Trying to Listen to the Von Bondies

The Von BondiesIt’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.

Nasty letter from Susan GencoAccording 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 #2: Looks like Warners hired the same people who built the Mooney Suzuki website to do the Von Bondies site. Pink is the new black!

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.

18 thoughts on “Trying to Listen to the Von Bondies”

  1. Well, there’s no getting around the fact that Stolenpeener had his ass handed to him by Jack White. That kinda deflates your macho balloon right there. How tough can you be when pictures of your pounded face are all over the web? That picture is what I see whenever I hear the name of ‘Von Bondies’. Tut, tut.

    The copy-proection shit is easy to get around, though. Just record it direct to your hard drive from an external cd player. It isn’t as handy as mp3 ripping, but it gets the job done. Unless someone else has a good hack…

  2. I’m just wondering about the phrase “To the lucky recipient of the enclosed CD”. Now, assuming that GloNo didn’t win a lottery, then it seems that Ms. Genco thinks that recipients of discs–which are being received because the recipients are undoubtedly going to provide coverage (good, bad, indifferent) for the recordings, promotion that will be, from an economic perspective, far greater than the cost to WB of the disc–have somehow hit the jackpot. In point of fact, certainly in this case, the people who are hitting the jackpot are Genco, the Von Bondies, and WB in general. Presumably, more than one copy of “Pawn Shoppe Heart” will be sold as a result of this coverage, which will go into their coffers. And as it is clear that this is a form letter, there are countless other cases where the same results will accrue.

    When will companies start realizing that they are not the center of the universe? “To the recipient of the CD that we are lucky enough to send it to” is more like it.

  3. Anonymous, because it’s more of an article about the anti-customer copy-protection tactics than a record review. (Next time, leave your email address so we don’t clutter the comments with boring explanations of editorial decisions. Thanks!)

  4. But editorial decisions aren’t boring, they’re fascinating!! You break down that 4th wall of journalism that none of us even knew existed!!!

    I’m still scratching my head as to why the major labels waited so long after the birth and death of Napster to act like the asshole thugs they could have been at the start. Because all this copy protection/lawsuits/legalized pay-for-play downloads activity totally looks like the actions of a 5-headed monster with its back against the wall running scared.

    When I graduated college, I totally wanted to work for a record label. It never happened; looks like they did me a favor, in light of how they’re acting these days. (axe grinding session over)

  5. I think it’s pretty obvious by now that the major record companies are back on the up-and-up. File sharing programs are going down the tubes, and the iTunes Music Store is experiencing serious business, not to mention a genius ad campaign.

    On copyright protection, my guess is that they’ve put so much god damn money into the technology that they don’t want to waste it. But what the hell? As Mixmaster Shecky proves, there will always be a way to get around their half-assed attempts to handcuff its customers. So what’s the point? Sentimentality, it seems. I’m still maintaining my theory that when people see they’re getting ripped off, they rebel. It’s no secret, and that’s exactly what everyone did. The rebellion is over now, but unfortunately, we’re in a police state.

  6. Speaking (barely) of Mooney Suzuki and their pink website, when the hell are they coming out with something new?

  7. Hello. In Japan this copy protection is not all but ubiquitous. The cds I pick up there all have them. The easy solution for defeating the copy-protection scheme they are using for a PC: hold down the shift key before and after you insert the cd. Shift will prevent the program that launches the protection from running. You should now be able to copy the cd.

  8. from what i’ve heard, rebooting your machine with the disc already in there works as well.

    but i guess the shift thing is much easier and less time consuming…

  9. Wow. It doesn’t seem quite so crazy to me to send out a CD that doesn’t play in your computer, considering it’s sent as an ADVANCE for a REVIEWER. How many times has new material been leaked out when only vinyl, only review copies, etc. etc. etc. have been produced? The VB record isn’t even out yet, so I would think one would be cool with getting a free CD for review, even if it isn’t in the most convenient format. At least you’ve gotten to hear the record. The record is out in the UK, and you can play it in your computer. It seems to me the label was just trying to prevent a premature leak of the music, which is their right, and the band’s right, to do.

  10. It is true that Jake is lucky to have an advance copy of the album, but leaking the information is not the point that Jake is addressing. It is choosing to listen to the music in the way that he chooses to listen to it. And that would be on his ipod. There is no rule that we have to be entirely happy just because something is free. Just as the label has the right to try and stop leaking, Jake has the right to be irritated.

  11. I saw the video for C’mon C’mon on MTV2 last night, and not only did the video blow, but the song itself was boring. This is what the big stink was about? This band is a goddamn joke.

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