It’s a sad day in the struggle of music lovers against the control freaks who run the major record labels. For the first time in my experience, I wasn’t able to use my beloved EAC to copy the contents of a copy-protected cd to my computer. EAC, the world’s premier audio extractor, chugged and chugged and tried desperately to extract the contents of the Von Bondies major label debut for me, but alas, it just couldn’t do it.
Why would I want to rip the contents of a cd? There must be some nefarious reason, right? Well, actually, I like to convert my cds to high-quality mp3s so I can listen to them on my iPod. My iPod has become my main music system; I have a cd walkman around here somewhere, but I think it’s buried in the pile of webcams, zip drives, parallel port cables and other obsolete hardware.
According to an ominous note from Susan Genco, Senior Vice President of Business & Legal Affairs at Warner Brothers Records, I’m not even allowed to play the advance cd they sent me in my computer. Fuck off.
But in the interest of letting the good readers of Glorious Noise in on what the new Von Bondies album, Pawn Shoppe Heart, sounds like, I made the effort to actually listen to it my regular, home cd player. It sounds good.
The first thing you notice is that this is no lo-budge garage rock record. The drums sound HUGE. I played it loud enough to annoy my neighbors and frighten my dogs and it sounded great. “No Regrets” is a perfect, ass-kicking way to start off a band’s major-label debut. “Fuck you, asshole,” the song seems to imply. “We’re on a major label, so what?” The guitars sound so bad-ass and the tone is so spooky and intimidating and massive that you’ve got to wonder how this guy got his shit STOMPED by Jack White. Jason Stolenpeener just sounds so much tougher than the former Pea. Although Jesus Christ, if Jack White hasn’t been pumping iron! Have you seen that dude lately? Looks like Lou Ferrigno! Take it easy, man, rock stars are supposed to be all skinny. Which brings us directly to Henry Rollins, who the Von Bondies don’t sound anything like. But they do sound like Glen Danzig, and he’s pretty muscley too. And that becomes a problem. Because after a couple songs, it’s like, “This is the best Misfits album ever!” But then it’s like, “Eh, I’m tired of listening to the Misfits.” Because the Misfits were always the perfect mix tape band. One song at a time, they’re fucking perfect. You think, “Wow, the Misifts are the best band ever,” and you go out and buy a Misfits album and you never listen to it all the way through. You take the best songs and you put them on mixes for your friends, and they’re perfect in that context. “20 Eyes,” “She,” “Skulls,” those are all great songs. And Pawn Shoppe Heart has some of those songs on it. “Been Swank” and “Not That Social” will end up on lots of mixes this year, guaranteed. They’re great songs. Lots of these songs are great songs. They’re just not meant to be listened to all at once. Because after a few more songs, after you’ve accepted the fact that Jason Stollerheimer sounds like Glen Danzig, you’re sitting there listening and you realize that it’s not Danzig, it’s the guy from Dead or Alive! That’s right, the guy who sings, “You spin me right round / Baby right round / Like a record baby / Right round round round.” And once that’s in your head, there’s no going back. Now you understand perfectly how this twerp got pummeled by Lou Ferrigno in all his pale, hulking stardom. Shit, even Morrissey could beat up the guy from Dead or Alive, I bet. (And there are even rumors that he did once back stage on the Meat Is Murder tour—look it up!) But after a couple more songs those thoughts leave your mind…
But these are the kinds of things that happen when you only listen to an album once. Who knows what it’ll sound like after a few more listens? Maybe after a certain point, Glen Danzig and the guy from Dead or Alive will just stop showing up. I remember when I first listened to The White Stripes and De Stijl I couldn’t get through more than three songs without Robert Plant coming in and totally interrupting the experience. But that doesn’t happen with those albums anymore.
But since I cannot listen to Pawn Shoppe Heart in the format that I like to listen to music—on my iPod—I may never know. Unless some helpful hacker can point out a way around the stupid copy protection on this damn cd, I may never listen to it again.
Postscript #1: Just so I don’t get a bunch of hatemail about it, I don’t actually think mp3s sound better than cds. I actually prefer vinyl. And I still listen to plenty of cds on my home stereo. I’m just making the point that it should be up to me how I listen to my music. Of course, the fact that I got sent this advance promo for free takes a little wind out of my sails; at least it would if I wasn’t 100% positive that the standard, non-promo copies of this cd will have the same annoying copy-protection bullshit on them. As a matter of fact, it’s wrong to even call these copy-protected discs “CDs” since the copy-protection technology breaks the “Redbook Standard” set forth and licensed by Philips, which defines what “Compact Disc” actually is.
Postscript #3: Has anyone noticed that a lot of the Detroit garage rock bands are mixed-sex? And not just dudes backing up a hot chick singer either. Look at all the Detroit bands with female musicians in them: the Gories, the White Stripes, the Von Bondies, the Paybacks, Ko & the Knockouts. That’s pretty damn cool.
Postscript #4: You can watch the video for “C’mon C’mon” here. And a “making of” too.