John Metzger's #17 album for 2008
First Appeared in The Music Box, April 2008, Volume 15, #4
Written by John Metzger
Wed April 16, 2008, 06:30 AM CDT
After listening to American Hearts, one thing is perfectly clear: A.A. Bondy has a tremendously tortured soul. In both his lyrics and his music, demons and angels collide in an epic battle, and this is as much a reflection of the forces that are at play inside him as it is of the good and evil that are at work in the world at large. The darkness threatens to suffocate him, and more often than not, he seems ready, willing, and able to embrace it.
Over the course of American Hearts, Bondy murders his father (How Will You Meet Your End), offs himself (Killed Myself When I Was Young), and slips with a lover beneath the waves of the ocean (Of the Sea). Yet, there’s light here, too. It streams through the luminescent, finger-picked guitar patterns that he tosses across the surface of Black Rain, Black Rain, and it pours through the prayer for peace — or at least for a little sanity and perspective — that serves as American Hearts’ title track. Even in the worst of times, it seems, there exists a glimmer of hope — the first line he sings in How Will You Meet Your End, the set’s opening track, is "I’m going to keep that diamond in my mind" — and this dangling carrot keeps him moving forward in his quest to find happiness and joy, wherever it may be.
American Hearts is an album that is steeped in tradition. Bondy undeniably is a disciple of Bob Dylan, though he also knows enough to go further back in time in order to feed his muse with ideas that were drawn from the likes of Woody Guthrie and Rev. Gary Davis. Nevertheless, there are more contemporary elements at work within Bondy’s material, too. The electric guitar that winds through No Man Shall echoes the gritty, urban blues that Lou Reed developed with the Velvet Underground, but most of all, Bondy’s voice is eerily reminiscent of Jeff Tweedy’s. Marinated in cigarettes and whiskey, it is broken, weary, battered, and bruised — which makes his desire to come face-to-face with the son of God all the more believable.
Yes, it’s easy to pick Bondy’s influences out of the fray, but the sincerity of his delivery inevitably makes his songs stick. His arrangements are stripped to their barest essence, and for the most part, he dresses his material only in subtle shadings and creepy effects. Both musically and lyrically, American Hearts is emotionally honest and direct. It is a heartfelt and moving apocalyptic vision of the modern world, and it makes such a startlingly deep impression that anyone who happens to hear it can’t help but to view Bondy as an important new voice on the Americana scene.
Of Further Interest...
American Hearts is available from Barnes & Noble.
To order, Click Here!
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2008 The Music Box