American Hearts, 180G Black Vinyl
The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse ride through the first two tracks on A.A. Bondy's solo debut, American Hearts. The third track, "Black Rain Black Rain", recounts a personal plague, and on the fourth, "Rapture (Sweet Rapture)", he sings about, well, you know: "I don't want to talk about Jesus, I just want to see his face." Beset with demons but daring the Almighty to appear, Bondy has clearly forsaken the rock crunch of his former band Verbena-- which, despite their one-time hype, turned out to be a house built upon the sand-- and has reinvented himself as a southern preacher type, steeping blues-folk sermons in Biblical imagery and seeing fire and brimstone on the horizon, LOVE and HATE tattooed on his knuckles.
And yes, American Hearts can get a little heavy-handed, and yes, using "upon" instead of "on" (as in "like a ghost upon the breeze" or "six riders upon the ridge tonight") isn't fooling anyone. On the other hand, there's a dark gravity to this album, as if Bondy is carrying a heavy burden through a Civil War picaresque: American Hearts is an unfolding tableau of hell on earth as seen by a weary set of eyes and described with a troubadour's guitar and an obsessive's mastery of form and musical history. Those are blues line repetitions on "How Will You Meet Your End" and "Killed Myself When I Was Young", and they press the unanswerable questions and the doomsday imagery. That's actually a rag he's playing on "Vice Rag". That's New Orleans on "Rapture (Sweet Rapture)", conjured with Bondy's bleakly concise lines "you see that levee it's bound to break/ Put the children in the boat." And that's Bondy reclaiming Christ as a peacenik on the title track: "If your God makes war, then's he's no God I know," he sings, hinting at the Dylanesque protest made obvious by the harmonica solo, "'cause Christ would not send boys to die."- Pitchfork