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Von Bondies
Raw And Rare
Dim Mak

Sometimes, sometimes, I think I'm that guy from Adaptation, Charlie Kauffman. Can't tell you whether it's the one that's written himself into the play or the one that plays the lead. The snake eats itself either way. But that's beside the point. The matter is my mind runs amuck too. Maybe not to the detrimental effect Kauffman reached, but just as he passed up meeting Susan Orlean (Meryl Streep) in the elevator, I turned my back on introducing myself to Von Bondies lead singer/guitarist Jason Von Bondie — twice. I was standing right next to him — both times. Idiot.

What does this do? Simply perpetuate the hurricane in my head. "Do something, stupid. You're pathetic." This has nothing to do with groupie/fan crush flirtation. It has to do with intimidation, with cowardly ducking out of the opportunity to meet someone you admire, with passing up the chance to meet someone who will soon be unreachable. Because the Von Bondies are next. God help me, I know they're next. Their cards are on the table and they got a straight flush.

The more I get lost in their mind-blowing, dark and enthralling blues/garage rock, the more I admit I'll soon be, reluctantly, sharing them with the rest of the world and kicking myself now and then. With Pawn Shoppe Heart, the follow-up longplayer to their 2001 debut album Lack of Communication, on the way, thank the Lord, they've got a live release to tide us over. The first nine tracks on Raw and Rare are from a 2001 BBC Session, the next four are from a BBC session captured last year, and the remaining two were caught at Detroit's Lager House. Through and through, it's intensely hot.

Something unspeakable swells the Von Bondies' music full of passion and power. Like the individual who doesn't say much — but when they do, it's meaningful — the Detroit foursome's music is simple but huge. Jason wails (in a throaty/vibrato sort of tone) like he's licking your neck or sucking your left lobe, before breaking it down to a deep, breathy narrative delivery or bursting into rockabilly yelps. Guitar riffs ring in a Cramps/surf-like tradition, bass lines groove in fucked-up psychedelic fashion, and drumbeats build and break perfectly in the background.

With the exception of the record's two closing tracks, "Unknown" and "It Came From Japan" — the second appearance of the song, the only track other than "Cryin'" repeated on the record — whose distorted sounds lie in the distance beneath a cloud of feedback, Raw and Rare doesn't feel all that different from Lack of Communication. While there's the between-song hollers and claps and the slight variations (a shifted lyric here, a missing beat there), the recording quality from the BBC sessions is so high you nearly forget the tracks are live. Given that this is the BBC and this is the Von Bondies — who are smokin' live — this all makes perfect sense. The dark and gritty "Night Train" — fed intermittently by ah-ooo's — swaggers and thrusts and seems to kick the dirt as if resenting something or someone. "Me and my brother ain't got no sister," Jason sneers. "Just a bother at home/ So we got two bottles of Night Train baby/ So now we don't feel alone."

Likely the band's most-requested song, "It Came From Japan" has the best fuzzy, Sabbath-inspired riff. You want to grab hold of it for a ride. It serves as the band's anthem as together they chant, "We all hail, hail/ From rock and roll/ From behind the glass case." The sluggish and bluesy "My Baby's Cryin'" features guitarist Marcie Bolen on lead vocals. "R & R Nurse" rumbles thunderously along before easing to steady minimized stutters, then bursting into a loud rock-'n'-roll onslaught again — the suspense of the buildup is spine-tingling.

So I shrunk away from my two (and quite likely only) chances to meet Jason Von Bondie. So what. He's human too — Susan was just as scared to show herself to Charlie as he was to her. At the core, we're all very much alike — all us plants, humans and musicians. And in the end, there is hope to keep us going. But I suppose we don't need that with the Von Bondies — we already know their upcoming album is gonna shoot 'em to the moon anyhow.

by Jenny Tatone

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