Album Reviews

Olivia Jean – Raving Ghost

(Third Man) UK release date: 5 May 2023

An enjoyable album from a star in the making, with a cover of Orinoco Flow as a pop-punk anthem, and charisma by the bucketload

Olivia Jean - Raving Ghost Olivia Jean‘s backstory almost sounds like the kind of kooky rom-com that would be dismissed by most as being too unrealistic. After a few years of recording demos to no interest from any record companies, a tape of hers found its way into Jack White‘s hands.

White invited her to his studio in Nashville, where he put together an all-female band, The Black Belles, to record the songs. Just to complete the fairytale, last year White proposed mid-gig to Jean, and the couple married onstage about five minutes after the said proposal.

With The Black Belles now on indefinite hiatus, Olivia Jean’s solo career is now onto its third album with Raving Ghost. It sounds exactly as you may expect from a White protégé – a very ‘vintage’ feel, a huge amount of surf guitar and a goth-pop sensibility draped over each song.

Although she may appear to be dark and brooding, there’s also a lot of fun to be found on Raving Ghost. Not many other artists would think of reinventing Enya‘s ’80s new-age classic Orinoco Flow as a knockabout pop-punk anthem to jump around to, but that’s exactly what she does here, and it works surprisingly wonderfully.

Elsewhere, Trouble struts along magnificently, powered by an almighty guitar riff from Jean, with a definite nod to the early ’80s rock of Joan Jett or The Go-Go’s. Too Late also replicates this template, with a squiggly ’80s synth sound added to the mix, while Spider opts for a more sludgier sound, with enormous Black Sabbath-style guitar riffs framing a tale of obsession, with Jean singing “I’m just too much… I’m just too much”.

That’s one of the few downbeat moments on the record though – the infectious B-52’s style pop of Fun, recalls the best moments of Caroline Rose‘s Loner album and there’s a hugely enjoyable detour into Cramps-style rockabilly goth on Ditch. Although, like on her previous albums, Jean plays most of the instruments herself, there’s also room for guests from bands such as My Morning Jacket and Jellyfish, which gives the album a solid ‘live’ feel.

The album closes on a bit of an outlier in Don’t Leave, where the rockabilly surf stylings are swapped for a more bluesier feel, meshing a mournful organ with some blistering fret work on guitar. It’s an intriguing track to end on, hinting at a more sombre musical direction which could be explored in future albums.

There may not be anything hugely original to be found on Raving Ghost, but Olivia Jean has charisma by the bucketload, which makes this album such an enjoyable listen. At this rate, even her famous spouse may be looking over his shoulder.

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Olivia Jean – Raving Ghost