The Von Bondies – Pawn Shoppe Heart

March 25th, 2004
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The Von Bondies: More than Jack White’s Punching Bag

For their major label debut, the Von Bondies don’t hold back. Pawn Shoppe Heart is a brief (just over forty minutes) but strong album packed with guitar-driven garage rock. On songs like “No Regrets,” “Crawl Through the Darkness,” “Poison Ivy,” and “Tell Me What You See,” the band unleashes a combination of thoroughly enjoyable caustic guttural guitar work stretched over pulsating, occasionally rapid-fire, drum and bass rhythm.

Despite their proclivity toward fun fast rock, the band shines when it slows down. The stand-out tracks of the album are a morose dirge cleverly poised in the center of the album, “Mairead,” and the title track.

“Mairead” is a calm slow-motion moment in a Tarantino film that packs the most emotional punch. Lead singer Jason Stollsteimer, whose voice is left screaming in your head hours after the CD has ended, laments being the victim in a bad relationship (a repeated theme) and sings as if he’s improvising the lyrics. The result is a sincere expression of pain that manages to avoid crossing the line into whiny emo territory.

“Pawn Shoppe Heart” revisits the victimization theme, but this is Stollsteimer returning strong, angry, and ready to be used again. It is declarative, yet seemingly ends too soon and unresolved. Three minutes later the band returns, picking right up with Stollsteimer literally kicking and screaming for another two and a half minutes. Refusing to end the song cleanly, he is forced to fade out, fighting to have his final, somewhat ironic, message heard: Try a little tenderness.

By Alyssa Fried Posted in Reviews