The Von Bondies Pawn Shoppe Heart

[Sire; 2004]

Styles: good old-fashioned, no frills rock and roll; garage rock
Others: Franz Ferdinand, The Go, The Dirtbombs, The Sounds

It's a classic story really: older, well dressed, unassuming, yet out of place record executive enters a dive bar in Detroit's Irish neighborhood. Since there are no chairs, he sits on the merch table in the back of the room, and he's there to catch the fallout of Detroit rock city mania. On the stage, four bored-looking, leather-jacket-wearing, beer-swilling, sassy twenty-something's (two male, two female), roar through a sweaty, dirty, sexy rock and roll show, straight up. The rest, as they say, is history.

The record executive is none other than Seymour Stein, purveyor of such famous and infamous careers as those of Blondie, Madonna, Talking Heads, and this other group of bored-looking, leather-jacket-wearing dudes. Crap, what was their name? I think it started with an R. I don't know. It was a long time ago. Oh, and the band is none other than NME media darling second-in-command, first-runner-up, ready to take on the duties should the White Stripes fail to deliver as the lil' Detroit band that could, none other than... the Von Bondies! But they've managed to throw a monkey wrench in the system. They scored a major-label deal, got a huge advance, worked with a big-name producer, and get this: made a record that doesn't sound like it was recorded in someone's basement or, ahem, garage!

With their sophomore effort, the Von Bondies manage to straddle a fairly difficult line. You can imagine "C'mon, C'mon," the album's first single, being played in and out of commercial breaks on TRL, barely audible over the screaming 12-year-old Timberlake fans. Yet you can also be sure that the garage-rock die-hards, you know, the ones who own the complete Italy Records catalog and still wear their old, faded, falling-apart Gories t-shirts, will still gobble this up, albeit reluctantly in some cases. Jerry Harrison (yes, that Jerry Harrison) did an amazing job of controlling the knobs, and while the record sounds huge, he ventured not into Ric Ocasek territory.

Besides the impossibly catchy single, standout tracks include the sing-and-spell-along "The Fever," the midwestistential "No Regrets," and "Not That Social," sung by bass player, Carrie Smith, whose deadpan delivery leads you to believe she'd sooner flick a cigarette butt your way than offer you a helping hand while singing "Breathe in/ Breathe out/ I know you're drowning." If you're a fan of the rock and the roll and the denim and the Rolling Rock, then snatch this record up tout de suite, before they bump up the affordable, "new artist" major label list price.

1. No Regrets
2. Broken Man
3. C'mon C'mon
4. Tell Me What You See
5. Been Swank
6. Mairead
7. Not That Social
8. Crawl Through the Darkness
9. The Fever
10. Right of Way
11. Poison Ivy
12. Pawn Shoppe Heart