When The Devil's Loose, 180G Black Vinyl
While A.A. Bondy realizes that acknowledging his tenure as Verbena frontman Scott Bondy could help shift a few units, that doesn't mean his former life is a point of pride. This is how a writer describes Bondy's indie-rock days in the singer/songwriter's Fat Possum bio: "He told me that he used to go by the name Scott and had played in a Rock'n'Roll group went by the name Verbena. I asked him what that was like and he muttered something about being an infant in a crib full of bats." Still, for A.A. Bondy to now exist, Scott Bondy had to go through that ill-fated bat-crib phase. And despite the sonic differences and the name change-- the A.A. stands for Auguste Arthur-- there's an obvious through-line to be drawn between then and now. Where the old Bondy took his cues from all sorts of rock'n'roll progenitors (classic and otherwise), the new Bondy cribs notes from the blues and country folks that influenced those rock'n'rollers. And where the old Bondy would sometimes show his hand too blatantly, the new Bondy is playing his cards with greater aplomb and much greater skill. When the Devil's Loose, A.A. Bondy's second album, is evident of this ever-growing skill. But that's not to say there isn't room to grow.
In many ways, When's the Devil's Loose is nearly the same as 2007's American Hearts. Bondy's warm and weathered moan is used to good effect, abetted by some down-home instrumentation and a fair helping of flattering reverb, all in the service of songs that do their damnedest to recall a more agrarian time-- coal burning in a train furnace, rivers running free, pines dancing in the moonlight. Looseputs its best foot forward right from the start, with "Mightiest of Guns". If any tune on this album deserves to be called "Dylanesque" (possibly the most unbearably portentous modifier/ honorarium thrown in Bondy's direction), it's this one, with its plainspoken torrent of elusive yet evocative images-- "And the shadows go like ghosts across your rope/ Or take the world and burn it in a spoon." Each verse offers its own portrait of quotidian drama enlivened by Bondy's wracked croon and tasteful strokes of arcing guitar. The rest of the album offers downtrodden pleasures in a similar vein-- see the elegiac "To the Morning", or the player-piano balladry of "On the Moon". Even when Bondy's band kicks up its heels, as on the relatively ebullient "I Can See the Pines Are Dancing", it's doing so through a weary hard-livin' haze. Still, the music never suffers for the song's overall sorrow. Where Loose does suffer, if only slightly, is in its words. -Pitchfork