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The Von Bondies wail on debut

Michael Tennant | Wednesday, April 7, 2004

“I’m a broken man, this here is my broken band,” howls Jason Stollsteimer, lead singer, guitarist and songwriter for the Von Bondies. Ironically, this “broken band” he sings about has it all together when it comes right down to it.Hailing from Detroit, the Von Bondies come crashing into the mainstream with guitars blazing in their major label debut “Pawn Shoppe Heart,” bringing with them a mixture of unrelenting garage punk and screaming blues. Numerous comparisons were made between them and the White Stripes. While Jack White produced the band’s first independent release and has dated the Bondies’ other guitar player, Marcie Bolen, he has since severed all ties with the band after an altercation at a small Detroit club left Stollsteimer a bloody mess. The Von Bondies have developed their own style with “Pawn …”, announcing they are better off without White’s tutelage. The pounding guitar riffs hurl decibels of energy at the listener. It really makes you feel like you are in the middle of a bar fight, and you find yourself singing along to one of the band’s hooks just before ducking out of the way of a flying barstool. “No Regrets” gets the album rolling with a barrage of hammering guitars and thumping drums that can only be described as slightly wicked. In fact, the whole song takes on a sinful edge as Stollsteimer wails on behalf of reckless youths everywhere, “You really haven’t lived life yet / If you ain’t got no regrets!”The first single from the album, “C’mon C’mon,” showcases more pounding rhythms from Bolen and bass player Carrie Smith, as the band makes everyone remember how “things were good when we were young.” The song is the first on the album that makes use of the female voices in the band and ends itself almost perfectly with a back and forth boy/girl chorus.The boy/girl routine is carried throughout the rest of the album, reaching its peak on “The Fever” and “Not that Social.” In “The Fever,” while Stollsteimer testifies about an old girlfriend, Bolen and Smith become high school cheerleaders, turning the title into a chant that forces the listener to reminisce on a cheerleader tune from the ’80s. On “Not that Social,” Stollsteimer hands the vocal duties over to the women completely. Sadly, this song proves that nothing is perfect, even in the world of garage rock. Although brilliant lyrically, the tune itself falls short of the rest of the album. Smith takes over the lead and delivers an uncaring performance, robbing the album of the energy the previous six songs worked so hard to obtain. It does not help that she is singing over fuzzy power-pop guitar riffs, making the song sound like little more than a bad mid-90’s Veruca Salt cover. Hearing Smith sing “I’m not that social, just a good drinker” almost makes up for it though.The rest of the album shines. “Mairead” is a dirty, bluesy number that shows the band is capable of slowing it down just a bit. And the title track is a fitting way to end the album, beginning with a down and dirty rolling drum beat and ending with fed-up Stollsteimer finally crooning out loud with every inch of his soul what he has been thinking the previous 30-some odd minutes. “Take everything you want, take all you can / I’m your pawnshop lover, I’m your pawnshop broken-heart man.”You can almost hear the sweat falling on the dirty floor.

Contact Michael Tennant at mtennant@nd.edu