Ravishers – s/t

Ravishers - s/t

Admit it, you more often than not switch off when you hear the phrase Adult Oriented Rock, which is what those oft quoted but frequently misunderstood letters AOR stand for. It’s a phrase that began to lose contact with the more immediately creative aspects of the music world at some point in the mid 80s and slid, slowly but assuredly, into oblivion during the next 15 or so years, a phrase that had become synonymous with overindulgent solo albums, with former hellraisers turning 40 and taking out golf club memberships, with overproduced, bland and very often bafflingly popular music that could sell in Platinum amounts while provoking little more than loud snores from fans and critics. A phrase that had, to a very great extent, lost all meaning, indistinguishable from and interchangeable with MOR and a guaranteed turn off for the more committed and ecelctic music purchaser.

So, when I say that Ravishers have produced an album that isn’t just musically skilfull and adventurous, that is also lyrically complex and that handles themes of love, loss betrayal and redemption plus everything in between with a subtle wit and nuanced complexity, that while it bases itself on some loungeroom jazz noir classics contains more than its share of edgy, angular artpunk moments, and that to top all this this off is also in the most acceptable sense of the phrase an Adult album, referencing themes and situations relatively unknown to most under 25 year olds, that then does begin to sound like hyperbole of a near pretentious kind on my part. But Ravishers first album really is this good a record, and it’s one of the most original and assured releases I’ve heard in recent months.

First track “I’m Him” is a finely balanced introduction to both Ravishers and their well practised etiquette. Simultaneously welcoming and dryly distant, Ravishers introduce us to a world of cool appraisals and nervy handshakes, soundtracked by effortless sounding keyboard and guitar duels whose lyrics tell of experience in the process of its gaining. Smart, assured and edgily stylish, and it’s the first of several songs which you’ll want to hear more than once. “The Chase” is a carefully worded three minute put-down constructed around an ebullient chorus : “the chase is my favourite part” sings Dominic Castillo which he then qualifies with “I’m a fake and hollow sweetheart” and while the rules may require explication to the less than entirely initiated, there’s a convivial warmth in Ravishers music and wordplay which stops the entire exercise slipping into one of mere cold eyed superiority. That, and the grating guitar break which cuts through the song like a chainsaw through cheesecake. Ravishers aren’t up for making it easy on anyone, smiling all the time as they are.

The featured single from the album, “Underachievers” is an awkwardly scored tale of imminent failure, a dinner date that might collapse into silence at any moment : “your happiness / so carefully hidden under a big mess” runs a lyric that recalls both Randy Newman and Jarvis Cocker, while the song melody struggles with the varying demands placed upon it by the increasingly inventive instrumentation. “Pinhole” sees Ravishers utilising electronica and giving the quietly ferocious guitar sound an added dimension as it does so. Then, “How I Feel” takes a Strokes riff and stretches it nearly out of all recognition, a superficially gentle ballad that, like everything else on the album, contains a barbed twist at its heart, the whispered vocal sharing a tale of unrequited longing addressed to an unseen, unknown object of desire : “I get so caught up in the chase / I know that I could get somewhere but I’m busy saving face”. Ravishers schedule doesn’t allow for those all -important and highly personalised denouements.

There’s a continued sense of thwarted romanticism that powers Ravishers music, and they’ve come up with an intelligent, literate, musically adept and quite astoundingly accomplished pop record that anyone who hears will identify with to some great or lesser regard. Some of their influences are obvious, others less so, but an evening spent perusing Ravishers album collections is nothing less than a privilege, and their album is nothing less than a modern classic, one that’s strictly for the grown ups.