The Von Bondies crept out of the massive Detroit scene on the heels of The White Stripes. They were well versed in the garage stylings known to their locale. But, then they flipped the switch on us. They followed up their debut with a more straightforward album, and now they completely leave it all behind as they present us with Love, Hate and Then There’s You.
From the minute this album takes off with “Shut Your Mouth” you can tell that the entire group has begun pushing towards new ground. Sure, this opening track still revels in the garage-infused sound of old, but something new exists here, something that could lose fans while gaining scores of new ones. It’s the pop element.
Singer Jason Stollsteimer definitely has a brooding crooner quality, which recalls the vocal quality of a certain Mr. Flowers. It’s not entirely surprising when listening to the rest of this album, as the mood of the songs easily matches the aesthetic quality of Jason’s voice.
In a sense, the band comes off like a hard-edged version of The Killers. This isn’t too say that the band has entirely left behind their past in favor of a more commercial appeal to the masses. “Only to Haunt You” has the feeling of dark swirling pop melodies that garnered acclaim for the aforementioned band. Still, the band holds on to the darker element of this genre, fueled by the precise rhythm section. This batch of songs is clearly the most accessible set of tunes they’ve created up to this point, and the culmination of this point may be welcomed by many.
All the songs are short, and they hit your ears quickly. Occasionally, the vocals are matched with feuding vocal elements from Jason’s female counterpart, which give the band a bit of grit, though they never stray to far from the middle of the road. Therein lies one of the problems with this record: nothing here sounds entirely new to the listener. This isn’t mean to knock on the band entirely, as its quite difficult to produce purely original sounds nowadays, but this just seems a bit to easy for the band. At times the songs seem a bit uninspired, almost as if the band were just throwing about demos inside their studio.
Strong moments do exist throughout the entirety of this record, such as on “Accidents Will Happen.” Here you find the and bouncing along appropriately, as guitars jangle. But, you’ll also find a certain rawness to the vocals, which show that Von Bondies still like to stay close to home. They can’t seem to move on from their own history.
In the end, you find a band wavering on a middle ground, stuck between a poppier quality that is bubbling beneath the surface and their classic garage sound. Many will find that the pop elements warrant approval, while others will relish in the fact that the band could definitely hit it a lot harder. You decide.
Download: Von Bondies – Only to Haunt You [MP3]