The Raveonettes responded to the many harsh criticisms of their sophomore effort with 2007's excellent Lust Lust Lust, a brazen return to the best qualities of their debut Chain Gang of Love. This time around, Sune Rose Wagner and Sharin Foo reintroduce some of the rockabilly seen on the unfairly (though understandably) panned Pretty in Black and downplay the raw shoegazing noise rock sound that dominated its successor. The aims are admirable, but the result is a somewhat detached album that leaves something to be desired, especially with the particularly large shoes it had to fill.
The Raveonettes' albums seem to have fallen into a pattern of great/not-so-great/great/not-so-great; this 2009 release succumbs to many of the same flaws that blemished Pretty in Black (although In and Out of Control is far less dependent on the wicked 50's fetish the duo apparently has). As can be said with the former, the branching out and versatility is definitely respectable, but when they're not playing to their strengths the songwriting loses its consistency. This is even more evident here than on their second record; the softer approach was unquestionably deliberate, but tracks like the opener Bang! sound just like something off of Lust, only without the heavy distortion or energy. Even beyond the moments where the band sounds watered down, the song structures just don't work in some places. For example, the otherwise enchanting Boys Who Rape (Should All Be Destroyed) is sung with awkward vocal patterns that distract from the duality of Sharin Foo's lovely delivery and the angry lyrics.
Despite these snags, there is still much to be admired here. Last Dance is driven by a wonderful melody and an extremely catchy chorus, while the bluesy Heart of Stone and (especially) Breaking into Cars have style and attitude in spades. In fact, the songs gain a great deal of momentum toward the album's close; Break Up Girls! is a most welcome blowout, recalling the best moments from their debut with its first half's ear shattering distortion and second half's urgent vocals. The stunning Wine closes things out marvelously with a beautiful slice of dream pop, telling of unrequited love quite convincingly. In fact, one of the most interesting aspects of the album is the frequent juxtaposition of Sune Rose Wagner and Sharin Foo's dreamy voices and the often incredibly disheartening lyrics; the already touched on Last Dance is even more haunting than the record's capping track with its story of a lover's overdose, contrasted by its new wave inflected harmony.
In and Out of Control's title is easy to take as a reference to the somewhat unstable songwriting; the move to diversify is not necessarily a bad one, but it will invariably yield a bit of unevenness among the tracks. As inconsistent as this album is, however, it still hosts some of the Raveonettes' best songs, and as Lust Lust Lust showed, they are perfectly capable of bouncing back from a misstep.