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Von Bondies | Pawn Shoppe Heart | review | rock | Lollipop
The Von Bondies
Pawn Shoppe Heart (Sire)
by Brian Varney
Because they're best known as being the band whose singer had his ass kicked by Jack White (talk about infamy!), I just sorta assumed The Von Bondies would suck. Can I be blamed for making such an assumption based on that piece of knowledge?
Having said that, I will admit that I have been wrong many times in my life, and this was one of them. When bands like The Strokes, The Hives, and The White Stripes broke into the mainstream a while back, I'd hoped that some good rock records on major labels would be the result. I suppose it's been awhile since those bands initially broke and there've probably been such records released in the interim, but I'm pretty behind the times when it comes to major label releases, so this is the first one I've heard that's really impressed me.
Maybe it's the Sire label on the back and the fact that the album was produced by Talking Head Jerry Harrison, but a lot of what's going down on Pawn Shoppe Heart reminds me of the mid-to-late '70s NY punk scene, complete with some choice glam/glitter-rock trimmings (opener "No Regrets" wants very badly to be a Gary Glitter song). What this means for you, the listener, is a band very conscious of its own image, but one that's also not afraid to cram huge, anthemic choruses behind a surprisingly high-energy garage R&B attack.
It's been awhile since I've heard such a band recorded so pristinely, like a manic garage band that wandered into a high-end studio by accident but wasn't asked to leave. Again, I'm reminded of late '70s NYC, when scummy bands were gathered out of the gutter, signed to major labels (most of them to the same label as The Von Bondies), and given free reign in expensive studios. I don't know how much The Von Bondies spent recording this album, but it sounds expensive, y'know? It's good expensive, though, where the clarity and space offered by the technological step-up allows a greater depth of sound which, when the band's good, means you can make out those great little details that often get blurred on indie recordings. The Von Bondies are definitely one of the good ones, so be prepared to spend some headphone time with Pawn Shoppe Heart.