It's funny. If a celebrity, oh say, Jack White (of White Stripes) punched out the lead singer of an up and coming Metal band, the shame would likely force the group to disband. At the very least they would tie their damaged singer to the pillar of the nearest casino dooming him to perform Michael Bolton covers (which were covers in the first place) to drunken gamblers. But the Alt. Rock world is far more forgiving and such a pummeling carries no shame. Which is good for the Von Bondies.
During a December 13th, '03, concert at Detroit's Magic Stick Theatre, Stollsteimer was standing in the audience near the stage with his wife when White approached. After a brief exchange, White thrashed Stollsteimer. The fight, if it could be called that, was soon over. Though he later claimed self-defense, White had nary a mark. On the other hand, Stollsteimer was black, blue and varying shades of purple. What's up? Well, Detroit, like many cities with a vibrant music community, has to claw and scrape for any attention, recognition or credibility. New York and L.A. come by it naturally; for everyone else it's a struggle. This breeds a "band of brothers (and sisters)/jealous rivals" dynamic.
Stollsteimer and Marcie Bolan were college pals. After attending a concert and doing some drinking they decided, rather incautiously, to start a band. The Baby Killers had shock value but little else. Drummer Don Blum was added and Carrie Ann Smith joined after the original bass player bailed.
White championed the Von Bondies including them on "Sympathetic Sounds Of Detroit" which he produced. White co-produced (with Jim Diamond) the group's debut LP "Lack Of Communication." The band even rehearsed at White's house. The album didn't draw much attention but the Von Bondies toured Europe opening for White Stripes.
How important was White to the Von Bondies? Well, Stollsteimer tended to downplay White's contributions. White, no doubt, had other ideas. Various comments to the press resulted in a Stollsteimer/White altercation in '02. No charges were filed but antagonisms remained. The '03 dust up garnered a lot of attention and this time the law was involved with assault charges lodged against White. (He eventually pleaded guilty and paid a fine.) But a bigger hit was already underway for the Von Bondies. Produced by former Talking Head Jerry Harrison, "Pawn Shoppe Heart" featuring "C'mon, C'mon," was released in early '04.
"We were really insistent about finding our own sound," said Stollsteimer. "We were never happy with our first record. It's always been a challenge to capture the power of our live show but I think we've come a lot closer this time."
The Von Bondies hit a period of volatility with the departure of Smith who was replaced by Yasmine Smith. She lasted a couple years before leaving in '06. Leann Banks then stepped in. While securing a long-term bassist was difficult it was no better on guitar. Bolan also split in '06. Alicia Gbur was up next but gone in '08. During that period Mat Lannoo was part of the touring band. Christy Hunt became the Von Bondies third guitarist in nine years.
In a first, Blum co-wrote, with Stollsteimer, the songs on the group's '09 album "Love, Hate And Then There's You." The set was produced by Stollsteimer, Butch Walker (All-American Rejects) and Rick Parker (Black Rebel Motorcycle Club). "Pale Bride" was the lead single.
The Von Bondies deal in high energy, economic (songs under three minutes), Garage/Punk Rock. So what if it's all been done before? It's a road that deserves to be traveled again and again.
Interestingly, "Pawn Shoppe Heart" sounds like a Black Sabbath record before opener "No Regrets" gets in gear. While Stollsteimer's enthused vocals are one of the group's drawing cards, Smith has an effective, tough-but-vulnerable vocal on "Not That Social."
The single "C'mon, C'mon" features a delicious Surf/Wave guitar line before devolving into Punk splatter. Check the boppin' groove on "Been Swank" or the killer bass break on "The Fever." "Tell Me What You See" hangs on a mesmerizing riff. The moody title track and "Poison Ivy" also stand out.
"Lack Of Communication" is a collection of frantic Rock songs with some biting guitar. But the overall feeling is the Von Bondies are over extended - trying to outplay themselves. Despite this, the title track, "It Came From Japan" and "Going Down," with excellent Stollsteimer vocals, definitely have a Garage Rock appeal. "Raw and Rare," an '03 live album, features several songs from "Lack Of Communication" and also includes the hot "R&R Nurse." The set conveys a rough, smoky, club environment. Some of the tracks are not well recorded but one wonders whether that was intentional.
Despite the rampant personnel changes, "Love, Hate And Then There's You" shows the Von Bondies are essentially the same band they've always been. They will never have the scope, range or popularity of the White Stripes (with whom they are compared and not just because of geography) but there is still plenty to recommend. "Pale Bride" is just flat out great with an irresistible guitar and tight backing vocals. Von Bondies romp through "Accidents Will Happen," lean on a throbbing bass for "Chancer" and cut to the bone with "Earthquake" ("This is no earthquake honey, you just got sober. Why don't you wake up, we're takin' over"). The set opens with the rousing "This Is Our Perfect Crime" clearly illustrating there hasn't been any fall off between albums.