. Hmm and that's a pretty uncool expression by itself. Whatever: here's another site, a fansite, which is very good and full of useful content.