Considered by many to be part of the garage-rock revival that originated in Detroit in the early 2000s, The Von Bondies debut Lack of Communication and their 2004 follow-up Pawn Shoppe Heart were met with glowing reviews, chart-climbing songs and heavy worldwide touring.
But then the Von Bondies gradually evolved to anthemic, yet uninspired power pop on their third full-length Love, Hate, And Then There’s You. Flooded with power and angst, the songs seem generic and unfocused. Maintaining the same high-octane, anxious energy throughout the entire record, the tracks have that all-too familiar flavour. Although songs like “Pale Bride,” “The Chancer,” and “Accidents Will Happen” abound with catchy melodies and playful guitar hooks, there is not much variation in terms of tone and spirit throughout the record. Based on their previous releases, it seemed that The Von Bondies were aiming to join the ranks of The Strokes or The White Stripes.
As the story goes, Jack White took The Von Bondies under his wing, including them on the Sympathetic Sounds of Detroit compilation, and eventually producing their debut album Lack of Communication. Irreconcilable differences (involving an alleged bar fight) severed their professional tie, and The Von Bondies vocalist Jason Stollsteimer could no longer rely on White’s aid. The band went ahead to release Pawn Shoppe Heart, produced by ex-Talking Head Jerry Harrison.
It seems all the elements of what made The White Stripes or The Strokes surge ahead with their gritty garage-rock are present in The Von Bondies latest release. The arena-ready hooks and pounding, anthemic choruses make for a powerful sonic palette, and the energy runs high from start to finish. It’s difficult to identify the missing ingredient, yet although the necessary elements of a compelling rock record are present, in this case, the whole doesn’t amount to being greater than the sum of its parts.
Lacking the subtlety of The Strokes, the idiosyncrasies of The White Stripes, the quirkiness of Franz Ferdinand, or the wit of the Arctic Monkeys, The Von Bondies seem like a diluted version of each one. Nevertheless, they maintain a pop sensibility of their own and offer a collection of gritty pop songs with the release of Love Hate and Then There’s You. Fuelled by angst and frustration, the songs on the album are predictable, sufficing for just one listen, but overbearing on repeat.
The record’s energy would probably translate well onstage to a pounding live show. Check it out for yourself when The Von Bondies descend to Les Saints on Feb. 15.