Pawn Shoppe Heart
By: Eric Greenwood
Initially, I thought Jason Stollsteimer was a giant wuss, hungry for whatever sad publicity he could eke out of a fistfight with The White Stripes' Jack White, but after listening to Pawn Shoppe Heart countless times, I have since retracted such sentiments. Stollsteimer's throaty, blues-drenched wail rocks as it soars above his band's slickly produced major label debut, thanks to the Talking Heads' Jerry Harrison's expert knob-twiddling. I exempt Stollsteimer from utter wuss-dom just for rocking this hard, but he might want to take a karate class or at least learn how to throw a punch.
The Von Bondies sound like rock and roll or, more specifically, like a balls-out, bluesy Misfits had they ever produced anything that didn't sound like it was recorded in an aluminum trashcan. Pawn Shoppe Heart makes a clear-cut case for the major label dollar, as it allows The Von Bondies to rock with more vigor and recklessness than any of its lo-fi garage days, including its Jack White produced 2001 debut, Lack of Communication.
The first single, "C'Mon, C'Mon", simultaneously slays and makes you bob your head along with its catchy call and response boy/girl vocal interplay. The highlight of the song is the brief calm as the guitars withdraw in the last twenty seconds when Stollsteimer unleashes his demons in a reverb-drenched vocal attack. It is two minutes of glorious loud/soft dynamics and unquestionably infectious melodies. I cannot count how many times I have repeated this song.
Sadly, "C'Mon, C'Mon" is by far the best song on the album, but that is not to say there are no other worthy moments. "No Regrets" glams things up a bit, showcasing Stollsteimer's penchant for vocal melodrama not unlike The Cramps' Lux Interior, while bassist Carrie Smith steals the show briefly with her lead vocals on the pop punk gem, "Not That Social." Stollsteimer steals it back, though, with the rollicking licentiousness of "Poison Ivy."
Occasionally, The Von Bondies rock themselves into a corner. The hooks can be a tad lacking when the riffs don't seem to click ("Crawl Through The Darkness"), but the band pushes everything full throttle, regardless of the quality of the material at hand. It's a testament to the band's fearless drive to rock that allows such moments of weakness to show. On Pawn Shoppe Heart, The Von Bondies are just revving up the engine, though. The next record will be the one to make their mark.