The Raveonettes: Whip It On (Capitol)

Stumbling through the garage.

IN THE 1985 Sydney Pollack epic Out of Africa, Meryl Streep plays a writer from Denmark who marries a jerky German baron but later falls in love with a charming, adventurous Brit played by Robert Redford. It's an OK movie; pretty long, though, and quite dull. Perhaps most troubling is Streep's approximation of the Danish accent. She delivers her lines haltingly, as if she learned to speak one mispronounced, awkward letter at a time. Equally disconcerting is her character's windswept love and devotion for the philandering, pea-brained baron. What she's doing with him is as unclear as what she's saying to him. Watching it the other night on AMC, I couldn't help but think of the Raveonettes.

On the EP Whip It On (Capitol), Sune Rose Wagner plays a Spector-and-shoegazer-worshipping frontman with his own irksome speech impediment, not to mention his own maddeningly ill-conceived love affair. Unlike Streep, Wagner is a true Dane, and unlike a lot of garage-rock singers who find it necessary to affect a snotty, attitudinal vocal style, he doesn't don an accent other than his ownbut you find yourself almost wishing that he would. Throughout Whip It On, Wagner consistently trips over his one-note vocal tone. Like the Pollack flick, the Raveonettes' surf-guitar twang, girl-group tambourine rhythms, and Jesus and Mary Chain- inspired sound walls are little more than attractive scenery underneath the accidental steamroller of Wagner's drone. When the message and the messenger are this tedious, the songs become veritable sleeping pills.

According to the Raveonettes' Web site, Wagner spent a decent amount of time loafing around America looking for a band. "I decided I was going to spend this time writing songs." Listening, you wonder whether Wagner should have bothered. Bandmate Sharin Foo does her part to suffuse Wagner's low, flat-lining tone with her cooing harmonies and soft-lit backups, but in the end, she's got no more than a fluffy supporting role.

Then there's the devotion to the rave-up tradition the Raveonettes work in. Nearly 4 zillion other Scandinavian bands (to say nothing of the Americans) are crossing themselves at the very same altar with similarly watered-down results. The Raveonettes claim to be influenced by B movies. Me, I think they're just too cool to admit to their Meryl Streep crush.

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