The Raveonettes & Stellastarr*
8 May 2003, Manchester Academy 3
At the Academy 3, otherwise known as the Hop and Grape, all rather fancy for what is just the upstairs bar and the smallest of the university's venues. But I like it, the low ceiling atmosphere, and it isn't too small. Stellastarr* (above) were already into their set when I arrived, but I heard six or seven numbers. They come well-recommended by various sources so I wanted to hear this. Especially since I've been unable to turn up any cd product.
For me, their guitarist is the main reason to see this band, he's accomplished. Even if what he does is often at floor level. The lead singer is pretty charismatic and it's only a personal thing that I don't yet go for his singing style (ah well he probably doesn't go for mine), it's too mannered for my tastes. It's fine for in-your-face indieness, but he'll find it limited when they develop their material. Good, varied songs; seeing them has sold me their record. When I can find any such. Oh, and the bass player is quite fit. She does a great yelp. As featured on Jennie, which they finished off their set with. It's sort of their signature number. Go see them, they're great value live.
Main band were The Raveonettes. I thought they were Finnish for some reason but they turn out to be Danish. No, that isn't 'virtually the same'. There were a couple of other unexpected features. One is their appearance. 'They' are duo Sune Rose Wagner (left below) and Sharin Foo (and right, even further below) who were both a lot better looking in person than on the cover of current album Whip It On. Yes, I know that's all part of the album concept/theme, which is pastiche of 50's Hollywood B-film. Sharin in particular turned out to be somewhat gorgeous. And very tall. And with a droll sense of humour. I don't know whether Wagner doesn't have much English, but Foo does the talking. 'This is a love song', she says, before another bit of ear surgery without anaesthetic. They're positioned on each side of the stage with a guitarist between them. They themselves mostly stand quite iconic, leaving the antics to the manic guitarist.
I have a beef about the album. It's been a real pain to play. There's a sticker on the front - 'Features the uncensored Attack of the Ghost Riders video' - which sounds fun. It's black and white and shows Wagner being given a hard time while under interrogation and then electrocuted. That's not fun. Anyway there's some kind of mess up which means I can either play the video or play the album, but not both. Was it really beyond their wit to create a front end which achieves both possibilities?
Ghost Riders is their main single and is played second, to obvious recognition from the crowd. These bands have attracted a good number, but I wonder how much it could have been; the buzz downstairs is all about Hell Is For Heroes who are rescheduled for the same night. The name drew a blank from me.
Most of the Raveonettes' earlier numbers have a similar wall of sound, in fact samey is what I'm feeling, until we get some much more interesting stuff, at the same time as Sharin is telling us about the next album - this Summer? I may have misheard. I may have misheard quite a lot, because of the other sort of surprise, the sound. I said 'wall of sound' didn't I. Well, what wasn't entirely apparent from the album was how much they are into feedback and distortion. Many numbers end with a very long wailing tail from Wagner. And they leave at the very end to unsettling overload. Marie Celeste on a bad trip. Underneath it all is a twisted and funny retro take on 60s pop - but don't on any account buy this if you actually love that kind of pop. This is different. I like it, on the one hand there's the pleasure of perverse nostalgic recognition, on the other hand there's the way they start reaching down through your brain to your gut. To them, there's a purity aesthetic about their method, a sort of Dogme approach. The downside is that they did discover a few extremely painful notes which may have effective possibilities for military application. Anyway; I liked the new material. I want that album.