The Raveonettes, Chain Gang of Love (Columbia), the big-label debut from Sune Rose Wagner and Sharin Foo, the Danish duo whose last album, Whip It On , was a cathartic retro blast of fuzzy guitars, driving drumbeats and machine noise. This time around, the Raveonettes sweeten their sonic assault: Chain Gang is more melodic, the guitars chime more and drone less, and Mr. Wagner and Ms. Foo’s duets sound like a delinquent Paul and Paula. The music recalls both the Bobby Fuller Four (“I Fought the Law”) and the Jesus and Mary Chain, and there are moments, such as on “That Great Love Sound,” where the Raveonettes seem to be aping the latter band note for note. Still, the song, like most of the album, packs the kind of visceral punch that makes it immune to deconstruction. As the duo sing on “The Love Gang”: “Black leather and sex / Yeah. It’s not that complex.” But it sure makes a statement. (The Raveonettes will be appearing at the Bowery Ballroom on Sept. 8 and 9 .)
Benefit for Alejandro Escovedo at the Mercury Lounge, Sept. 3. One of several benefit concerts for Mr. Escovedo taking place around the city over the next few days, this one has an impressive line-up. In addition to former Band member Levon Helm, Willie Nile and Mary Lee’s Corvette, the night is headlined by Ian Hunter-one geezer who never forgot how to rock ‘n’ roll. Proceeds will help pay for the medical bills that Mr. Escovedo-one of our most underappreciated singer-songerwriters-incurred after he was hospitalized in April due to complications from hepatitis-C.
Jane Birkin at Florence Gould Hall on Sept. 18 and 19. The shows are almost sold out, so act fast or you may have to pawn your Birkin bag in order to afford a night with the woman who inspired it. Though she’s British, Ms. Birkin is one of those French cultural icons of the 60’s who, more than 30 years later, still manages to exude the sexiness and sophistication that Brigitte Barefoot and that other cross-cultural libertine, Jane Fond, somehow squandered. Ms. Birkin, who was only 20 at the time, blew up in Antonio’s Blow Up , which won Cannes’ Palm door in 1967. Then, two years later, she hooked up with songwriter and provocateur Serge Gainsbourg, who was on the rebound from Ms. Bardot. Together, the new couple recorded “Je t’Aime Moi Non Plus,” with Ms. Birkin providing a series of erotic sighs that engorged a continent and resulted in a papal admonition. Their relationship would last 12 years, but when Gainsbourg died in 1991, Ms. Birkin said she couldn’t imagine “recording with anyone else.” She has since reconsidered and is bringing Arabesque , an evening of Gainsbourg songs set to a world-music beat, to New York for its U.S. debut. Sure, there’s a Simpsons cartoon somewhere in all of this, but Ms. Birkin would get the humor. Prepare by, ahem, boning up with either the remastered import of their original collaboration, Jane Birkin et Serge Gainsbourg (Universal/Polygram), or Arabesque (EMI), a recording of her European shows.
Bob Dylan’s Street Legal . On Sept. 16, Columbia/Legacy is releasing 15 titles from Mr. Dylan’s catalog on Super Audio CD audio (six titles will also feature 5.1 Surround Sound), one of those remastering techniques that makes compact discs sound markedly better (and, more importantly, pumps some more money into the coffers of the stagnating record industry). And that’s a good reason to listen once more to this 1978 album that has never been given its due. Street Legal was pretty much savaged when it was originally released, and even Mr. Dylan seemed to apologize for it in some of the interviews he did at the time. But it’s a significant album at a significant time in the artist’s life as well as in our culture: His wife had left him; the Band was nearing its last waltz; disco, punk and New Wave had changed popular music; and Mr. Dylan, who was creeping up on his 40’s, seemed in the midst of a messy midlife crisis that would lead him, a few months later, to Christianity. Street Legal sounds exactly like that: It’s exhilarating and anguished, sloppy, mean and self-conscious, and a tad less veiled than most of the Jokerman’s work. It’s also the last Dylan studio album to have that big, carnivalesque Rolling Thunder sound, replete with backup soul singers and bongos. For whatever reason, however, the vinyl and initial CD pressings of the album turned all those elements into a legendarily murky mess. Fortunately, the new SACD version of Street Legal improves the sound considerably, even on non-SACD players. Mr. Dylan’s still-youthful vocals are much more front-and-center, and the instruments seem more defined, making it easier to grasp how many fantastic songs there are on this album: “Changing of the Guards,” “Señor (Tales of Yankee Power)”-which you can hear Jerry Garcia sing on the Masked and Anonymous soundtrack-“New Pony,” “Baby, Stop Crying,” “True Love Tends to Forget” and the great “Where Are You Tonight (Journey Through Dark Heart),” which ends the album and seems to be a summation of Mr. Dylan’s life at that point in time. “If you don’t believe there’s a price / For this sweet paradise / Just remind me to show you the scars,” he sings. On Street Legal , that’s exactly what he does.