I normally love (<3) nineties alternative music. But Verbena strikes me as hack work. Much the same can be said for Bondy's newer direction, that Dylan pose punk rockers often strike as they turn 30. There are some songs on his new album that I felt were good-ish... but it seems, like Pitchfork basically says, a soulless recapitulation of a genre's motifs. When that genre is punk, okay maybe, when it is "roots, blues, country influenced, Americana, singer-songwriter folk," no. Definitely not. I haven't retired to the land of NPR and concerts for the DNC quite yet.
I do manage to mention Merge Records and Thomas Function as well as make an allusion to This Bike is a Pipe Bomb.
After "the jump" is the story I turned in.
And the Lantern version.
You can change your name and your style but some things will always stay the same.
For A.A. Bondy that thing is playing music. A.A., which stands for Auguste Arthur, used to go by Scott when he played in the grunge band Verbena.
Verbena was an independent band from Alabama that released its first recordings on the venerable Merge Records label. Former Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl produced its major label debut, “Into The Pink.”
But it is not the 90s anymore and Bondy now plays solo with an alternative country sound.
Bondy says he didn’t tire of Verbena’s music as much as he became tired of the dynamic.
“I just got tired of being in a band. I’ve got guys I play with now but I wouldn’t call it a band. We play together but it’s a different kind of thing than that was,” said Bondy.
Bondy is part of a growing contingent of musicians who started playing music in loud, independent rock bands and ended up playing in the softer Americana, singer-songwriter style. These musicians include Bright Eyes’ Conor Oberst, who Bondy recently toured with, and former punk rocker David Dondero.
“I think it’s a natural progression,” says Bondy. “It just so happens people arrive at that place at a certain time after they’ve done the other thing. First bands are all about just taking all the influences that you’re excited about as a teenager and trying to make something out of it. It’s bells and whistles and jumping up and down.”
Bondy’s newest record, “When the Devil’s Loose,” was released on Fat Possum records, a label that Thomas Function and Ohio’s own Black Keys also call home.
“When the Devil’s Loose” has been called a “collection of evocative and intriguing songs” by Pitchfork. The ten songs on the album use nature metaphors and lines like “down to the station where the train has pulled in” to recall a bygone time.
But Bondy says not to read too much into his lyrics.
“I don’t know when I put stuff out there what people are going to react to. People think there are a lot of religious themes on the record but I don’t think there are. It’s like saying “Jesus Christ.” It could be an invocation in church or it could be someone swearing when they change a tire,” Bondy said.
Bondy comes to Columbus Nov. 30 to play at The Basement. Tickets are ten dollars. Willy Mason will open.
Steve Ciolek, a third year in biology, said he saw Bondy play two years ago in Cincinnati. “He was in between two loud bands so it was nice to see someone quieter with a good voice,” Ciolek said. “And he was drinking whisky.”
Not surprising for someone who sings on “O the Vampyre” that he “could drink the world and never get my fill.”